Penultimate day of Active E “ownership”

Not technically the owner of “my” Active E, but, the past 2 years (less 1 day) I sure have made the car mine. When I started this adventure almost two years ago there were two other choices of EVs readily available brand new. The Nissan Leaf and the Chevolet Volt, neither one appealed to me and I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to lease the BMW Active E. The Tesla Roadster was too expensive, small, and unattainable. Even in the used markets.

Several months prior to taking delivery of my Active E, I was looking for a vehicle to replace my commuter car – a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid that I bought for e sole purpose of driving the HOV lane by myself. The ARB and California legislature had expired the privilege for hybrid vehicles (yellow sticker eligible) and I was figuring out what vehicle to get. I was looking at the Volt and the Natural Gas Civic and ran across an article on USA today for the Active E and the result has been my accidentally environmental life.

So, I became an Electonaut when BMW dubbed me one. I’ve enjoyed every mile and look forward to the launch of the i3. Still unsure whether we will exercise our right to purchase one, but my dealership has made it easy to wait until it arrives to decide. They figure they can sell my vehicle if I decide against it and refuse the delivery. So, I still have a configuration on order. BMW continues to make it difficult to pull the trigger with the varying levels of disappointment that they place in the way of moving from the Active E to the i3. The latest silliness involves the lack of “Green Sticker” eligibility for the i3 with REX. It so happens that I have made my initial configurations with the idea that the Electronaut production will be fast tracked and I should receive my vehicle before all 40,000 stickers are handed out. Alas, my feeling on this plan has become more pessimistic.

I’ve enjoyed the many friends that I have made over the past two years of joining the rEVolution. Michael Thwaite’s ranking site has made it quite fun to compare myself against others and I had tried as hard as possible to catch up to Tom Moloughney. The wind on that contest was knocked out when Tom suffered the loss of Active E #1 in August 2013. Luckily he was able to get a replacement Active E to eternally torment those of us who have tried to catch him.

Here I am matching Tom’s mileage for Active E #1 (stopped to honor his lost vehicle) then proceeded to drive again.

I’m fairly sure that those that will be bridging their Active E lease until the i3 is delivered will pass my mileage. But for a while, I led the West Coast. If we calculate it for the two years of the lease, I hope to still have been the West Coast leader. I still have less than twenty four hours until I have to return the vehicle tomorrow.

Here’s a shot of my Active E hanging out in Santa Monica Lot 6. A mecca of EV charging in the West Side of Los Angeles County.
Santa Monica Lot 6

I’m not sure if I can still call myself an Electronaut after I return my vehicle to BMW tomorrow, but I’m definitely an Electronut. It’s kind of fitting that I’m meeting with the OC Tesla Group tomorrow with my wife for this meeting using both our Model S and Roadster for the meetup. Definitely still nuts about EVs.

Pondering a Blog Name Change…

I’ve been a loyal BMW customer over twelve years.

Not quite like others in the Active E community, Gerald Belton (Mr. BMW), but we’ve been loyal. There were several years where we had a Honda Civic Hybrid in our garage, but it was surrounded by BMWs. When the California legislature writes laws that allow solo HOV access, I tend to follow them. Regardless of performance, etc. time is valuable and solo HOV access is like gold.

I’ve documented our journey to EV ownership the last eighteen (18) months of driving electric as we just passed 42,500 miles. Had we been allowed to, we would have purchased the Active E, but BMW wants the car back.

Not one car that I’ve driven has spoken to both myself and my better half as well as our Active E has. The Model S was the closest for a lot of things, but its price has been hard to swallow. However, if any EV is worth the money Tesla is charging (even with price increases) it is the Model S. After owning one EV, we decided that we will have at least two EVs. We placed a reservation for the Model S last year (after several months with the Active E) and that was what we’ve decided to be one of our two EVs by the time we return our Active E in February 2014. The Model S was designated to be my better half’s car. All was set and we had a plan. We’ve been through the BASE price change and decided to stick with the Model S reservation and not finalize at the beginning of 2013. Furthermore, we’ve been through several accessory price changes, and stuck with the vehicle. This last accessory price change made us re-evaluate a few things that were marginal and decided that we didn’t really need some options, but some of the additional options were of interest, so we were generally pleased with some of the additional options in the new accessory package in the current version of the Design Studio. The Model S is a BIG car as it compares to the Active E and other EVs that we’ve been looking at. After all this time, we finally decided to confirm our Model S reservation last week for a delivery later this year.

I have been rooting for the i3, but BMW has had numerous missteps on it.

Misstep #1 –

The largest misstep is the aesthetics. It does not look like a BMW to me (and to others). We’ve been lucky enough to have had several BMWs. The design of the i3 has grown on me, so that was a BIG issue that was alleviated for me; however, to swap out the Active E with the i3 was made possible by the fact that we will have a Model S in the garage/driveway for first EV. The i3 will be my daily driver. The devil is in the details, but after the multi-year exposure to the i3, I’ve adjusted to its radically different styling from its ICE brethren. However, the i3 aesthetic is a compromise for me. It would not have been my first choice, but, knowing the drivetrain and battery pack that I’ve been driving is the same one on the i3 as my Active E, with nearly 2000 pounds less, this car will be fun to drive.

Misstep #2 –

I’ve already proven that I’m fine with driving 102 mile roundtrips on a daily basis in the Active E. The generosity of Pacific BMW is appreciated as I do my charge around the 51 mile point at a dealership 3/4 of a mile away from my office. And the policy to provide charging for Active E drivers at dealerships that participate in the program at no cost did help me these past 18 months. However, misstep number two was letting me know that the convenience and subsidized charging that I enjoyed in the past will be revoked as the i3 is launched and I will have to budget in a daily charge at the dealership, I am not complaining about this, just have to consider it in my i3 purchase. Nissan and Tesla are offering subsidized charging, at Level 3 at that at several locations/dealerships and this provides the customer with some comfort. Or in my case enough range to really use an 80-100 mile car to its maximum. Specific to my location, the Nissan dealership across the street from Pacific BMW (Glendale Nissan) offers 8 hours of L2 or an hour of CHAdeMO at no cost. Something to consider. Now that there’s a Leaf in the family, I am getting more familiar with the Leaf and see the benefits of the 2013 model.

Misstep #3 –

REx as the only option to increase the range from 80-100 miles when there is good “space” to add batteries. Give me the option to pay for additional battery capacity to 150 to 200 miles.

Now, I understand that the i3 has a REx with it, optional, but I do not want to drive gasoline if possible. I have a hybrid garage, and do drive ICE at times, but it’s on my choice. I would have enjoyed a LARGER battery pack and range option for the i3, much the same way that Tesla had marketed the Model S with three battery pack options (originally.). The 22 kWh battery pack of the i3 with a 80-100 mile range is fine, for the most part, but I do need to charge to make it work. Additionally, as Tom Moloughney has pointed out (as well as others in the EV community), to ensure long battery life, it is recommended to charge a pack at 80% (or less). If I were to do such a setting on an i3, I would need to have an effective 64-80 mile range. BMW i missed the opportunity abdicated by Tesla Model S when Tesla stopped producing 40 kWh Model S. BMW should have filled in the gap and come out with a 22 kWh and greater (one or two options) battery pack range. Two options at 150 and 200 mile max ranges come to mind. That way we can charge at 80% and get the subsequent 120 to 160 daily range.

In fact, Nicholas Zart, has pondered

I don’t agree, but he does pose an interesting observation in his writings.

Misstep #4 –

It would seem that BMW has decided to abandon the BMW Electronaut community.

Perhaps this is a little strong, but let’s face it. Some of us don’t want to be on Facebook and my main Active E resource has been our little forums has been my place to correspond with fellow Electronuts. And I feel abandoned. The site went down a few weeks prior to the i3 launch and has stayed down. BMW had a funny quote on the site:

BMW Active E Forum Redirect

But let’s be serious… If the website is any indication of the reliability of the BMW i brands and the focus that they’re getting, this is unacceptable. I’ve been in the technology field for too long to forgive this sort of outage. Though the Active E program was a test program, a website is not.

Additionally, the originally touted Electronaut effect website has gone stale. It does NOT auto update any longer. And it would seem that it, too stopped around the i3 launch.

Electronaut Effect Stagnant

Now, I still want to hear what sort of “compelling” offer they will have to remaining Electronauts to get us to convert, but it will have to be really good for me to jump on it…

So, why am I pondering a blog name change?

I am faced with the sad reality that the Active E will be going back to BMW in six months (and a few days as of the writing of this post.)

Additionally, I’m not convinced that the i3 IS the right vehicle for me, so the blog after February 2014 won’t have an Active E or possibly an i3 to write about.

I spent a little time on eBay and the Tesla Motors website and found this section. Yes, several of these are still pricey, but a CPO Roadster at the right price just needs to pop up…



A picture is worth a thousand words… I’ve been so focused on the second EV Active E replacement being a new EV that I will be driving, I didn’t think of getting one for my wife as we’ve already decided that she will drive the Model S when it arrives later in the year. If we flip the switch and get an EV that SHE would prefer over the Model S, and, even used, the Tesla Roadster is such a vehicle. Which means our finalized Model S will be the Active E replacement.

Now, there is no guarantee that we “won’t” get an i3 as well. It just makes it more difficult for BMW i to convince me to get one. A CPO is STILL a used car, but Tesla offered a 37 month, 37,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Guess what, that includes EVERYTHING. AND it doesn’t include a $50 co-pay like our friends at BMW (ICE, not BMW i) had offered on previous vehicles that we’ve had.

The Model S and Roadster are not perfect. One of my biggest complaints involves picking up the dry cleaning or going to a business meeting with a suit; neither Tesla provides a good place to hang a jacket. Both Teslas make me feel like Goldilocks in that I feel the Roadster is a little bit too small (no space for Costco items,except for multiple trips) and the Model S is a bit too big (I feel like a kid putting on a suit that is two sizes bigger.)

Our Roadster is a signature one… That means it’s one of the first one hundred issued to customers. It is the 1.5 spec and has some idiosyncrasies specific to that version of the Roadster. First, 1.5 Roadsters have a shifter, whereas the 2.0 and 2.5 have push button gear shifter. I like having a park setting on the gear shift. The 1.5 that we have doesn’t have one. It’s like a manual car, have to put it in neutral, then pull up the parking brake.

It would also seem that Tesla owners set the Amperage of the charging plug that they plug into. It’s not automatic like we expect on the Active E. For example, the Active E supposedly will draw up to 7.2 killowatts per hour from a 40A Breaker/32A capable EVSE. So, we’re going to have to adjust our behavior when it comes to charging the Roadster. I suppose we’ll see if this becomes an issue when we finally take delivery of our Roadster. (wonder if the Model S behaves in the same manner.)

The Certified Pre-owned Tesla process for the Roadster is not ideal. As of the writing of this post (August 26, 2013 and still awaiting a fourth or is it fifth promise date), we still have yet to take delivery of our Tesla Roadster. We’ve been through this whole process since we put down our deposit on August 12, 2013. We were told the process would take around a week (best case), since we started on a Monday, there was a chance that we would get the car by the weekend (August 16-18.)

Tesla does not have a financing partner readily available as they do for the Model S. The delivery is slow as the product had to be shipped from Fremont and the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) took longer than the first promised date of 19th of August. The picture above was actually taken over a third or fourth revised “promised” date of 24th of August (which would have been poetic, because that is exactly six months until we have to return our Active E to BMW). And since the financing is not integrated to the process, we continue to find ourselves being charged interest on a car that we did not yet “possess”. Granted in the longer scheme of ownership, what’s an extra X days of waiting. However, though the torque is instantaneous in all EVs, waiting for delivery of the order of an already built Tesla does take some time. Our Roadster took a while to get from Fremont to Southern California and we are still waiting a longer time to get through PDI. Patience is a virtue, and boy are we “virtuous”, though losing patience.

Here are some pictures from our visit this past Saturday.

Ordering a Model S was also without its challenges. I placed my reservation in 2012 with the expectation to finalize the design, etc. in August 2013 based on the delays at the time I gave my initial deposit. I was then approached in February 2013 with a requirement to finalize my order or be subject to the base price increase. We accepted the price increase at that time to delay until August only to find ourselves subject to several accessory price changes. Granted, some of the additional options that were added on were ones that we opted for, it is still somewhat disingenuous to be inconsistent with price increases for those of us who put down a deposit a while back. We will be taking delivery of our Model S sooner than I had originally anticipated. However, with the constant price increases and the fact that if we were to take delivery of the Model S as we return our Active E in February would introduce at least a 14 month delay for receipt of the Federal Tax Rebate vs. a five to six month delay if we took delivery of the car in late 2013.

Now the question is, being that I am currently second in the nation for Active E mileage. Do I keep going on the Active E or do I start driving Model S more. I don’t have the answer to that. The “contest” with Tom Moloughney took an unfortunate turn when he got into an accident two weeks ago in Active E #1. No matter what mileage I end up with, if I happen to surpass Tom’s total mileage in in his Active E, the “victory” will be a hollow one. Perhaps I will attempt to come in exactly on the same mileage as his car as an homage to all that Tom has done for the rEVolution and BMW EV fans in particular. That is a lot tougher call to do the match of miles. Or I can honor Tom by taking on the mantle of mileage lead and hold off all challengers. I haven’t decided yet, and will have to wait until our Model S arrives.

So, if I start to blog more about my experiences with Tesla Motors… Can I still give my blog by its current title? Should I change the blog title? I am currently unsure and uncertain. Granted, it was still the Active E that made me Environmental… But Tesla seems to be delivering the vehicles that BMW should have provided to me, even five years ago when our “new” Roadster was produced; I would have been such an easy sale for BMW with the Active E.

The dangers of high mileage EV use… Battery replacement!

One of the folks that I like to read often is Tom Moloughney’s blog (Aka Electronaut One) and he’s been writing about Battery Capacity loss and giving some hints on how to help mitigate it. As many readers know, it would seem that I am one of the higher mileage Active E drivers. I’m currently a little over 30,000 miles in a little over 14 months. And I find it hard to follow some of his advice as I tend to have to drive the mileage that I do and can’t really get to where I’m going comfortably if I decide to only charge to 80% SOC, so… I don’t. Regardless, the dangers of high mileage EV use is Battery Replacement! So at a little over 30,000 miles these past 14 months and change on the EV portion of my hybrid garage.

Some of the things to consider as we’re nearing the second month of samples of my Volt inspired sample of my hybrid garage. In my initial month, I did approximately 85% Electric vs. 15% Gasoline. This past month so far, I’m closer to 70% Electric vs. 30% Gasoline and a lot of that was because I decided to be a little more Rage Sane than Range Insane to my drive to Morro Bay.

Regardless. If folks decide to look deeper into my samples, they would notice that I haven’t driven my approximately $0.20 to $0.25 per mile BMW X5. This was originally because of choice than anything else. I didn’t really need to haul anything larger, pick anyone up at the airport with lots of luggage, or just feel “bigger” than the rest of traffic. So, the car sat at the garage. Well. It’s a nearly 12 year old car. A couple of weeks ago, I figured to start it… And Lo and Behold, it wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. The last time I bought a battery was less than six years ago, but one of the dangers of running a hybrid garage is IGNORING your ICE vehicles. Granted, this was the same challenge when my HOV capable vehicle was a Honda Hybrid Civic. But that car was not nearly as fun to drive as ANY of my BMWs. So, I drove the X5 a little more than we do now.

The Morro Bay drive went convertible top because the weather was ideal for it. We could have easily spent more money and gone with the X5 because we were headed into Santa Barbara and Central Coast Wine Country and could’ve opted to have space for a few cases, comfortably.

Regardless, the battery died. It had to be replaced. Luckily, the last replacement still had nine months left on its warranty and we got a 9/72 partial refund on the older battery to make our replacement approximately $120 after taxes. Basically the refund covered $17 of a totally brand new battery.

This experience has gotten me thinking of Tom’s write up and battery replacement in general. Tesla has just released an enhancement to its service and repair program that includes an enhancement to the coverage of the battery pack. They’ve already spelled out the cost for the 60 KwH and the 85 KwH battery packs ($8,000 and $12,000 respectively, I believe.) The Nissan Leaf’s battery capacity warranty has been spelled out in terms of what to expect over time and mileage I believe. i.e. 80% SOC on year 5 or something like that.

BMW i needs to do the same thing for the battery packs for the i3 and i8 when the cars are released or even slightly before the release of the car. As Tom champions, I second the motion. Potential purchasers of the i3 (of which I continue to hold on to hope that our second EV will be, though that Fiat 500e sure looks aesthetically pleasing to me… even though the Fiat does remind me of a gumdrop, but I digress,) will need to be able to compare EVs to each other. However as the aforementioned Tom Moloughney wrote, the Fiat 500e and the i3’s battery systems are identical, so I don’t really need to compare these specific cars (unless there’s a change in how each company regulates the temperature of each vehicle.) for what the expected battery loss figures would be. It’s not just EVs that lose capacity/capability as it ages, ICE cars also lose power as the cars age. That’s just entropy in action. It’s just front and center to EVs. I don’t necessarily like to lease my cars, regardless of what fuel motivates it. I would much rather own it outright and just pay for the things that keep it moving.

So, barring such information on battery replacement from most manufacturers, it would just be the responsible thing to do to put away some of the “gasoline savings” aside into a fund for a rainy day. Whether one save approximately $10,000 (the figure between the two Model S published numbers) or less is entirely dependent on the EV owner’s resources and ability to save. I think that it is prudent to put aside half of what a future EV buyer saves on gasoline toward purchasing a replacement battery pack in the future. I didn’t come to this number through ANY analytical means, just a guess, if you will.