Although day one of BMW i3’s long-distance journey to Appalachia from the Gulf Coast of Florida was documented a bit in an earlier post, I will backtrack a moment to day zero.
I don’t have a lot of range in this small electric car. It does have a small gas tank in time of low range to get you to the next charging station, but planning is certainly needed. I had mapped out my route on a MacBook Air, but the computer’s mood (or light) dropped the morning I was to leave the Sunshine State. The screen was black even though it seemed the Mac was running. I took off anyway — with my phone to guide me and the electric car from charging station to charging station.
I had a general sense of the direction I was going and felt I could pull up stations as I drove, as I needed them. I hoped to make Jacksonville by evening. Still, I would eventually need the Mac again — so I stopped off at one of the many packed malls in America (a first visit). It’s a popular shopping and dining place in Tampa. I call it a monster mall. Choosing the mall as a MacBook diagnostic place was a mistake. At the moment that I chose to fo to the mall, I thought, “Well, I can charge while I visit the Apple store.”
At the mall: ICE (internal combustion engines) and concrete in all directions. It took me at least 20 minutes to find Tesla chargers. All the Tesla spots were filled with Tesla’s hovering around. I stopped and asked someone standing by the Teslas if he knew where the other EV chargers were. He pointed. They were all filled. It was nice to know the mall had a few — but not nearly enough. My heart and mind applauded all those EV charging entrepreneurs that Zach interviews. They are saving the planet, and EV drivers, as well.
He pointed and said, “Are you out of charge?” After a brief exchange, he said he had his Bolt charging, but it was charged enough and he would move it so I could charge — a kind EV driver/charger, for sure. Good etiquette in the charging culture is sometimes critical to success in EV travel. I thanked him kindly and moved into his spot. I would have done the same, and have at times.
I waited 4 hours to have my MacBook Air diagnosed. In the meantime, I chatted with some ladies in a quiet room by the bathroom meant for weary shopping companions. We talked technology. Eventually, I found out from her that she had a cousin working at Tesla factory.
I lost a lot to time that day, so consider it day zero. I drove only a short distance into the dark of night and then stopped. Day 0.
Day two was similar to day one and I charged at one Electrify America charger after another, and was able to easily avoid any use of the REx. (Note that the rated electric range of the 2015 BMW i3 REx is 71 miles.)
I plugged in the address to each Electrify America charging station in the GPS and easily followed the instructions from the i3’s voice guidance and the map on the dash. The guidance would even alert me if I needed to find a smaller charging station on the way to the fast charger. If an Electrify America station was too far, I could either use the REx or find a slower level 2 charger on the way. I chose the latter at the beginning of the journey.
The smaller intermittent level 2 chargers made it easily possible to avoid using the REx in the first part of the journey.
At one point, I was able to slow charge at a BMW dealership in between Electrify America stations.
The following night, though, it was too late to stop and slow charge and I was too tired, so I decided to go on, hoping that I could make it without the REx kicking in. The battery was too low and I dipped into the REx for about 4 to 5 miles before I arrived at my hotel (without a charger this time). I felt it was not wise to leave the EV sitting all night on such low charge, though. I was determined to find an available outlet and slow charge at least part of the night.
I talked to the desk clerk at the South Carolina hotel, telling her my situation and asking if I could use the wall outlet outside the rooms on my side of the building. She responded — to her regret — that I unfortunately could not. She had let someone do that before and another hotel guest tripped over the cord running between the EV and the outlet on the sidewalk. (Interesting that I was not the first person who asked or needed to charge there.)
So, I walked around the parking lot looking for other outlets and found one on a light post between the hotel and a restaurant. I cleared its use with the desk clerk and plugged in.
I was not that far from my destination in the North Carolina mountains. But PlugShare showed the route as deficient in chargers. I did not want to do that stretch of the journey late at night, and I did not want to arrive at my log cabin past midnight to meet the landlord. I knew I might have to use the REx. I knew I might have to fill her up more than once, since the i3 REx has such a small gas tank. So, I decided I’d ride the highs and lows of mountain roads the next day, going to a log cabin along good roads in the daylight. It would be the first time testing our i3 on steep roads.
I want to eventually test the i3 up some old gravel mountain roads in the area that shoot up to heaven and demand a fearlessness of heights and lack of guard rails, or even two lanes. I have done that in a faithful old gasoline car in the past, when living at the mountaintop. For now, I chose a destination close enough to my old mountain life but also closer to civilization.
If your next destination to a fast charger, or anyplace, is a bit too long for the i3’s battery charge, note that the GPS system helps you pull up charging stations, some of which aren’t even on PlugShare. They may be a bit out of the way, but can still be worth it to a traveler who likes to explore off the beaten path and use the zero-emission electric powertrain as much as possible while traveling.