In the Field

NZ Autocar - - Contents - Shaun Sum­mer­field

Have to hand it to those elec­tric­ity re­tail­ers; they are do­ing their best to jus­tify the pre­mium we pay them for do­ing lit­tle more than gen­er­at­ing bills. My cur­rent (sorry) sup­plier sends monthly emails high­light­ing my worst/their best day. I sensed an el­e­ment of delight in their lat­est email as I had been us­ing around 30 per cent more power than usual. But rather than feel­ing ashamed, I was quite proud.

The cul­prit was a BMW i3 plug-in that de­spite be­ing one of the rarest cars on New Zealand roads was the jus­ti­fied win­ner of the NZ Mo­tor­ing Writ­ers Guild 2015 Car of the Year.

With no big trips planned, the 130-odd-kilo­me­tre range was go­ing to be more than suf­fi­cient over the Christ­mas break for me. Judg­ing by my bill, the most ex­pen­sive charge dur­ing my 16-day drive of the i3 added around $2.50 to our daily elec­tric­ity costs. I de­cided to crunch some num­bers on this, and the 110km of ur­ban travel the previous day would have cost around $14 in a sim­i­lar sized petrolpow­ered car (7L/100km @ $1.85) or $13 in a diesel (5.5L/100km @ $1.07 + R.U.C. $0.06/km).

It is worth men­tion­ing that early adopters, while pay­ing more to go elec­tric, are ben­e­fit­ing from the de­ci­sion to ex­clude New Zealand’s ap­prox­i­mately 1000 elec­tric ve­hi­cles from R.U.Cs un­til 2020. The ex­tended pe­riod of grace is not some­thing those sell­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles will be brag­ging about how­ever as it is due to their lack of per­for­mance on the sales front.

Sav­ing the world was never go­ing to be easy, nor was it go­ing to be cheap. At just over $80,000, the i3 can­not claim any fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage. As a long dis­tance prospect, it looses any ap­peal af­ter around 240km, which is the re­al­is­tic open-road range of a full bat­tery and the two-cylin­der range-ex­ten­der’s nine-litre tank.

Of course I can­not claim to be free of car­bon guilt over the pe­riod. My mail was de­liv­ered…even­tu­ally (Christ­mas cards for New Years any­one?) by a postie on a Honda Cub, three sep­a­rate diesel-guz­zling refuse/re­cy­cling trucks were needed to take away the fam­ily’s waste and each time I poured the kids a glass of milk I was contributing to New Zealand’s worst car­bon emit­ter: belch­ing dairy cows.

To be hon­est though, the eco­cre­den­tials of the i3 are not what cause you to grin when you are be­hind the wheel. Nor is it the Green Party friendly in­te­rior made of re­cy­cled soft-drink bot­tles, hemp and eu­ca­lyp­tus, which es­chews the typ­i­cally hu­mour­less BMW cabin am­bi­ence. The i3’s in­te­rior looks and feels like Dan­ish de­signer, Hans J. Weg­ner, in­spired it.

For all the eco and design ge­nius, the i3’s real party trick is its speed. With 250Nm avail­able from the first turn of the elec­tric mo­tor, I will ad­mit a cer­tain amount of child­ish delight was ex­pe­ri­enced at traf­fic lights as few cars can match the i3 up to 50km/h. I have been told that the 650cc mo­tor­cy­cle en­gine used to ex­tend the range is noisy, but I never heard it.

As ur­ban trans­port, the i3 is with­out peer. Quick, com­fort­able and best of all clean. I have to stop just short of call­ing it my favourite ever BMW how­ever: that hon­our goes to the i8.

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