Tomorrow BMW is going to unleash a Superbowl commercial to familiarize the world with its all electric car, the BMW i3. This uber expensive commercial might just be the Hail Mary that BMW needs to fix the i3's biggest problem. Oh yes it has one. Read on.
I had the privledge of taking one of the first BMW i3 in the US on a 1000+ mile across California in the fall. The trip had multiple purposes, one of which was to stop some naysayers. The ones opposed to anything new and fun who say things like, “That car looks great for commuting, but it’s not practical for long distance.” Or “Well it’s all fun until you end up stranded in the desert.”
I had to prove them wrong. For the environments sake.
The journey took me from Los Angeles, CA along the Pacific Coast Highway with a slight detour inland to Santa Rosa, CA with Napa being a major stop since I had never been.
The car pretty much drove like a dream. I learned how to Hyper-mile and got 91 miles on one charge coming out of Big Sur. At the time of the trip, in the early fall of 2014, there were not many superchargers compatible with the BMW in California (TESLA & LEAF had the market cornered, however in a few short months that has changed). This meant that if I needed to charge I had to make sure to allow for a couple of hours of down time versus 30 minutes (i.e. eating & sight seeing).
This leisurely road trip was like the classic Route 66 journey's of yesteryear. I saw redwood trees in Big Sur, a pod of whales in Santa Cruz, my nieces (who can be wildlife like), and lots and lots of grapevines. In total I took a week, traveling 1,234 miles. Fuel cost was $60.04 for both electric charges and gas refills for a grand total of about .05 cents a mile!
So what's the problem? It's as big as the redwood trees, here ya go...
This car as well as all electric cars need a massive public education campaign. The lack of knowledge about the car is staggering and causes huge problems. One basic complaint - people don't realize that if they park their non-electric car in a charging spot they could be preventing someone from getting home. One prestigious hotel, which might or might not be called the Carneros Inn in Napa, had combustion vehicles parked in their charging spot almost 24/7 - both employee and guest vehicles. When informed that this was stranding guests they seemed less than concerned.
What also became evident is that the brand name Tesla has become the Kleenex of electric cars. I would call a hotel or restaurant and ask if they had a charger. "Yes we have a Tesla charger," they would say. FYI The Tesla charger only works on the Tesla. Thanks Elon. Way to be a team player. A few times I went to check out these Tesla claims only to find out these establishments actually had a standard charger, which could work on the BMW. The receptionist had used Tesla as a generic term.
At another point, slightly frustrated and ready for a scientific experiment, I called different BMW dealerships in California looking to plug in and was asked every time some variation of: "Is that a vehicle we carry?" or "You want to charge what?"
The good news is the public is Beatles-fan-like enthusiastic about this car. I can't tell you the amount of people that pulled up next to me to inquire what the car was or how many people would honk and wave and give a thumbs up. At one charging stop a white Ferrari convertible pulled into a parking spot across from the car. A beautiful tall red headed woman popped out of the passenger's seat and raced over for all the stats about the BMW i3 and to look inside. Her companion, the male driver of the Ferrari, seemed none to pleased that his orders of magnitude more expensive toy was being ignored in favor of a little coupe.
Electric cars are good for all of us. For example, they help us avoid supporting petrodictatorships. I hope companies are willing to put the money into education and a thorough charging network that they put into R & D.
Hopefully, the new Superbowl ad is just the beginning of a real education campaign. I loved the car and the experience of driving it. I’m interested in taking it to the east coast and seeing how it does on fuel.