BMW i3 Road Trip - A review

30 April 2018

Our Business Development Manager, Rich, took his family on a trip down south for the weekend and undertook their adventures in the BMW i3. Here’s how they found it, in Rich’s words:

This past weekend myself, my wife and our little boy took a trip to see some friends and their kids. With us having a BMW i3 as one of our pool cars, I thought it would be a good idea to see why so many people have ‘range anxiety’ when it comes to long journeys in EV’s. From our house in Chesterfield, Derbyshire to our friends house in Royston, Hertfordshire it was a 122 mile journey going our normal route down the A1. I knew that going that way we wouldn’t get there in one charge, so I looked on Zap-Map to see possible locations for us to stop and charge up, the obvious choice for me was to stop at Peterborough Services on the A1 as it had a couple of Rapid Chargers. That was it, the journey was planned.

We set off from Chesterfield just before 9:45am with probably around a 95% full battery, the boot was packed and my son’s car seat was in.

Seat

Surprisingly, he had plenty of room in the back, even after my wife had moved her seat back a little so she was comfortable. We were good to go. One final check on what range we could expect before we set off.

Comfort mode we had 99 miles.

Comfort Mode

Eco Pro we had 105 miles.

Eco Pro

Eco Pro+ we had 114 miles.

Eco Pro+

On the ‘B’ roads and minor ‘A’ roads I left the i3 in Eco Pro+ to try and maximise range. It wasn’t cold so we didn’t need the heaters on, the stereo worked so I was happy! As soon as we got on to the A1 I switched to Eco Pro mode and quite happily drove along at around 70mph. Next stop, Peterborough Services.

We arrived at Peterborough Services around 11:15am, all I had to do was to find the Charging Points, luckily enough my wife spotted that they were close to the entrance. Next job was to charge the i3. We’d still got some juice left having got 12 miles left in Comfort mode:

Comfort Left

And 13 miles left in Eco Pro and Eco Pro+.

eco pro plus left pro plus left

We had travelled 84.1 miles on electric and not had to use the i3’s REx at all.

When it came to charging the i3 unfortunately we had to use a 43kW Type 2 Fast charger as the i3 isn’t CHAdeMO compatible and the CCS charger was in use. I logged in to the Ecotricity app on my phone and set up charging. According to the satnav, we still had around 39 miles to travel.

Eco Charge 1

47 minutes later and a cost of £2.55, we’d got around 45 miles in Comfort mode, 50 miles in Eco Pro and 52 miles in Eco Pro+ (sadly I forgot to take pictures of what range we had left). We got back on the road shortly after 12pm to complete the last part of our journey down to Royston. Eco Pro mode on the A1 and A14 and it was only when we were around 10 miles outside of Royston that I started to get the dreaded ‘Range Anxiety’ as it was only showing as having 6 miles of electric left. I switched back to Eco Pro+ and relaxed a little, even though the REX had been used a little. We arrived at our friends house just before 1pm and had 6 miles left in Eco Pro+ (with the help of REx).

charged

As our friends don’t have an EV or a Charging Point, it was time to get the slightly handy, even if slow, 3-pin charger plugged in and add some juice. Time for a cuppa.

3 pin charge

After a few hours of charging on the 3-pin charger (got to about 30 miles), we decided to take our little boy and our friends two boys to the park in town. I knew there was a Charging Point in Royston, I just needed to find it. After finding the CP, I wasn’t sure if it was the right one as it showed on Zap-Map as a GeniePoint, but the one we’d found was a very old looking Evolt charger. I went on the ChargePoint Services website on my phone (no app due to it being an iPhone!!!) and chanced my luck and voila, it was the right Charging Point. It was only a 7kW charger but I knew that I’d get a fair bit of charge in the time that we’d taken the boys to the park and called of at the pub for a drink, Coke for myself of course as I was driving. After around an hour and 15 minutes of charging it was time to head back to our friends house (the charge had cost just £2.67). In that time, the i3 had charged from around 30 miles to 70 miles (still in Eco Pro+).

The next day, we visited nearby Wimpole Hall approx 6 miles there then 6 miles back, again driving in Eco Pro+. After we’d spent a few hours there, it was time to go back to our friends house for lunch, a very nice Roast Beef dinner. I said I’d take the i3 back in to town to use the Charging Point I’d used the previous day to charge up before we went home a little later. It was 3 hours free parking so I thought that it would give us enough charge before we set off for home. I went to fetch the i3 around 6:30pm but as soon as I’d got there I knew something wasn’t quite right. The light on the Charging Point was green instead of being blue as it was when I had left it charging a couple of hours earlier. I checked the CPS website to find that the i3 had only charged for around 45 minutes but I was confused as to why (this time costing just £1.59). The i3 had just about 80 miles range for our journey home (in Eco Pro as that’s what mode most of the homeward journey was going to be done in). I had already looked at where we could stop to charge up on a Rapid Charger and I was confident we could have got to Gonerby Moor Services, just north of Grantham and 73.3 miles from our friends house. That wasn’t the case, as by the time we had got to Gonerby just before 8:30pm, the i3 had kicked in to REX, probably using around a quarter of the back up tank (Zap-Map had said it was only 67.7 miles from Royston to Gonerby so you can see why I thought we would have made it on what battery we had left). If the i3 that we were in didn’t have the REX back up then I’d have probably opted to charge up at Peterborough again until the battery was full, and then maybe top up somewhere if needed.

Time for a final charge before getting home. This time, the CCS Rapid Charger that we needed was available. So time for a visit to the toilet for all 3 of us and get my son some supper (he opted for Burger King) while me and the wife had a coffee. 40 minutes later and having to pay £8.76, we’d got just over 90% battery to complete our journey home.

eco charge 2

Back on the road at 9:10pm and we’d still got nearly 50 miles to travel before we got home. The i3 in Eco Pro mode again and I was ready to drive the final part of our i3 road trip. A few minutes after 10pm we pulled on to our driveway, the final few miles being driven in Eco Pro+ mode, and we’d still got around a ⅓ of battery power left, 34 miles in Comfort mode:

comfort home

35 miles in Eco Pro mode:

eco pro home

And finally 49 miles in Eco Pro+ mode:

eco pro plus home

I was happy with what the little i3 had done over the weekend. A comfortable ride, made easier by the Automatic transmission. All the comforts that you find in most modern day vehicles and plenty of room in the boot for what we needed over the weekend, as well as a charging cable and 3-pin plug charging cable.
My wife said that she felt comfortable all the time she was in the i3 apart from when she wanted to sleep on the way home, to which I told her it wouldn’t have been designed with you wanting to lie down and sleep in mind. She did also say that she could quite happily drive an i3 around when travelling to work, school run, taking my son to football, etc, but wouldn’t want to drive long journeys in it as she wouldn’t feel confident enough to be using public charging.
My little boy always gets excited when he sees me in the i3 and says it’s a little bit like a space rocket inside. He always says it’s like a racing car and wants me to drive faster, not that his mum approves of this. He was a little disappointed though when he found out that the centre screen isnt an iPad and you couldn’t take it off to play on.

Just a few points that I think are essential if you are planning on doing long journeys in an EV.

  • Look at possible charging locations before you set off.
  • Take a Charging Cable and a 3-pin plug charger with you.
  • Drive in a mode that is going to maximise your range but not at the cost of any comforts (heaters, A/C, etc).
  • Enjoy

For a round trip of around 245 miles from Chesterfield to Royston that would normally cost us around £40-£50 to fill up a tank of Petrol/Diesel, we probably spent a third of that when charging up the i3.

- Peterborough Services = £2.55 (47 minutes) – 8.5 kWh @ £0.30 per kWh

- Royston Town Centre (1st charge) = £2.67 (1 hour 13 minutes) – 8.89 kWh @ £0.30 per kWh

- Royston Town Centre (2nd charge) = £1.59 (44 minutes) – 5.3 kWh @ £0.30 per kWh

- Gonerby Moor Services = £8.76 (40 minutes) – 29.2 kWh @ £0.30 per kWh

- Charging at Friends house = Free (what are friends for)

Total cost of charging = £15.57 (2 hours 24 minutes) – 51.89 kWh @ £0.30 kWh

Verdict – The i3 was more cost effective even if driving an ICE vehicle could be quicker at times, I’d have to say that when we travel down to Royston again, I would opt for going in the i3 again. More often than not, we’d stop off for a coffee or something to eat so the i3 could be charging up at the same time as we are.

Thanks for reading,
Rich (Business Development Manager)

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