Driving an electric BMW i3 led to Lynn’s electrifying discovery that it is the car that drives her and not the other way around.
GETTING behind the wheel of a car, we think that it is us, the drivers, who are in control. But the cars we are driving can influence the way we drive more than we realise.
For instance, I find myself zipping around in a sporty hatchback, whereas in a flagship sedan I would simply cruise along. And I tend to overtake more often in a performance car, because I am confident that I can pull off the manoeuvre within a smaller window of opportunity. I recently test-drove the BMW i3 (94Ah version). Compared to the first generation that I drove a few years ago, this updated model has a significantly higher battery capacity that increases the electric range to approximately 200 kilometres. Together with the on-board Range Extender (REx), a 650cc 2-cylinder petrol engine, the range can be stretched by approximately 100-150 kilometres. So, in total, that
makes a combined range of about 300 kilometres, which can be considered more than adequate, especially in the Singapore context.
With the first i3 that I drove, I was conscious of being afflicted by range anxiety. That car had an electric range of only about 100 kilometres, which is still more than sufficient for a day’s drive. Nevertheless, I found myself constantly eyeing the range gauge as if it is a ticking time bomb, and mentally calculating the distances that I still needed to cover before a charge is due.
A few years on, charging is less of an issue. The growing Greenlots network in Singapore currently has 60 public charging stations at over 30 buildings and 80 charging stations at over 25 condominiums.
Therefore, chances are that you will be able to find a charging station around your vicinity when the battery runs low. Besides charging the car at home, you could even do so while at work, in a meeting or over lunch.
With the updated 94Ah i3, I was still checking the range frequently, but for a rather different reason than range anxiety.
For starters, I drove in Eco Pro mode most of the time, which almost never happened in a petrol-driven BMW, or any other regular car, for that matter. Somehow, because I was driving an electric car, it was as if I was subconsciously indoctrinated with sustainability imperatives and felt driven to conserve power, especially since I realised that Eco Pro mode did not compromise on the driving experience at all. There was the extra 100km from the i3’s REx, but I was not planning on touching that reserve at all. I intended to rely solely on electric power, and the REx, should it be utilised, would merely tide me over until I get to plug-in.
In a hybrid vehicle, however, my attitude is totally different. Its internal combustion engine takes precedence over the electric motor, so I would use it like a regular petrol-fuelled car, with the hybrid element there just to enhance the fuel efficiency. WITH THE UPDATED BMW i3, LYNN EXPERIENCED A TOTAL CHANGE IN HER DRIVING HABIT, PROVING THAT A CAR CAN CREATE A PARADIGM SHIFT IN A DRIVER.
The columnist relied purely on the juice provided by the i3’s battery and didn’t intend to use the range extender function.