Our cars: BMW i3 range-extender - August

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  • We're done. The What Car? i3 has reached its target, using barely a drop of fuel.

    We're done. The What Car? i3 has reached its target, using barely a drop of fuel.

  • A wild Irish night, but the CCS charger still brings the i3's battery back from the brink.

    A wild Irish night, but the CCS charger still brings the i3's battery back from the brink.

  • CCS fast charging is free at a few sites in Northern Ireland.

    CCS fast charging is free at a few sites in Northern Ireland.

  • The fuel gauge looks like it's never moved, but we can't lie; the range-extender motor kicked in for 30 seconds.

    The fuel gauge looks like it's never moved, but we can't lie; the range-extender motor kicked in for 30 seconds.

  • Our car added about a third of its battery capacity during the crossing.

    Our car added about a third of its battery capacity during the crossing.

  • Irish Ferries' EV facilities are, er, basic - but they work.

    Irish Ferries' EV facilities are, er, basic - but they work.

  • The EV area is in the Club Class parking zone on the Irish Ferries Ulysses vessel.

    The EV area is in the Club Class parking zone on the Irish Ferries Ulysses vessel.

  • An engineer turned up to help us connect the i3. He says Teslas are a struggle.

    An engineer turned up to help us connect the i3. He says Teslas are a struggle.

  • We've arrived at the Irish Ferries terminal at Holyhead. Now, can we plug in on the boat, please?

    We've arrived at the Irish Ferries terminal at Holyhead. Now, can we plug in on the boat, please?

  • We're charging quickly again, this time courtesy of ZeroNet at a National Trust castle.

    We're charging quickly again, this time courtesy of ZeroNet at a National Trust castle.

  • Turning up early helped our chances of parking beside the charge point.

    Turning up early helped our chances of parking beside the charge point.

  • The ZeroNet point is free to use for anyone - no card required.

    The ZeroNet point is free to use for anyone - no card required.

  • ZeroNet's point offers 13A and 32A capability, with three-pin and Mennekes sockets.

    ZeroNet's point offers 13A and 32A capability, with three-pin and Mennekes sockets.

  • Our i3 is charging in Wales, but only just…

    Our i3 is charging in Wales, but only just…

  • We've made it to Liverpool - or at least to IKEA Warrington's fast charger - without using any petrol at all.

    We've made it to Liverpool - or at least to IKEA Warrington's fast charger - without using any petrol at all.

  • IKEA to the rescue - or rather, the Ecotricity CCS fast charger at IKEA Birmingham, which works…

    IKEA to the rescue - or rather, the Ecotricity CCS fast charger at IKEA Birmingham, which works…

  • Fast charging with Ecotricity at IKEA restores our i3's battery levels with impressive speed.

    Fast charging with Ecotricity at IKEA restores our i3's battery levels with impressive speed.

  • Screen as we left Oxford Services...

    Screen as we left Oxford Services...

  • ...and as we got to Warwick

    ...and as we got to Warwick

  • Display screen on charging bollard at Warwick services

    Display screen on charging bollard at Warwick services

  • We've had to plug in our car at the slower charger.

    We've had to plug in our car at the slower charger.

  • The fast charger at Oxford Services wouldn't charge our i3.

    The fast charger at Oxford Services wouldn't charge our i3.

  • Our i3 (right) is ready to start its journey to Northern Ireland.

    Our i3 (right) is ready to start its journey to Northern Ireland.

  • Cover over electric plug socket door was detached - but a bit of DIY had it fixed in no time

    Cover over electric plug socket door was detached - but a bit of DIY had it fixed in no time

  • Rapid charger at Cobham services topped our i3 up to 94% charge in 40 minutes

    Rapid charger at Cobham services topped our i3 up to 94% charge in 40 minutes

  • Charging point at Canary Wharf was just a 13-amp three-pin socket - but at least it worked

    Charging point at Canary Wharf was just a 13-amp three-pin socket - but at least it worked

  • Eco Pro mode is terrific around town, but why can't the i3's software default to this setting?

    Eco Pro mode is terrific around town, but why can't the i3's software default to this setting?

  • Heated seats, air-con and stereo all on at the same time means John's efficiency score plummets

    Heated seats, air-con and stereo all on at the same time means John's efficiency score plummets

  • This PR image shows the scale of the BMW wall charger

    This PR image shows the scale of the BMW wall charger

  • i3 is great around town, but the trade off for decent body control is a ride that's a little too firm

    i3 is great around town, but the trade off for decent body control is a ride that's a little too firm

  • BMW's smartphone app is surprisingly easy to use, and a worthwhile element of i3 ownership

    BMW's smartphone app is surprisingly easy to use, and a worthwhile element of i3 ownership

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BMW i3 range extender


Week ending: August 25
Mileage: 6100
Miles driven this week: 136


Read the full BMW i3 review


'One ring to rule them all' drove Gollum mad in Lord of the Rings - and the idea of a charging card to rule all charging cards sounds pretty precious to me too. Our BMW i3 has a netting area under the dashboard and it currently holds three charging cards. There's the Chargemaster-based 'ChargeNow' one, the motorway network-friendly Ecotricity offering and then Source London's card.

I'm also working on getting a card that could, in theory, allow me to drive the i3 in the Republic of Ireland, and a reader got in touch earlier this week mentioning a Dutch card called New Motion that can apparently be used 'in more countries outside of the Netherlands'.

Thing is, this is already becoming horrendously complex. With dozens of providers popping up all over the place, grabbing government grants wherever possible to install infrastructure, what's really needed is a simple payment or subscription method that just gets you access to the whole lot. It's not so much the clutter of multiple cards underneath the BMW's fascia that worries me; it's the fact that I could check three sites for charging points before embarking on a journey, then drive past or come across a few more pods that simply hadn't appeared on the schemes I used.

Confusion, it seems to me, is the last thing that the EV market needs right now.

By John McIlroy
John.McIlroy@whatcar.com




Week ending: August 18
Mileage: 5964
Miles driven this week: 428

Our i3 has some natty buttons on the top of the dashboard that act as shortcuts to your 'favourites'. You can basically assign them to any task; get yourself onto the screen you want to access quickly by normal, convoluted means, then press and hold down one of the eight buttons to store the action for easier access in the future.

It's a simple system, and it works well. The button most useful to me is number 7, since that's the one assigned to turning the i3's 'range hold' function on and off. If I know I'm going on a longer journey and I want the petrol engine to kick in sooner than the last few miles of electrical charge, that function is now a simple button press away instead of a two- or three-screen dive through the BMW's iDrive infotainment system.

The button's aren't flawless, though. They have an additional feature based on touch sensitivity, whereby just placing your finger on top (and not depressing the switch) flashes up a preview of what you're about to do on the central information screen. This is potentially quite a useful trick, of course, because it means you don't have to commit the eight shortcuts to memory; the system is always primed to remind you.

However, the sensitivity of the buttons appears to have been turned up to 11. Get into the i3 on a warm day, crank up the air conditioning and the fans and the system seems to pick up on the breeze, get fooled by it, and then start flashing the previews up on the screen. The first time it does it, it's amusing. By the 20th time it's just plain distracting and annoying.

I've found a few other people on the i3 owners forum who've had the same issue, but none of them has come across a solution. I'm going to resort to trying a few household cleaners on the buttons, just in case an accumulation of finger grease is part of the problem.

By John McIlroy
John.McIlroy@whatcar.com

 


Week ending: August 11
Mileage: 5536
Miles driven this week: 100

A rare trip to the filling station last week for our i3. I'd taken it for a couple of days, you see, and that meant driving it home (30 miles), then driving from home to Heathrow and back (another 50 miles), then coming back into the office again the following morning. The total? About 110 miles - but with many of those on motorways, I'd had to resort to the 'hold charge' switch on the way home from Heathrow.

In any case, I shouldn't really complain. When I went to fill in our car's fuel card after filling up, I noticed that the previous refuel had been more than a month ago. A quick bit of maths tells me that between brims, our i3 has been returning north of 480mpg.

Of course that doesn't take into account the amount of electricity it's soaked up on a daily basis - and I'm lucky to have been able to plug in the car here at the office. However, it's still a pretty stellar figure - and considerably higher than I'd expected, given that my daily commute involves a good 40 miles of motorway.

I'm still not entirely sure that I could live with a pure-electric i3 instead of our range-extender - but given the frequency of fuel fills, I'm clearly a lot closer to fully electric than I'd thought.


By John McIlroy
John.McIlroy@whatcar.com


Read about life with the rest of our long-term fleet here.


Our cars: BMW i3 range-extender - July

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