What It’s Really Like to Drive an EV Every Day?
Business journalist Mark Sutcliffe has been using his BMW i3 almost every day for the last three years. This is his experience of EV ownership.
When I first did the maths, the decision was easy: buying a used EV was one of the cheapest ways of running a reliable second car for commuting, the school run and as a general run-around.
In the UK, there are quite generous tax incentives for buying and driving a pure battery EV and some of the energy utility companies offer cheap electricity tariffs for EV drivers. So depending on the exact circumstances, running an EV can cost less than driving a conventional car.
Having previously used a small diesel car, I’d become frustrated with the mediocre fuel economy, the lack of refinement and constantly replacing DPF sensors and I was keen to reduce our carbon and NOx footprint by offsetting some of our diesel journeys with zero emissions mileage.
But beyond the real-world running costs what really persuaded me to choose a BMW i3 was the refinement and ride comfort. The almost totally silent ride and completely seamless transmission takes the stress out of stop/start city driving and makes commuting a much more pleasant experience.
As long as an appointment or meeting was within range, I very quickly found myself choosing the i3 ahead of the family diesel because it was a more pleasant way to get there. The ride is more comfortable and music or podcasts sound better without the background clatter of a four-cylinder diesel.
You soon become accustomed to using the throttle pedal as both accelerator and brake and work out how to preserve the battery to extract maximum range. The i3 even has a built-in driver training module that rewards eco-driving and lets you compete with fellow owners to achieve the best economy. It’s like a kind of Strava for EV geeks!
Everyone asks about range anxiety but overcoming this is a simple case of planning journeys more carefully. The i3 is fully charged overnight, so we start with a full battery every morning. Only on a couple of occasions was a detour to a chargepoint required and the i3’s built-in telemetry and GPS provides the driver with plenty of advance warning together with route directions to the nearest charging station.
In winter, the battery is less efficient in cooler temperatures and using the headlights and heater consumes more energy, so real world range is reduced. Using the remote control to preheat the interior and defrost the windscreen while the vehicle is still hooked up to the charger is a real bonus – all from the comfort of your breakfast table!
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises was how eagerly my wife took to the i3. She’s not really an ‘early adopter’ and is a little suspicious of new technology. Yet after a quick e-driving lesson, she ‘adopted’ the i3 as her preferred car for a regular 60km return commute.
When I could wrestle the BMW back from her, my furthest business trip was 160km – well beyond the i3’s ‘real world’ range of 140km. But after checking in advance with the business owner, I managed to top up the battery using a standard 230v external plug socket at their office during a two-hour meeting.
So, are there any downsides? Extra care is needed in town centres and car parks as pedestrians glued to their phones remain blissfully unaware of your presence and tend to step out in front of the silent i3. And while servicing and maintenance costs have proved to be significantly lower than a comparable diesel car, wear and tear components like tyres and brakes are more expensive to buy.
And now, after covering some 40,000 electric kilometres, as the end of the personal leasing contract approaches, will I be buying another electric vehicle?
Well, thanks to a higher than predicted resale value, I will almost certainly upgrade to the BMW i3S which – thanks to a bigger 120Ah battery pack – will mean we replace an even higher proportion of our diesel journeys with electric miles.
Image Source: Pixabay