BMW i Series and the BMW i3.

bmw i3

A couple of weeks ago I ventured out to the Evolution Scotland Motor Show in Edinburgh. There were a few things that sent me there. Firstly I had started to be asked more questions about electric and hybrid cars from Fifi Friendly readers and truth be told I really needed to do some more research on it. Secondly my son begged me to take him. Ever since I took him to see the Gumball 3000 last year, he loves all things to do with cars. I understood that Electric Vehicles (EVs) are so much better for the environment, greenhouse gases and air quality and I knew that EVs were more accessible because I had even seen charging points in my local Sainsbury’s car park. The question was, could I see myself with an EV? Not really if I am honest. Up until my Motor Show visit, if I thought of an accessible EV or hybrid, I immediately thought of all the Priuses that I saw when I was in California. Lets just say I wasn’t too excited about them. I felt as though you had a choice between being green and a having a good car to drive, there didn’t seem to be a car that covered both.

bmw i series

One thing that was great about Evolution Scotland was the opportunity to actually test drive the cars and compare them in the flesh. Sadly I was not able to drive the BMW i3 on the day but I did get the most magnificent test drive in the BMW 5 Series M Sport Active Hybrid. This car needs a whole paragraph to itself. Wow, wow and wow. I even I had a proper racing driver instructor taking me out on the track and I loved every minute of it. (Massive thanks to Mark Woodhead). I was left in awe of this seriously amazing car.

I had told the team at BMW on the day that I had wanted to look at the “i” Series for Fifi Friendly, but when I was eventually called back by someone in a call centre three weeks later, I was left a little despondent. Not to be discouraged I got in contact with John Clark Motor Group who were beyond helpful from the get go and invited me to their BMW showroom in Dundee to find out more.

Bank holidays have traditionally been reserved for BBQs, doing DIY and chilling…you get the drift. For me this bank holiday will forevermore be the day I experienced the BMW i3 and BMW i8. i8 to brag….. see what I did there…. but it was such a great way to spend a bank holiday. I was introduced to the lovely Hamish Virtue, who I was to spend the next few hours with.
bmw i8

Sometimes you meet people who enjoy their job and are good at it. Sometimes you meet people who utterly love what they do, are happy to admit they are a bit of a car geek and love researching their sector. What is the result? Their passion for the cars they work with is so apparent that it makes them not just good at their job, but awesome at it. Hamish was awesome. He could have easily rocked up to our meeting and given me the standard chat about the BMW i Series. He didn’t. He had properly researched for this. Backed up with his supreme knowledge of the cars and the market, he had also looked into my blog and what I did. He asked questions about how this blog would fit in,  came with a page full of research notes and had also been out to take some pictures of the car the night before for me. (Thank you!)  It would be hard not to come away from such a meeting and not be as passionate about the cars as he was….. even before experiencing the cars.

bmw i8

That takes me onto the cars. Where do I start? I find it interesting that when BMW takes on the EV market, it seems like more people sit up and listen. I am included.  EVs are no longer as many perceive them. They are not just a grown up version of the Little Tike’s Cosy Coupe! BMW have succeeded in making EVs that are for people who enjoy driving a car and enjoying driving a luxury car. Before this meeting I wondered if BMW had just done some green washing with their marketing but I was to be proven otherwise. The BMW i Series is mind blowing.

BMW has taken so many factors into the production and design of the i Series. They harness sustainability, recycling, innovation and so much more. I struggled with where to start on this blog as there are literally so many amazing facts to share. I even had to wait 24 hours as my excitement levels were a little too high to begin writing.

The BMW i Series is built in Leipzig, Germany, in an extremely modern, state of the art and sustainable production plant. BMW uphold sustainability from the production line to the end user. This is were I started to really get blown away by how seriously BMW were taking their i Series. Firstly, the Leipzig plant is wholly powered by wind turbines. Not only that, but the production techniques that are used by BMW take their eco-credibility to the next level because they use 70% less water and 50% less energy than a normal car production line.

The eco and sustainability credentials go further than that. The leather for the seats in the interior do not get shipped in from the other side of the world, but come from cows in nearby southern Germany. In fact even how the leather is tanned is done in a natural way by using olive leaves. The wood in the car is European eucalyptus which has been responsibly forested.  The cars are insulated with natural wool. The seat upholstery is climate active wool cloth – energy efficient as it regulates heat.  The floor and seat textiles are made of 100% recycled fibres.  In fact a staggering 95% of materials in this super sustainable car are recyclable. The door trim panels are made from renewable natural fibres and are visible, which is a great touch. BMW have gone the full hog when it comes to these cars being made of products that natural, renewable and sustainable.

bmw i8
Lets start with some differences with the i Series. These cars are made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic and aluminium. This is innovative on a number of levels. This material means the car won’t rust like a traditional vehicle, thus extending the life of the car unit. BMW was the first manufacturer to use this type of material in large scale production. Not only is this carbon fibre light – approx half the weight of steel – but it keeps the overall weight of the car shell down, which saves energy. Weight is one of the biggest issues for EV’s, the significantly reduced shell weight offsets the weight of the car’s lithium-ion battery. BMW scored a point here. The high performance battery that runs the motor for BMW i3 is extremely efficient in how it runs the car, even down to how it moderates it’s temperature.

bmw i3

So what is the BMW i3 like? The BMW i3, to me, laughs in the face of any other electric car out there in it’s market. First there is the carbon fibre outer, the suicide rear doors, fully electric or can be upgraded with BMW REx . This range extender option turns this vehicle into petrol/electric and extends the possible distance from 100 miles to 186miles (approx). When I sat in the BMW i3, I felt like I could be in a Bang and Olufsen showroom. It is sleek, classy, futuristic and very well designed.

BMW i3

There were two flat screen displays/ TFTs which had amazing capabilities. The main one had online widgets allow for split screens. This TFT had everything from drag and drop sat nav, Google (!!), up to date weather, BMW Concierge and all manor of information. The drag and drop sat nav, was really cool and if you wanted to find a French restaurant near your destination and you wanted one that was child friendly and served ice cream, the screen would come up options and then give you a number for you to book the table.

The HD screen this TFT makes rear parking a dream.  The second TFT was for usual driving statistics. From the SOS button to the BMW concierge,  BMW know how to do extras. The Connected Drive Services allows you to drive to your destination in the most efficient way.

Then there is the BMW i Remote App. This is something I could see me getting attached to very easily.  I love me some technology. It not only lets you monitor the car’s performance but also displays your battery status and how far you can go, where your nearest charging points are and even check the car’s servicing requirements. The Apple Watch can also access this app where you check if your car doors are locked or change the climate control while it is charging.

bmw i3

The front section of the car felt roomy, probably because there is no central reservation/tunnel. Great if you are having to swap seats with the driver as you can just scoot over easily …. and make them walk around the outside…. moo ha ha. This car feels super modern and wonderfully futuristic.  I also personally loved the fact you could see the carbon fibre in the door frames.

The fully automatic BMW i3 is ultimately a fun car to drive. Given its height I expected this car to feel skittish, but it did not. There was great feedback from the car and it handled well on country roads and in the city. The acceleration of the BMW i3 is really nippy (168 bhp) and I tested this out at a local busy roundabout …. when you get a chance to go around the roundabout … you go. 0-60 in under 7 secs (reported figure, BMW is slightly more conservative giving 7.2 for 0-62mph acceleration). This car has some great torque and it is consistently available.

The i3 was quiet, so quiet. There was no car noise, just road noise.  Apparently if you don’t like it too quiet you can buy an add on to give it some sound! This car also had a pretty tiny turning circle, so is excellent for city driving. There is no road tax and also if you live in London there is no congestion charge.

One of the main things that people hold against EVs is their charging. There are actually loads of charge points to choose from and the on board screen helps you find your nearest. That being said there are 3 different ways to charge your BMW i3.

  1. Average 3 point plug at home – approx 8 hours
  2. Using a supercharger which is installed at home – 3 hours
  3. Public Charging point, free of charge – 3 hours.

So far I am impressed. BMW has not just introduced their brand loyalists to the world of electric vehicles, they have also introduced regular and electric car drivers to the world of BMW. They have introdcued these drivers to the BMW world of  EVs.

Downsides – to be honest that are so many plus points to this car it is hard to come up with the downsides. Yes there is not a huge amount of space in the back seats, but lets be honest and remember why people would actually buy this car and it is not to be a taxi service. My kids could easily fit in the back with their Isofix seats, job done.  In terms of boot space. There are actually two boots, one in the front which is fairly small and will fit in a charging cable. The other boot is conventionally in the back and is approx 260 litres. Not massive, but again not a deal breaker. The textured dashboard did reflect the sunlight onto the windscreen, which would need longer for me to get used to. To be fair, the plus points of this car outweigh this minor setback significantly.

bmw i3

Overall, the BMW i3 driving experience left me thinking that this should be the Fifi Friendly car.   The opportunity to drive a fully electric, sustainable, local emission free and premium car is fairly compelling when you can do it in such style.  This intelligent car makes it easy to manage your energy usage, whether it be on board in the car or on the app. These functions make it easy to not have range anxiety. The regenerative braking took a while to get used to, but I can imagine how much it will save on brake pads!! The noiseless driving experience again took some getting used to, but I liked it. The sustainable interior of the car was really comfortable.  I didn’t get to try the self parking but I am all up for it. My ex-husband totally needs this self parking function and then he won’t have to admit how rubbish his parallel parking is…. he would never admit it in the first place!

The BMW i3 is strong, light, innovative, incredible fun to drive and would make me feel a little better about my 3 trips a day up to the school and back. Being green or eco-friendly isn’t always about knitting your own yogurt, sometimes it is about making little but effective changes in your lifestyle. The traditional barriers of driving an EV have changed with this car. The BMW i3 has shown you can have a car that has it all. It is eco-friendly, a great to driving experience, cost effective to run, beautiful to look at, fully Internet enabled and with all the luxuries you would expect from BMW. The BMW i3 starts at £30,980. It is desirable, affordable and everything in it’s design has been taken very seriously to make this an awesome car. This car sold itself to me.

bmw i series

If you are in Scotland and want to find out more, the Energy Savings Trust has search tool to help you find an EV dealership or organisation near you – Electric Vehicle Network Tool.