BMW i3 range extender
Week ending July 25
Driven this week 250 miles
At last, another opportunity to test the i3 in central London presented itself earlier this week. Yet another Bentley press conference meant a crack-of-dawn start and required me to park somewhere near High Holborn.
I was keen to plug into 32A socket instead of a 13A one, so the nearest group of electric-car bays was in a street called Temple Place, down near Embankment. I had a severe sense of deja vu when I arrived, though, because the first of the three Source London pods wouldn't charge the BMW, and the second had a totally blank display. Given how bad my previous experience in central London was, I was half-inclined to just get back into the car and go to a regular car park.
However, the third pod was working and I celebrated as I heard the glorious click of the charging socket locking into place. I was allowed four hours of charging for free but Bentley's conference was all done in half that time; even so, the i3 was restored to 100% charge, and I was even able to turn on the pre-conditioning as I walked back towards Temple Place, so the cabin was nicely cooled down from midsummer heat by the time I got into it.
Better still, Westminister Council doesn't charge you for parking if you're in an EV and charging up. Total result, I reckon - although I also noticed a few other 13A spaces en route to the Bentley bash that had been filled with everything from a Mercedes Sprinter to a battered Ford S-Max. My morning could have been a lot worse if I'd been relying on those bays.
By John McIlroy
Week ending July 18
Driven this week 125 miles
There are many things that the BMW i3 does better than other cars, but it appears I was the first in the office to fire up the self-parking system.
This technology exists in plenty of other vehicles from plenty of other manufacturers, but being an electric car gives the i3 an advantage in terms of automation. Unlike many cars boasting such technology, the i3 can change gear itself.
That means when the car starts to park itself, it really starts to park itself. The only driver input required is to keep your chosen digit pressing firmly down on the self-parking button between the seats, while the car starts, stops and parks itself.
On the majority of systems, the driver is required to shift gear as the car shunts back and forth in a space. That blurs the line between who is in control, making me a little nervy. After all, if the car needs me to change gear, does it definitely not need me to accelerate? Or more importantly, to brake?
As the i3 controls everything itself, the whole thing is completely relaxed. It measures spaces around it, you use the indicators to tell it which side of the road to park on and then follow the simple on screen instructions to have the i3 serenely stow itself at the kerbside, For the first time in my driving career, I’ve seen a self-parking system as a useful item of automotive technology, rather than some sort of pointless party piece.
By Nigel Donnelly
Week ending July 4
Driven this week 160 miles
Alas, our BMW i3 has been in the wars - but a bit of home maintenance has brought it back to full health.
A week or two ago, one of our colleagues at Autocar - managing editor Allan Muir - confessed to brushing our car's 'filler flap' (the bit that covers the two charging points) with his backside as he walked between it and his own long-term i3.
Trouble is, Allan's a fairly robust chap (they make them that way down in New Zealand) so when his posterior met the i3's bodywork, the BMW came off worse. 'I've ripped off the flap completely,' admitted Mr Muir. 'I tried to re-attach it but I can't see how it'll go back on.'
To clarify, the actual flap covering the charging points was still in place; what was missing (or rather, left sitting on top of my office desk) was the Laurus Grey body-coloured panel that sits on the front of it. Even with the dark shade of our car's paint, you could still notice the ugly matt-black rectangle near the rear of the side profile.
This morning I phoned my local BMW dealer, Baron's of Farnborough, to see if they could have a look at it, and I was pleasantly surprised to be told that I could bring the car in 'any time' (perhaps they're keen to see customer cars because they're still relatively rare). However, I then looked at the broken part - and started to wonder if its damage was that terminal after all.
I took two minutes to work out how the cover would re-attach, then bent a couple of damaged pins back into place with the nib of a ballpoint pen. The plastic was of a good enough quality for them not to snap, and they still seemed pretty firm, so I popped back downstairs, put the flap flush with the basic cover and slid into place.
It seems perfect, and secure enough for me to not worry about it flying off on the motorway - so I'm going to give it a go and see if it lasts. Never thought my first bit of home maintenance on a long-termer for years would end up being on an EV, but there you go.
By John McIlroy