'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
Week ending: August 18
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
Week ending: August 11
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