I now own an electric car, a BMW i3, and I must say it’s a lot of fun. Not just a good thing for the environment, but actually fun. There are many things that have surprised me about this car in the first month that I’ve owned it.
Let me explain below.
I’m writing about this here on lifeintherightdirection.com because of the importance of my efforts to Use 10 Percent Less and how I believe that’s part of living my life in the right direction. Buying an electric car was mainly an effort to use less fuel and pollute less in my daily life, I wasn’t expecting it to be so much fun at the same time.
My electric car accelerates like crazy
I wasn’t really expecting this, but the acceleration of the i3 electric car is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Everyone I take for a ride is astonished also. If you put your foot down, it just takes off and, since it doesn’t have any gears, it will take off in any situation and at any speed. With other cars that have automatic gearboxes, sometimes you have to wait till it gets in the right gear or finds the power-band before it accelerates quickly. With my i3, maximum acceleration is available all the time, no matter what.
One problem with enjoying this ample acceleration though is that it chews up the battery power quickly. Driving carefully and smoothly uses much less energy, just as with conventional cars.
There’s no need to use the brake
This might sound a bit crazy but, most of the time, I don’t have to use the brake to stop the i3 electric car. When you lift off the accelerator, or even just ease off it a bit, the car starts to harvest energy from slowing down, so it actually starts slowing the car aggressively. In this phase it is actually charging the batteries a bit. When you get used to this you can use this effect to slow the car and bring you to a complete stop. All you need to do is anticipate where you need to stop and it’s easy. Only if something surprising happens or I failed to anticipate correctly, is it necessary to use the actual brake.
As they say on the BMW website “Regenerative braking mediated by one-pedal driving extends the car’s range.”
It’s so quiet!
When I first went for a test drive, I sat in the car and the salesman told me to press the Start/Stop button. I did that and the car made a musical note and the lights on the dash came on – that’s all. Next he told me to put it in Drive – no noise at all. I was sitting there wondering what was happening and he said “we can go now”. A bit bemused, I put my foot on the accelerator and the car started to ease away. It was so weird. At low speeds the car makes almost no noise at all. Above about 15-20 miles per hour the normal road and wind noise arise, but below that it’s super quiet.
There’s no exhaust pipe
I was standing next to somebodies car the other day saying goodbye to them. They were in their car with the window down. I started to smell the fumes from the car’s exhaust and I was a bit surprised. I realised that the BMW i3 electric car didn’t have any exhaust emissions. In fact, it doesn’t even have an exhaust pipe. So I don’t need to worry about breathing in any fumes when I’m around my car. That’s nice.
There’s no engine
Well, of course there’s an electric motor, but there’s no standard internal combustion engine. This means that there’s a boot space like normal and the area under the hood is mostly empty as well. It’s fun to be able to put stuff in both the back and the front of the car.
The car’s design is inspired
The BMW i3 is designed with sustainability in mind, with a carbon-fibre passenger pod (known as the Life Module) and a lower “Drive Module” that contains the suspension, the electric motor and the batteries. The carbon-fibre passenger pod is lighter yet stronger than steel, and the reduction in weight counteracts the additional weight of the batteries. The way they’ve put the batteries under the floor means there’s no need for a floor tunnel from the front to the back of the car, thus giving more room inside.
Everything about the cars design, trim and finish feels new, futuristic, fresh and fun.
I don’t need to stop at petrol stations
It feels a little funny driving past petrol stations these days and realising that I don’t need them. Of course, one day I might need to recharge my car at a public charging point that can be found at service stations (haven’t needed to do that yet), but it could be more common to recharge electric cars in shopping car parks and the likes.
I have a 17 mile drive to work, so 34 miles there and back, and I only use about 30% of the battery power each day. I can drive to and from work, run a few errands and still have more than 50% of the battery power left over. It seems to be more than adequate for what I need.
Every night, when I’m finished for the day, I park the car in the garage and plugin to the charging point I’ve had installed.
Going on a long drive will obviously be more difficult and would require planning recharging points en route.
The car gets itself ready to leave
Using a mobile phone app, I can tell my electric car when I’m planning on leaving. If it’s plugged in (like it is when at home) it will run the A/C to precondition the internal temperature of the car and warm up the batteries and electronics for optimum operating efficiency.
The mobile phone app also tells me if the windows are closed or not and whether the car is locked. It does this from anywhere. It knows where the car is and it knows where the nearest charging points are. It can automatically load the location of a charging point into the satnav and start guiding you to it. All cool and fun.
My electric car is cheaper to run
This was a big surprise. I didn’t really think of the cost of running the car when I bought it, but I assumed it would probably cost me more in electricity charges to run the car than it would have in fuel. However, it’s costing me about half. Wow! That’s a lot.
Electric cars shouldn’t be a surprise
Driving an electric car is quite different to driving a conventional car. It’s easier, more straightforward and more intuitive. Sometimes I think “this is how a car should be” and I wonder why cars that have their own engines are considered normal.
But then I realise this shouldn’t be a surprise, and I remember what happened when I played golf. Anyone who has played golf with an electric golf cart has already had some experience with electric cars. There’s nothing to an electric golf cart. As long as the key has been turned to “on”, just push the pedal to go and, when you stop, just get out of the cart, play your shot and get back in. There’s no noise when you’re out of the cart and it’s not using any energy.
The BMW i3 is like a super version of a golf cart with much better handling, acceleration and regenerative braking, but the overall principle is the same.
Electric cars themselves don’t solve CO2 pollution
Electric cars don’t mean no pollution. Of course, they have no local pollution which is good for the population nearby to the roads but, depending on how the electricity was created, there could be pollution being made somewhere.
So, the next step to reducing the amount of pollution I’m responsible for is to source the cleanest electricity supply that I can. I’m currently looking into options in the UK like Good Energy and Ecotricity. These companies claim to supply electricity that’s 100% sourced from renewable options like solar and wind.
Have you ever stopped to think that, as far as electricity is concerned, there’s an endless supply around us all the time in the form of the sun’s energy and wind? (have a look at the post Solar power for the whole planet?) All we have to do is learn to harness it and share it.
Electric cars are the future
With my early experience of owning an electric car, I can see that electric cars are the future. At least for short local driving that a lot of us do. At present they won’t be suitable for long distance driving, freight and airplanes, of course, but a lot of local driving could be replaced with electric vehicles.
I can also imagine this improving as the network of charging points grows. Charging points don’t have to be just at service stations, as they make even more sense at restaurants, shopping centres and parking stations.
Electric cars are the easiest things to drive, have less maintenance needs and are a lot of fun. They must play an important part in our near future with less pollution and more love for the whole of our wonderful planet.
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