One Year of EV Driving… Pure Joy… The ActiveE and me!

So…

Yesterday was “hump day”… Not really sure which day to count as I picked up the car on the evening of February 23, 2012 and I have to return it back to BMW on February 24, 2014… The Leap Year throws me off, so I guess a post on the 25th would be the best I can do to celebrate the first year of EV Driving.

As always, I like to post my mileage pictures, and I don’t know whether to count the day I parked the car at LAX this weekend (the 23rd) at 26,064 miles…

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Or when I got back home on Sunday night, the 24th at 26,090 miles…

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Either way, I’ve done a lot of driving over the past year. Surprisingly, the weekend that I celebrate one year with my car, I’m away from it and it’s soaking in the last few days of subsidized LAX parking on my quick weekend away to Napa and Sonoma.

This post was going to be a little funnier than it has ended up to be as I planned on taking advantage of BMW and Sixt’s JV in the Bay Area and “cheat” on my ActiveE with a car rental. However, the timing of my arrival into San Francisco airport on Satuday morning and my lunch appointment at the French Laundry forced me to abandon those plans and opt with a traditional ICE rental (Ford Focus) from Dollar Rental Car. I will follow up with a post on my attempt to pick a car on my day back from the Wine Country.

So, what do I have to share with the world that I have not already done (nor someone else more eloquently wrote…)

RANGE ANXIETY

Let me start with some tips that I like to give to others as they drive EV. Top of my list as a high mileage individual is Range Anxiety and how to cope with it.

All vehicles have a range problem. It’s just whether or not you’ll make it to the next fueling station and whether or not you would be willing to pay that price for the fuel during the time spent at the fueling station. I’ve mitigated my anxiety by arming myself with knowledge about my vehicle and what my options are around me. Some of the things I do to be more comfortable are:

1) After each FULL charge that I complete, I reset my Miles per kWh reading and odometer so that I can have visual feedback on how I am driving and how far I have gone. Armed with the M/kWh figure I can figure out how much range I have to go in my 27 usable kWh battery pack. Coupled with BMW’s guesstimator I know how I need to drive and where I can drive to.

This was after starting at freeway speeds from home…

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And after a short (for me) commute of approx 38 miles

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So, I went from a 2.7 miles per kwh to 3.7 miles per kwh average.

2) I always have at least two devices that have the following Apps – Chargepoint, Plugshare, Recargo, and Blink. In that order. In a pinch I will pay for charging, but for the most part I try to find subsidized charging. If you can get your electrons for free, why not? I carry a BlackBerry for my primary telephone, but also have iOs devices so that I can run the apps. I use a MiFi for Internet access for those devices so it works for me.

3) I almost always set the car to precondition. It’s not that big a deal in Southern California as we don’t really have the swings in temperature, but it makes me feel better. In order to ensure that I come back to a car at 100% SOC vs. 98% SOC I set the preconditioning close to the projected end of the charge time.

The picture below would have a time to full charge when the car is plugged in and charging. You can then set the delayed preconditioning setting to 15-20 minutes before the end of the cycle to force the car to precondition WHILE it is still charging so that it will complete charging and preconditioning at 100%. Otherwise, if you do it from a cold battery (which is what I do on overnight charges) you may start your drive at 98%.

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So. Armed with information and experience, I can pretty much get around town, and often do. I have my 70 mile days and I have my 102 mile days with a few greater than 120 mile days and some parked and not going anywhere days thrown in between.

FUN TO DRIVE

Almost all EVs are fun to drive. So, if you’re not in an ActiveE, go out there and get a different one and have fun – JOIN the rEVolution!. I’m just lucky enough to be in a BMW ActiveE. This car really drives like a BMW. I remember the first time I drove my BMW X5. After test driving the Benz ML320 several times, it took one test drive of the X5 for my wife and I to decide that the advertisements for the “Ultimate Driving Machine” rings true.

I have test driven several other EVs this past year and I have only considered the Tesla Model S to be the only other one that I would like to “own”. I would prefer to keep within the BMW family, however, BMW’s refusal to provide a longer range pure BEV as opposed to a REX enabled i3 will be the cause of my movement to a Tesla. I prefer the size of the ActiveE and i3 after it to the Tesla, however, the design is really the issue. The i3 is just too different from the styling that attracted us to BMW. It also helps that the Tesla has the larger range.

A lot has been said about the ActiveE’s regenerative braking and I am a convert of this as well. Most of the other EVs have regen that is not quite as aggressive and therefore, I need to hit the brakes more than I do in my ActiveE. BMW “got it right” with how the ActiveE grabs hold of the brakes and lets me drive my ActiveE with a single pedal. Perhaps it has to do with BMW’s history with motorcycles. Most recently I had one of my most trusted colleagues drive the car in my stead and he commented that the single paddle experience was similar to how some motorcycles performed. (he rides a BMW motorcycle).

What can BMW do to keep me as a future BMW EV driver. Build EVs that look like a BMW! The aesthetic is IMPORTANT. Others have commented on how much they like the i3… I’m not one of them. I like the i8 (all of them), but I’m not spending that kind of money on any car. The reported prices are the price of a Model S and Model X combined. And that sort of commitment will drive me toward Tesla.

KEEP SURPRISING ME

Even after one year of EV driving under the belt, the experience still surprises me. I’ve done 5 scheduled maintenance trips and 2 unscheduled ones to the dealership. The most famous one was my first Drivetrain Malfunction from less than one week into the experience that was documented in the BMW ActiveE Forums.

My last service experience was a little over 250 miles ago at 25,750 and the car was in the shop for about a day. This is effectively the same experience I’ve had with my X5 and 3 series vehicles. As this process becomes more common, I expect to have the opportunity to drive my ActiveE more in the following year and hope to drive greater than the 26,090 that I did in my first year. But we’ll have to see.

The most recent thing I learned is a “new” BMW thing rather than a BMW EV thing, but it points to some of the things that make BMW a top notch company and why I am still hoping that the delay that I did (though it did force me into the $2,500 price increase for the Model S) to take delivery of the Model S next year would give BMW some time to come up with something aesthetically more pleasing (or at least give me and my better half the chance to get used to the i3 and go with that instead). Oh yeah, so what was it that I learned recently…

Do you see the change in tint on the picture below?

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Or here

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Apparently that is where you need to install your transponder

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The newer BMWs have a coating that keeps out IR and this could inhibit the Toll Collection transponders from responding properly. In Southern California, there are these newer switchable transponders that one must use to self-report the number of passengers in the vehicle and the agency is unable to get an accurate count if the transponder is not in the clear glass section. What this means is that you either do not get the “discounted” or free rate to travel the toll roads with more people in the car.

So, those that are travelling on I-110 or I-10 Tollways in a newer BMW, take note if you keep getting charged for solo travel if you have multiple passengers in the vehicle.

The passion that folks have for their EVs is warranted. The numerous stories of the recent NYT vs. Tesla spat and the Tesla Owners who got together to recreate that drive is a several day long commitment to show the world that EVs are hopefully here to stay.

ACCIDENTALLY ENVIRONMENTAL INDEED

I just forwarded some of my family members a link to a contest that Solar City is doing to get people signed up for solar power. The prize is a 3 year lease of a Smart EV with a 1.5kW Solar Array to folks in certain markets who don’t currently have an EV in them. My goal was NOT environmental, it was purely economical. The more access that I have to PRIVATE chargers that I will have little contention for, the farther my range in my ActiveE for the next year. Sure, it will be cool to get them on the rEVolution. But, that’s secondary to me. I am PURPOSELY not linking the Solar City offer as I want to give them a better chance of winning this sweepstakes! (so there!)

Over the past year I have gone from getting the ActiveE to be able to drive the HOV lanes by myself to a vocal proponent of EVs in general. I don’t care about the environment, in the traditional sense. I care about saving money in the long run. Yes, it may seem that some of these things are costlier in the short run, but I expect to be around for a long time and I expect my next vehicle to be around for a long time as well. Too bad I have one year left on my ActiveE. But sure am glad in the journey that it and I have taken together.

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Dennis

rEVolutionary armed with a Tesla Model S S85 and a Tesla Roadster, when his wife let's him borrow it. Formerly driving a BMW Active E (2012-Feb to 2014-Feb). Dennis has been driving EVs since he found himself on the BMW Active E trials on February 2012. As a result of his involvement in the Active E program, he became Accidentally Environmental. Aside from this blog, he often tweets @dennis_p. When not driving, he can be found on the following Tesla/EV forums - teslamotorsclub.com, teslamotors.com, and model3ownersclub.com as AEdennis or on speakev.com as Dennis. In the interest of full disclosure, Dennis has an inherent bias toward electric vehicles and has an investment in and is LONG Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA).

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