My electric vehicle was the recently released BMW i3 from Cooper BMW in Reading. For my test drive I was accompanied by Katherine from the product genius team (reminiscent of an Apple store) who quickly explained some of the nuances that I should expect during my test drive. Most notable the regenerative braking on the accelerator pedal. (I’ll come back to that).
After Katherine explained the controls to me it was my turn behind the wheel. There were two things I noticed as I pulled away, the lack of noise and the instant response to the throttle pedal. It was the instant response to a dab of the throttle pedal that led to discovering just what is meant by regenerative braking as I would accelerate off through ill-judgment of the amount of pressure needed on the pedal and then immediately slow to a complete stop as I lifted off the pedal (triggering the regenerative braking) before then applying the normal brake pedal. A minute or two of jolty accelerate/brake driving around the tesco car park and then I was used to it and off we went around Caversham and Reading. After 45 minutes of getting used to that accelerator pedal, I was very impressed with the around town driving experience. In hindsight I would have liked to spend a little more time experiencing dual carriageways and the M4 to see how it coped in those environments, but there was nothing that I noted that would cause a problem.
This car proves that the technology is developing to enable real life all-electric driving. Range is definitely the big question mark but can be addressed by a serious evaluation of the type of driving that one does. Looking at the driving I do, I believe this car can manage for 80% of the journeys I do. There is also the option of the range-extender little petrol generator that can be fitted to enable the other 20% of journeys.
The only negative of the experience is the upfront capital cost. The BMW i3 is expensive for the car class that it falls into the premium supermini, even compared to the in-house marque Mini which is a full £10-15,ooo cheaper. It is however a self-perpetuating problem though, volume will bring the prices down, but at present this is still niche, a fascinating niche at that though.