Celebrating Four Mostly Electric Years of the rEVolution.

On February 23, 2012, we joined the rEVolution with the addition of our BMW ActiveE.

This was one of the first pictures we took of our ActiveE when we picked up the car at Long Beach BMW. Shows a very happy, young rEVolutionary:

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Brought it home and plugged it in… We didn’t even have our Level 2 installed at the time and had to charge a BEV with an 80-100 mile range on 120V.

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Granted, my commute at the time was 70 miles roundtrip if I took the most direct route, and the “fastest” route used the carpool/HOV lanes and that was 100 miles roundtrip.

BMW’s friendly policies for ActiveE Electronauts meant that I was able to charge at Pacific BMW (a 10 minute walk from my office) J1772 station and ensure that I recovered my miles that first week.

Side by side ActiveE 1

I wrote about my first year of electric driving on the blog three years ago.

Once you go electric, it’s hard to look back. At the time that we picked up the Active E, we had a few ICE vehicles in the garage. The Active E was outnumbered by ICE vehicles and we figured to keep the ICE for our hybrid garage.

After taking delivery of the Active E, we we sold our Honda Civic Hybrid. There was no real need to keep it since we originally purchased the Honda as a commuter vehicle and the Yellow HOV stickers were expired by the time we picked up the Active E.

The two year lease of the Active E meant that there was pressure to see what “the next car” will be and we decided to place a deposit for the Model S. However, at the time, the plan was for my wife to get the S and for me to look for a replacement for the Active E.

We received our “configure your Model S” message in the beginning of 2013. However, we still had another year on the 2 year lease on the ActiveE and we didn’t think we would run with 2 EVs concurrently, so I took the time to test out other cars for me to use when we decide to become a 2 EV family, after all, the Model S was going to be her car.  Since I wanted to ensure to get the Federal Tax Credit in 2013, we delayed the delivery of the vehicle to the end of the year.  The ideal delivery would be December 31, 2013, however, understanding the Tesla process and to ensure that I get the vehicle with some “buffer” we settled to take delivery in November 2013.

Long time readers of the blog and participants of the now defunct Active E forums will remember the many test drives (a few sample test drives: CodaFiat 500e,  Smart ED to name a few) and discussions over what my next car will be. I was really hoping to love the i3 and my wife was “under protest” if I went with the i3. At the end of the day, we skipped the i3, a decision that I discussed on a previous posting.

To make November 2013 delivery, we figured that we needed to start configuring our Model S on August 2013.  It was at this time that we noticed a bunch of Tesla Roadsters being sold as Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) and my wife fell in love with her Roadster.  So, it was at this point that we decided to pick a Roadster up and the Model S became my car.

Here is the Roadster on our pick-up day:

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And here I am with a rare (driving my wife’s baby) picture:

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Picking up the Roadster was awesome, but not without problems.

And a few months later, we did our first roadtrip with our Model S when we picked it up at the factory. And live-blogged the weekend a few hours before and a few days after. I summarized the whole weekend.

Here is our Model S on pickup day:

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After the early start, factory tour and pickup of the Model S, our first recharge for the car…

The driver and passenger needs to refuel.

…was for the driver. Needed Starbucks.

Though we started the year thinking that we wouldn’t need to drive 2 EVs, we ended up with 3 EVs from November 2013 until the return of the Active E to BMW on February 2014. The second year anniversary was a bittersweet one.

The following year of EV ownership strengthened our positive impression of Tesla Motors. The BMWi debacle in the launch of the i3 in the United States made us adjust back to the original plan of 2 EVs for daily use. Originally we wanted to get a third EV so that we can minimize the miles in the Roadster, but my better half was having too much fun driving her Roadster and didn’t feel like swapping it out on daily drives. So, we saved some money and skipped the third EV.

I didn’t even write a 3rd EV Anniversary post.

So, from February of last year to now, we’ve settled into a life with our two EV, one ICE hybrid garage.

This past year, we’re really just living the rEVolution on a day to day basis. We took our Model S on a Roadtrip Coast-to-Coast and back, and it was a blast. With over three years of EV driving, we don’t suffer from range anxiety, however the trip solidified our “can do” attitude as far as driving our EV for distances and this past year we took more roadtrips than we’ve done the previous years.

I would have loved to say that we hit 150,000 miles of all electric driving, but I will just have to settle on 148,404 electric miles vs 14,194 ICE with a little under 3 hours from the time we brought our Active E home 4 years ago (9pm Pacific vs. 9pm Eastern (6pm Pacific right now)). [EDITED 2016-March-5, Looks like I had an error in my tracking spreadsheet…  We’re closer to 125,000 EV miles…  I had transposed numbers in Month 16 of our tracking spreadsheet that overstated total miles by around 20,000 miles for totals.  I was preparing for the Year 3 of our EV vs. ICE posting, and found the error…]

So, what’s in store for our EV future?

To begin with, we’re about 2 weeks from the third anniversary of my ICE vs EV statistics that I’ve been tracking and we broke 90% EV vs 10% ICE use after almost three years. But that’s another post.

My Thanksgiving 2015 post gives a good hint of what I’ve been up to. Additionally, I am happy to report that my client, EV Connect, Inc., was selected for three of the nine Electric Charging Highway Corridors for the California program. This project, when completed will allow all EVs equipped with CHAdeMO and/or CCS DC Fast chargers to complete the travel from the Mexican border to the Oregon border with Level 3 charging stations.

Additionally, the Model 3 reservation process will be open on March 31st for a $1,000 deposit. We’re trying to see if we’ll take advantage of this or not.

Lastly, we’re thinking of expanding our long EV roadtrip plans. We are tempted to do another coast-to-coast trip using one of the newer routes. Perhaps we’ll finally join the Teslaroadtrip folks on one of their cool get togethers. This year, they’re planning on something at Colonial Williamsburg, and we’ve never been. We’ll have to see if things work out for this trip.

Here’s to hoping that the Model 3 and its competing EVs become massive successes and we transition from ICE to EV at a faster rate.

In the meantime, time flies when you’re having fun.

100,000 All Electric Miles reached by our household today…

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About 1/3rd of the way home today, we reached 100,000 All Electric miles on all vehicles owned or leased by our family. We reached this landmark mileage figure with the help of our Active E, which we picked up on February 23, 2012 and returned on February 23, 2014, as well as our Roadster and Model S…

One of the side-effects of tracking our hybrid garage (our minimizing gas use post, first year, and recently posted second year) use has been to track the number of all electric miles that we’ve done since we picked up our vehicles. Which means that we deduct the original 2,220 miles on the Roadster when we picked it up CPO, we deduct the 14 miles that we had on the Active E, and the 22 miles that was on our Model S on our acquisition of each vehicle.  That’s how we get to the 100,000 Total EV miles on our family vehicles.

So at 3:29 PM Pacific Time on March 10, 2015, we hit 32,221 miles on the Model S which made our total for the family at 100,000 all electric miles. Additionally, it turned out that we hit that 100,000 EV miles target on day 1,111 of our ownership/lessor of our primary EVs. These totals mean that we averaged about 90 miles of electric driving per day for the past 1,111 days. That’s more than double the US average commute of 40 miles roundtrip. Additionally, 54,321 of those miles are on an EV that averages 80-100 miles of range in the Active E. So to those that say that EVs are for short distances only, need to check on the mileage that we did with our vehicles. Range Anxiety? Not around here.

Ended today at 100,024 total household EV miles. Next target? 10 MWh [corrected from 1 MWh thanks to @grahamparks] of energy consumed on our Tesla Model S. [as was pointed out by @grahamperks on Twitter, I understated myself. 1 MWh=1,000 kWh. So, I’m about to hit 10MWh on the Model S]IMG_20150310_160416

9901.3 kWh consumed for the 32,245 Miles that I ended my commute to home today at a conservative 291 wH per mile for the day (still at 307 wH per mile since we picked up our Model S).

Our decision… On the BMW i3 Electronaut Edition…

After a 23 week wait, the Electronaut Edition i3 that we configured (and re-configured) has finally made it to the dealership. Just in time for me to be on a trip, so, I didn’t get to see it until a few days after it arrived at the dealership.

Here are some pictures of it as it arrived from the Port.

Our EE .@BMWi i3 has finally arrived at the dealership as we leave on a trip.  A decision when we return.

The other profile of our EE .@BMWi i3 BEV not REX. No gas for me!  So tempting!

Our special edition .@BMWi i3 from behind looks good too...

The delay wasn’t ALL BMW’s fault. (well… they did delay deliveries, still.) Our original configuration was going to include a REX (Range Extender / basically a motorcycle engine with an anemic almost 2 gallon tank) that gave the car a combine 150-160 miles of range (of which approximately 70-80 miles are Electric). However, as it became evident that California was running out of the initial 40,000 Green HOV Stickers, I proactively requested that the REX be removed as I have access to charging on both ends of my commute anyway. Even after the California Legislature approved an expansion to the program (without much needed adjustments), I stuck with the BEV (battery electric vehicle, no REX).

In the meantime, I got used to driving our Tesla Model S on a daily basis while waiting for the i3 to be built and shipped to us.

Three EVs may seem excessive, but I really enjoy a smaller sized vehicle for LA traffic and have felt that the Model S was just too big a car for me to drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Especially since I’ve been conditioned to cut in front of anyone as soon as space in the adjacent lane becomes available (also known as drive like an A**#0!3) and the Active E was the perfect size for that (small, quick, and visible), the Roadster is small and quick, but could be invisible to many.

As the weeks ticked on, the little things that continued to bug me about the Model S became less of an issue, and I learned to adjust to driving the Model S in traffic. And still no i3. Both Tesla vehicles are “energy hogs” relative to my experience with the Active E (and to a lesser degree my mom’s Leaf.) This waste of electricity is a minor nit, but still a nit for the difference between Tesla vehicles and BMW i (and to some extent Nissan) electric vehicles. The Vampire Drain on the Model S is around six miles a night on my Model S when I don’t have it on power saving mode. I do this because I like the convenience of starting the car up and going right away. Battery Saving mode takes a delay to start up the vehicle.

Here are some pictures of the i3 after it was prepped:

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Happy Dennis (test drive) (decided to switch out my Tesla Cap for a Nike one before the drive)

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And the Electronaut Edition badge

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In addition to my nits, there were a few technical things I was looking forward to from the i3. Namely, the self-parking package (which I had originally ordered on the REX version of the car) and the “tractor-beam” feature for cruise control. Additionally, I contend that the entertainment system on the BMWs actually functioned better than the one on the Model S. Especially the Bluetooth (which allows multiple phones to be paired) and the ability to take calls on either of the paired phones (as opposed to the Model S which requires one to “connect” one phone and that’s the only one to take calls on (over the built-in system).)

Additionally, I was having challenges with the AM Radio in my Model S. It’s a good system until one tries to listen to Vin Scully and the Dodgers, in which case it’s hit or miss. Especially with the current issue between Time Warner Cable and other TV network operators, it was hard to catch a Dodger game (outside of AM Radio.) Nevertheless, I live with it. (An 80-100 mile daily commute tends to emphasize in-car infotainment systems more than a short commute).

So, on August 3rd, I got to meet the i3 BEV that was built for us. I got to do a short couple of mile drive through Signal Hill and got to use the regen to descend a good, steep pitch (that originally sold us our X5 back in 2001). Test out the turning radius and other fun stuff on the car.

I liked the badging… It’s so much more understated than the circuit stickers on the Active E.

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However, it was missing a few things…

The BEV version of our order removed the automated parking assistance package. Not sure if it was an oversight or whether we did it because we did encounter some problems with this during one of our test drives.

The other is the AM radio was removed and is not available on any i3. The car has FM Radio, but without AM, no access to News, Talk Radio, and live local games. Living in Earthquake Country, one has to consider the avenues to listen to coverage when a “disaster” strikes and AM Radio continues to be one of the more reliable avenues for such information. My sales person explained (a day later after checking with corporate.)

“The AM band was removed on the I3 this was due to field trials in the Mini E and Active E due to the electric motor interference. The alternative to this is HD radio which offers 168 am stations on FM radio channel or Sat radio with 1 year access or Bmw apps with web radio on connected app and tuneln radio app.”

The car also forces one to rely on the GOM (guess-o-meter) as there is no SOC meter, as was reported months ago.

Lastly, as previously indicated, the strange split sunroof on the US version of the i3 was not provided. Therefore, the car had a different feel from the Solar Orange testers that we got to drive at the Convention Center (and other test drive events.)

Luckily, the tractor beam was still in place, but these two technical things coupled with adjusting to life with the Model S as my daily driver and my better half’s reluctance to garage her Roadster in favor of driving the Model S instead have made it a moot point.

These missing items coupled with some issues I had during the wait with rude members of the sales management of Long Beach BMW, specifically Emilio Roukoz, have made the experience quite a contrast with my experience with Tesla Motors. Granted, I had some issues with Anish from Tesla as well during my pick up at the factory, but the person was NOT the management escalation. Considering that I’ve purchased or leased a couple of cars through my sales person at Long Beach BMW, I would expect better treatment than I received from his management. Does Tesla have the “right” model, I’d say it’s closer to it. Long Beach BMW is one of the better BMW dealerships, but it’s not perfect. They COULD take the extra step with the BMW i vehicles and apply for the HOV stickers on behalf of their purchasers as a dealer, but they don’t and that is an opportunity lost on providing better service than Tesla which could also do the same thing, but chooses not to provide such customer service.

So, after all this wait, I notified our dealer yesterday that we will NOT be purchasing the i3 for us. However, as I publish this post, one of my sisters and her husband is at Long Beach BMW and test driving this i3 and the other ones that are pictured below. Who knows, this i3 might make it to the family after all. Fingers crossed, otherwise, it can join these i3s that I saw at the dealership on Sunday.

Who knows if BMW will get us back as a customer. There are definitely things that I prefer with BMWs over the Teslas.

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More pictures of the almost fully loaded i3 that we configured can be found on my flickr album.

[Post Script, ADDED at 2155/9:55 PM Pacific on 2014-08-07 to answer a question brought up by +Toshi Clark on Google Plus]

For +Toshi Clark and anyone else interested, when the original order was in place, I had requested that the dealership pre-order the HOV stickers (as they were allowed to do so at the time and the stickers were running out) for my original REX as soon as a VIN number is generated. This activity would have hedged my purchase of a REX i3 with HOV access. I provided a link to the dealership showing the procedure, process, and cost to the dealership ($8). The salesman was willing to do this and he was overruled by the “sales” manager. The point was moot as the green HOV stickers originally were suspended from this program about two weeks later to slow down the depletion rate.

It was at that time that I changed the order to BEV and it became a non-issue, but the fact that I’ve bought vehicles from the dealership since 2001 and most recently obtained my Active E from the same location has given me cause to pause.

Lucky #13(,000 miles that is…)

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It seems just a few months ago that we picked up our Model S from the factory in Fremont. It’s been three months and a week since we’ve had to return the ActiveE to BMW. And I’ve already made it to 13,000 miles.

Thirteen thousand is significant because that means that I’ve just completed my first recommended service at 12,500 (closer to 12,450 in my case) and I’ve made full use of the Model S during this time. It’s been a month and a half and we’ve put in 3,000 miles on the car. And I guess the latest thing to update is the probability of getting an i3 for the daily drive is diminishing. I had marked it down to 5% chance of happening.

As much as I complain about the “>AM Radio problem of the Model S, at least it has an AM Radio. The latest thing to affect me on the BMW i3 is the removal of AM Radio from the features of the vehicle. Let me reiterate, AM Radio is no longer included. I wonder if the good folks at BMW are getting a kickback from Sirius XM or some other entity to remove access to the most common part of the radio dial for News, Sports, and Talk. Living in California, when an earthquake hits, if one is not near a TV, you can pretty much guarantee that the News stations will cover the latest earthquake. The FM part of the dial does not include ANY of that coverage in any sort of meaningful way. Not to mention my obsession with listening to local sports teams play. It’s barely comprehensible on the Model S, but it’s just not available on the i3.

But I digress, to paraphrase Marc Antony, I’ve come to praise the Model S and not bury the i3 (or specifically BMWi). I’ve grown accustomed to the size of the Model S, as large as it is and as many blind spots as the car has, it’s a fun car to drive. The continual improvements in firmware keeps improving the vehicle. The latest version of firmware has reintroduced the LOW setting for the Air Suspension and coupled with the installation of the Titanium Undershield in the vehicle has made me more confident in setting the vehicle to automatically lower to this setting at less than the recommended 100MPH+ that the system is automatically set for. I’ve been playing with it and currently have it set at higher than the speed limit, but intend on lowering that closer to the flow of traffic in Los Angeles (on a GOOD DAY and not crawling at bumper-to-bumper speed.)

Additionally, the addition of the Hill Hold feature has been an unexpected blessing. The Hill Hold feature allows a Tesla Driver that does not use Creep mode (creep is when you simulate the Model S like an ICE car by forcing it to move forward when the driver’s foot is not on the brake) to take their foot off the brake and have the car hold in place before hitting the accelerator to move forward when stopped at an incline. Prior to the implementation of this setting, the car would roll backwards the moment that the driver released the brake. This seemingly minor improvement in the way the car performs has increased the ease of driving the Model S noticeably.

Aside from the constant improvement on the vehicle, the Model S Annual Service was trouble free and completed in very much a “no hassle” manner. I prepaid the Annual Maintenance with Ranger Service option. What this means is that Tesla will perform some of the maintenance and fixes at my location. I’ve had great service relationships with several BMW dealerships and I’ve often been lucky enough to get a nice loaner every time that I’ve brought a BMW in for service. Regardless of whether it is during the warranty (or as is the case with the very old vehicles) considerably past its warranty. The Tesla service is exceptional. Granted, my normal service center in Costa Mesa is often overbooked and a month out, but the beauty of the Ranger service in Southern California is that between my home and office, I have access to at least four more service centers. So, I found one that will drive out to me and either perform the service or drive it back and forth to me while I’m in the office.

In the case of my two Ranger calls for my annual service, Tesla came out for the first one (my 12,500 mile service) and dropped off a Model S 60kWh, standard suspension car while they worked on my car. The car had to be brought back to their service center because they were installing the Titanium Shield as well as other things that required them to use the tools in the shop. They picked up the car a little later than we set up and got the car back to me a little later but this was all understandable as the service was performed the Friday before the Memorial Day Holiday and there is no way to get around the LA area in a reasonable time that Friday.

The one deficiency from the original call was they forgot to do one minor fix regarding the door seal to the driver side that required them to come back out with a Ranger. The second time around the Ranger arrived thirty minutes earlier than our appointment and promptly met me in my office garage when I got in. He was able to fix the problem in the promised time and left. Needless to say, as much as I’ve had great service from BMW, the Tesla one exceeded that.

So, I guess things are working out with the Model S. At 13,000 miles, I would say so, the most telling thing is the diminishing chance of picking up an i3 for this BMW loyalist. I rated it down to 5% chance and that’s from a mixture of Tesla Execution and BMW/BMWi acting like “Keystone Cops” on the launch of the i3 and providing me with enough time to drive our Model S from the time that I was forced to relinquish my beloved ActiveE, literally CRUSHING my dream, and the constant removal of things that I want or need in my seemingly endless commute in Los Angeles traffic (Sun Roof, AM Radio, EV batteries that they could have put instead of a stupid REX). My i3 should be built by the time I publish this post, and another few weeks before it lands on our shores. Who knows, I might still forgive the BMW guys, or I might just tell them no thanks.

If Tom is correct about BMW, I guess they’ll just lose me as a customer…


I like to read what my fellow BMW EV guy Tom Moloughney has to write and his most recent post has me thinking…

What category would I be from the categories he wrote about a few days ago:

“Basically there are four main groups of perspective i3 purchasers:

1) They are interested in the i3 but the 81 mile EPA rating is just too low for them and the range extender is out of the question. They walk away from the car and consider their other electric vehicle offerings.

2) The 81 mile range works for them. They get the BEV i3 and understand its limitations.

3) They really wanted the BEV i3 but the range rating was too low for their comfort so they reluctantly ordered the i3 REx. (I fit in this box)

4) They really liked the idea of the range extender from the start and wouldn’t have bought an i3 without it. The ability to drive primarily on electric but have the range extender there for the few times they need more range is perfect for them. Not ever worrying about getting stuck on the road because they ran out of charge or a public charger was broken or blocked is paramount for these people.”

For most of the time, I’ve felt that I’ve been category 3 and begrudgingly have to go with an i3 REX because I am not so comfortable driving my Model S on a daily basis and really enjoyed my ActiveE. With the addition of a NEMA 14-50 in my parking spot at the office and my JESLA, I could go category 2. However, this was completed after the deadline from BMW for Electronauts to place their orders, my order was for the i3 is with a REX. I would’ve preferred that BMW offered a larger battery pack option, if my experience with the Active E is any indication, sometime between my 2nd and 3rd years of driving, I would probably have lost a good chunk of range because of the miles that I drive (54,321 miles for 2 years of the ActiveE program).

The Model S as a daily driver still has some of the nits that I’ve written about previously when I compared the three EVs that were in our garage at the time. The Model S is still larger than the vehicles I’ve been driving on a daily basis over the past few years, but I have gotten used to it. Additionally, the firmware upgrades that the Model S has been receiving has provided constant improvement in the experience.

However, all these compromises and constant reduction in i3 published capabilities, my overwhelming desire to stick with driving in all electric mode, and my adjustment to using my Model S on a daily basis has lead me to determine that I don’t really need to compromise. I’m about 95% sure that I’m just sticking with Tesla and move to category 1 with regard to the i3. And as I’ve written before, this would be a shame. Now, I’m sure not the only participant in the Electronaut program to feel this way, that last 5% could still swing to the i3. Look at what Pamela and Michael Thwaite went through last week. It could still happen, but if you ask me right now… Probably not. There are a lot of other things we can use i3 money for. (Like a Fiat 500e and some money left over…). If BMW loses me as a customer for the i3, hopefully they improve the next generation of i cars to try to win us back. (Besides, our dirty not so secret X5 will be with us for a while longer)

Comparing the Active E, Model S, and the Roadster, a deep dive from an owner (Electronaut in the case of the Active E)

Almost ALL EVs are fun to drive. You can’t say the same for all ICE (gas) cars.

However, there is obviously a pecking order and this is obviously one man’s opinion (and ONLY one man’s opinion, I’m sure that my better half will have her own opinion of all three vehicles). The models being compared are a 2008 Tesla Roadster 1.5, 2011 BMW Active E, 2013 Tesla Model S S85 (firmware as of today’s publication February 2014 v5.8.4 (1.49.57)).

However, I found one of the best analogies of the differences between driving a Model S and a Roadster through a Retweet by J-C St-Pô

So… What does that make the Active E… I would put that closer to a Tie Fighter. Needs a Star Destroyer or Death Star to get from place to place and no long range flight or warp capabilities.

Aside from the SF analogies, how do we compare three vehicles that continue to be near and dear to my heart.

Let’s look at the three vehicles in eight categories. Range, Speed, Maneuverability, Telematics, Infotainment, Integration with Work, EV Efficiency, and Cost.

Range

With just the raw range, the Model S is the hands down winner for this category as the expansion of the Supercharger Network and the speed with which one can recharge at these Supercharger stations makes it a moot point, for long distance charging. Living thirty miles from the Hawthorne Superchargers makes this a potential refill before topping off at home for the fastest recharge of the 265 miles that the Model S can go. At home I have NEMA 14-50 and 6-50 outlets that provide me with 40 Amp charging for either the Model S and the Roadster and the car can turn around quick enough to make range a non issue.

The Roadster with its 170+ miles of range is also rather easy to fill up. Living near several Tesla Stores and Service Centers that still have the 70A Roadster High Power Wall Chargers (HPWC) give me the public option to top off rather quickly. Furthermore the NEMA 14-50 and NEMA 6-50 outlets at home will let me recover faster than my 30A J1772 EVSE from Chargepoint.

So, the Active E must be the loser in the range battle, right. Well, not really, with a 240V plug at both ends of a daily commute, living in Southern California with ready access to many public J1772 stations, the Active E is a solid contender for this title for traveling within the Los Angeles Basin. I have done several 140 mile days with no real problem and even a few 300+ mile days.

Though the Model S is the clear winner, the other two vehicles do a decent showing in my garage. As I’ve said about the Active E in the early days of “ownership”. The range of the Active E is unlimited, as long as you have access to electricity AND the time to wait for it to recharge.

The Model S has 3 points, Roadster with 2 points, and the Active E with a point.

Speed

Well, how do we measure speed? Top Speed? 0-60 MPH (0-100 KPH)? Yes and Yes.

So, the Roadster is built for speed and though the P85+ will challenge the Roadster, our S85 is NOT a P85 or P85+. The Active E is quicker than MANY vehicles on the road, but not as fast as either the Roadster and S85.

So, Roadster 3 points, Model S 2 points, and Active E has a point.

Maneuverability

Maneuverability is a function of size and handling. The Model S is a great car. It’s just too big for me. It’s nimble and everything, but, so are both the other two cars. The Roadster is small, nimble, and quick. But it’s tiny and hard to see. It makes driving the Roadster harder to drive day-to-day. The Active E is just right. It’s quick. small, but easy to see and spot.

When driving in traffic, the Active E is the best one of the three. The Roadster is in the middle and the Model S is in last place.

So, Active E 3 points, Roadster 2 points, and Model S has a point.

Telematics

The Telematics of the vehicles become a more complicated calculation because the Roadster, as originally equipped had no Telematics. However, thanks to our friends at openvehicles.com and the development of OVMS, the Roadster is comparable to other modern EVs. You can read my original post on telematics to compare the Active E, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Roadster. So, how do we score the Roadster. It’s my blog and post, so I say that we rate the Roadster WITH OVMS as that’s the only way to really get the most out of this category for the car.

Telematics on the Roadster equipped with OVMS is top-notch. Once configured properly and the correct SIM card plan is purchased from AT&T, it works great, however, it costs $100 a year to keep the service going. The Active E included the Telematics for the entire two year program and the Model S has yet to determine whether Tesla will begin to charge for that.

The Active E has had its problems with the iOS My BMW Remote App in the past and just recently took out support on iPads. (Now, the car is going back to BMW NA on the 23rd, so I can forgive them for that.)

The Model S has an API that has allowed folks to control the car better with the VisibleTesla project (as well as the github for it here) and the GlassTesla App for the Google Glass that pretty much gives the Model S owner multiple avenues to control and view the status of the vehicle.

This is a hard one for me to score as it is such a critical feature for the car and one of the Telematics feature that I often use has been the SEND TO CAR feature that Google Maps supports. The big car manufacturers have allowed end users to send a destination to their vehicle. Tesla does not currently support this, but all current BMWs with BMW Assist have access to this and therefore the Active E has this capability as well. However, the new version of Maps has this feature currently disabled, so it’s a non-issue.

Here is a picture of the Active E receiving destinations from Google Maps
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All three iOS versions of the Telematics Application overlays the vehicle location on a map. Both OVMS and Tesla’s Model S will show you the vehicle location anywhere that you have Internet access. The Active E application limits one to view the location of the vehicle when you are about a mile away from the vehicle. Once you are further, the vehicle will not be displayed on a map. This deficiency is a drag on the capability of the Active E Telematics.

The preconditioning controls and remote charge start/stop of the Active E is better than either of the iOS versions of the Tesla Controls. However, the Roadster can be configured to chargestart and the like via SMS and the Model S can be schedule charged using the VisibleTesla application. The Active E allows one to schedule a delayed charge start as well as start to precondition the car. The difference in Active E preconditioning from Tesla Model S preconditioning is the Active E one actually warms up (or cools down) the battery to ensure that it gets to an ideal temperature and then takes care of the cabin. Whereas the Model S one just takes care of the cabin. The Roadster does not allow for either preconditioning cases,since I live in mostly ideal weather part of the country, where it is rarely too cold or too hot, it’s a non issue. One of the drawbacks to the Active E is its lack of community support it for App development, so in totum, it’s a wash.

So, as configured, Roadster 3 points, Model S 2 points, Active E 1 point.

Infotainment

With the big touch screen we should just hand the Model S the top score.

Not so fast. One thing that we can count on is the fact that the Roadster does hold the bottom part of this section. How could the Active E score better than the Model S in THIS section?

1) iPod integration.

The Active E has one USB port, the Model S has two USB ports, and the Roadster has a solo iPod 15 PIN connector. The Model S port only allows for music to be played on a USB drive on it OR use the port to charge an iPod/iPhone on either USB port. The Active E port can read music from a USB Drive or support an iOS device to play from its directories. Playlists and everything. The Roadster will allow an iOS device to play, but it will not support charging a modern 15 pin device. Score one for the Active E.

2) Auxiliary port connection.

If you don’t have an iPod or music on a USB drive, can you connect any audio device via an analog connection. Both the Model S and Roadster is a no. However, the Active E includes that in its package. This means that you can even bring a cassette player in the car… Not that I ever did, but I could have.

3) Sirius Radio.

The Model S can get Sirius XM on it. However, you have to spend $2,500 to have the capability added to your build. (This is a $1,550 increase over the original price for the package). Both the Roadster and Active E have this built in and works just fine.

Am I just ignoring all the cool Internet Radio things that the Model S has? Not really, I just feel that all that cool Internet Radio gets eliminated by the practically nonfunctional AM Radio in the vehicle. I live in a major metropolitan area and like to listen to AM Radio for my Local Sports Talk and when the Lakers are playing. That station AM 710 KSPN Los Angeles does have a streaming feed that works fine for talk radio. However, because of their licensing, they do NOT broadcast the Laker game. Granted the Lakers have not been playing well this season. But it still is content that I wish to receive that I have difficulty doing so on the Model S. Additionally, we’ve been living under the threat of losing the cool Internet Radio stuff, so don’t really feel like counting on that.

So, surprisingly, the Active E takes the lead here and the Model S takes the second spot with the Roadster third.

Integration with Work

This is a funny section for most people that are comparing vehicles, but when you drive as I do and commute as far as I do, it is important that I am able to conduct business calls, etc. while I drive. A critical first feature to this integration is Bluetooth.

All three cars can connect to a bluetooth source and play music from a bluetooth source. Both Teslas can only connect and stream to one bluetooth device, whereas the Active E can have MULTIPLE bluetooth devices connected to the car. A primary and secondary telephone as well as identify one of these sources for bluetooth audio streaming. When using Siri on an iPhone 4s, the audio will play through the vehicle. I don’t have that happening on either Tesla. Granted, I may not be doing this correctly on the Model S, in which case the Model S still fails BECAUSE of the requirement to only connect one device at a time via bluetooth, instead of having a standby device be recognized and paired. Therefore, on a long commute, when I need to make a call, there is a delay for me to get back to my entertainment when my call disconnects. Especially since I may be streaming my iPod through the same connection that I am making calls with it.

Here is the Active E set up to connect to two bluetooth devices at the same time.
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The BMW allows me to see my text messages, emails, and service messages on the screen while I drive. Additionally, I can have the vehicle read these out loud for me.

Emails on the BMW Active E
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Granted, the Model S does have that large browser on the screen, but it really isn’t safe to load Outlook Web Access while driving.

Internet access is obviously much better on the Model S, but the Active E is no slouch either. The Model S Internet is currently free, but this is under threat of changing “any time” so, the Active E can hold its own under these conditions.

Internet Apps on the Active E
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Reading the news on the Active E
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And on a last note, bluetooth audio calls are best on the Active E, not so great on the Model S, and downright poor on the Roadster, which is also how I ranked them on this section.

EV Efficiency

How do I measure EV efficiency? Vampire Drain and how well the car does sitting idly and plugged in waiting for me to drive. My driving style isn’t the most Eco Friendly in the world, but I’ve been able to sustain 4.1 Miles per kwh (or 244 Wh per mile) for a 50 mile commute on the Active E and yet to do that on either Tesla. The Model S is just too heavy and the Roadster is too fun. So, Active E on top, Roadster in the middle, and Model S at the bottom. Though it was a tough one between the Roadster and the Model S as the Roadster sounds like a racket and quite inefficient when it is charging itself and the energy losses when it is parked is greater than any vampire drain for the Model S (and I’m currently on 5.8)

Cost

This is an unfair competition as we received our gently used Roadster as part of Tesla’s Certified Pre-Owned program and with the 37,000 mile and 37 month warranty that goes with it it makes the Roadster the hands down winner in the cost department. The Active E with the unlimited mileage lease could have taken the lead, but I discounted it because it is a lease. The Model S was definitely the most expensive of the three vehicles to own and operate… Though after three years, perhaps the Roadster would be more expensive. We shall see.

Winner

If we tally up the points, the Model S is at the bottom with fourteen points and we have the Active E and Roadster tied at seventeen points each. How do I pick a winner?

That’s easy… It’s me… I get to choose which car to drive depending on what I’m doing that day (unless it’s the Roadster, in which case, I have to borrow it from the better half.)

Seriously, the three points that the Model S is deficient in can easily be fixed with a Software Update after the 5.8 that it currently has in firmware. A software patch can be sent out to that vehicle to give it better Bluetooth handling or be able to read the file system of a connected iPod to the USB port. These sort of things can easily bridge the three point gap between itself AND either the Active E or the Roadster. That’s what makes the Model S amazing.

I’ve already voted for these vehicles with my pocket book. We’ve purchased the two Teslas and committed to the Active E for the two years that we’ve been fortunate enough to lease it.

Now, if only Tesla added coat hooks to these vehicles, they would be perfect.

To Rex or not to Rex… The California predicament


So… Tom Moloughney, Electronaut #1, has covered this subject numerous times (To Rex or not to Rex original and its follow up) and as much as I am against hybrid vehicles, I have been convinced by Tom and others that if we were to order an i3, I would probably opt for the REX enabled one instead.

However, yesterday, a couple of news reports from The Street and InsideEVs.com have posited (pretty reliably) that the i3 with REX will be eligible for the much more limited Green Sticker (limited to the first 40,000 vehicles in California) for the HOV versus the unlimited white sticker variety. For a good run-down on why this matters to Californians, I direct you once again to Tom Moloughney who just wrote about it on his blog.

Now… As readers know, I really like the i3… However, at this point a third EV (because the Active E is going back in February) is really a luxury and not a necessity. Now that does not mean that we won’t do it, it just means that there needs to be something that compels us to pull the trigger on an i3. We continue to run a hybrid garage and prefer to separate our ICE vs EV trips on a vehicle by vehicle selection and not by a gas engine running in our EV.

Having been burned by the phase out of the Yellow Stickers in the past, I am part of the camp that holds the White Stickers as superior to the Green Stickers because the White Stickers are really the goal of no emissions from traditional gasoline engines vs. the pure BEV aspect of the White Stickers (I am purposefully IGNORING the fact that CNG vehicles are eligible for the same White Sticker.)

As much as I wish to hold on to my initial beliefs at the start of writing this blog. I have become Accidentally Environmental. So, I actually felt that the original proposal to extend the HOV access for the Green and White stickers with differing dates did make sense. The compromise that got the stickers until 2019 is just that, a compromise. The original extension proposed a phase out of the green stickers for HOV use in 2018 and the white ones at 2020. Knowing that I wanted to be pure BEV, I was all for that proposal.

So, if the California Legislature were to actually expire these privileges to adopters of cleaner vehicles on 2019, neither Green nor White can drive solo in the HOV lane, there is no benefit that one vehicle has over the other. However, there may still be a better chance of the White Sticker to be extended because it is inherently cleaner than the Green Sticker vehicles. There is nothing but faith that leads me to posit this. Therefore I can not provide any other backing of this belief.

So, should we even decide to continue a relationship with BMW i, do I get a REX enabled i3 or the pure BEV i3. I was leaning toward the REX i3 because I often do 102 mile days. I prefer to drive the Active E now over the Model S. They are both excellent vehicles, I just am more comfortable with my Active E. As I drive the Model S more often, I still like a lot of things that BMW does. Is this enough to add a third EV? Well, it really depends on getting the better half to agree that the car does not look as bad in person as it does to her in pictures and whether we decide to garage my wife’s Roadster more often.

If we do get the i3… Rex or Not Rex? Well, we’ll see. Luckily, being a fan of games of chance, I think that there is a better than average chance for ANY California Electronut (BMW Active E Electronaut) to get the REX enabled i3 for a Green Sticker. But this is a $50,000 bet for a smaller return. It would make for better resale values to have a special “Electronaut Edition” of the i3 with REX AND a sticker. After 2019, it might not matter.

As of 2:45 pm Pacific on January 10, 2014. I still don’t know. Ask me later. (and oh yeah, I have a week left to decide whether we’re continuing with BMW i or not.)