In the Field
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.