We’ve now had a 2015 BMW i3 REx for 6 months. We’re a family of four. The young ones are 2 years old and 4 years old, so don’t go to school. We have no other car in the household, but I work from home and my wife is a full-time (+ overtime) mom. We could pay for a garage and have a place to charge, but we decided after moving here that we didn’t need that.
As Steve Hanley pointed out in recent months, and probably everyone with an electric car can tell you, the #1 question people ask you when they see you have an electric car is: How long does it take to charge? I presume this comes in part from people being accustomed to smartphones and computers. With that background, they are perhaps just trying to figure out how a much more energy-intensive electric vehicle works, or have a hard time comprehending how something that uses so much more energy can charge up enough to cover daily driving neers. Or perhaps they have read or heard about electric vehicles a bit in the mainstream media and have thus heard the trite (and misleading) claim that charging access and time is a hurdle to faster EV adoption. (Actually, the biggest hurdles are lack of awareness, due in part to the misleading coverage I just mentioned, and lack of experience.)
In any case, it seems that’s the question I get 90% of the time from non-EV drivers. So, how long does it take to charge?
The funny thing is, it took me ages to figure out how to answer that question and how to get prepared for it no matter where I am. The reason it took me so long is also now included in the answer.
I actually don’t know how long it takes to charge the car. Basically, the core question just sucks. All we basically do is plug in the car when we go to the store, playground, library, mall, or tennis court. We almost always just do exactly what we’d do otherwise, then unplug when leaving, and we’re fine. Once in a blue moon, in order to get more charge, we chill out at Whole Foods a bit longer than we might have otherwise. That’s not really an inconvenience for us, but it’s probably the closest thing to an inconvenience that we’ve been through with our no-home-charging EV life.
We drive approximately 450–550 miles per month. Coming from Europe (10 years there for me, all their lives for the others), that feels like a lot of driving. However, it is admittedly about half the US average (which I have to say blows my mind). Perhaps if you drove more, you’d think a bit more about how long it takes to charge. On the other hand, if you had home or workplace charging, you’d probably be right back where we are — not having to give it much thought and not actually knowing “how long it takes to charge.”
With a 2015 BMW i3 REx, we have 71 miles of electric range (EPA rating) and another 60 miles of gas backup (via a BMW scooter engine and tiny gas tank that can be used to generate electricity and pump it into the battery in the event that you run extremely low on charge). Yep, 71 miles of electric range and a proverbial life vest in the case of too much driving and too little charging.
I’ll save it for another article once I finally fill up that tiny tank for the second time (the first time was immediately after getting the car, since the dealer had left it nearly empty), but I think we’ve spent approximately 80¢ on gasoline in 6 months. In general, we would never like to have that engine kick in and start using gas, but there have been a couple of instances where we drove so much in such a short time that we ran out the battery’s charge and the range extender turned on. It also turned on this week for ~10 minutes to keep the engine functional or something like that.
All in all, we absolutely love our little BMW i3. The view out the front offers helicopter-like visibility, a top selling point for us. The acceleration is wicked fun, and the whole family enjoys “smoking people” off the line after red lights on a pretty regular basis. The interior space is close to perfect for our small family (but perhaps sometimes a little tight). And the turning radius and parking prowess are to be adored.
On the downside, as explained after we got the car, the navigation and infotainment system absolutely suck after coming from a Tesla. I mean, we’re fine with them, but they definitely don’t compare and are core features that make me dream about going back to a Tesla. (Someday.)
True — we don’t go on long drives, and I have wondered if I’d be comfortable on a road trip in the i3 REx with the whole family. Range drops quickly at high speeds, especially in the heat of Florida and if you get on the wrong side of a strong wind. There’s no Supercharger network for the i3, of course. There is the possibility to use the gasoline engine and stop fairly frequently at gas stations, but there are so many reasons why that turns me off. Aside from the typical reasons for preferring electric over gas, I get nervous about the car when the battery does go down to ~0% and the REx is doing so much work. Various warnings pop up and make the experience far less than calming.
In any case, as I said, we’ve had no reason to go on a long trip since moving here 6 months ago. We’ve been enjoying Southwest Florida and expect to continue doing so during our time in the US. If we take a “non-Florida vacation” — aside from a trip back to Europe for a few months — it would be so far away that we’d prefer to just fly. Having a Tesla or a gas car almost certainly wouldn’t change that equation.
There are basically just two other currently available cars we could see ourselves living with aside from our BMW i3 — a Tesla Model 3 or a Tesla Model X. But for the time being, we’re loving the i3, we enjoy counting Teslas on the roads every time we go out, and we’re thankful that our city has EV charging stations nearly everywhere we go on a regular basis. (And I think we do dream about an eventual return to a Tesla vehicle.)