It was the final day of my long-distance travel in the BMW i3 from Southwest Florida to the Appalachians — my journey seeing the sights of 4 states out of the i3’s generous windows as I made my way from charger to charger. I planned to get to my destination before the sunset. I left the hotel in Orangeburg, South Carolina, fully charged (plugged into a light post overnight) and planned to charge again at one of the ultrafast Electrify America chargers in Columbia, SC, before the longer 148 mile trip to Hendersonville, NC.
The previous evening before the hotel:
And in the morning in Columbia:
I was lucky to get 75 miles on a full charge before needing the gasoline range extender (REx). That last stretch was bare of charging stations midway, so I knew this was the first time I might be driving on gas alone for more than a few miles. I did not really want to do that and found a BMW dealership within range in the navigation’s charging recommendations. It was not far from where I was, so I decided to go for it.
Going to the BMW was a mistake. It actually seemed I just went diagonal, not forward. I wasted time and at that point decided to jump on the highway and end up using a bit more gas instead of meandering the backroads — since there were not chargers anyway. The drive in the i3 was so smooth up till then that I felt okay when the roads got steeper, i3 battery range disappeared, and the REx took over. I did not let the gas get low, getting off the highway for gas before the gas tank hit 50% — just to be safe, since the tank is so small, I was going toward mountains, and I had never driven much on the REx.
The drive got steep — that very steep rise that I loved was taking a toll on the tiny bit of charge the i3 left in the battery (when taking over, the REx kicks in before the very end of the electricity in the battery, and then it generates more electricity for the battery as it runs on gasoline). I breathed a sigh of relief as the charge came back more as I went down the slope after the steep drive up. This went on for a bit, relying on the REx to get me over hills smoothly as I approached Hendersonville.
The light of day changed and it was so pleasing and breathtaking that I was inclined to captured this moment in time even as all of the battery charge disappeared and the speed shifted down. Luckily, I was not on a busy highway and that was easy to do. The peak of the highway was reached, and as the i3 smoothly rolled down — to my relief — the charge appeared again. So, I caught my breath for another reason.
As I went through this deep valley, between peaks, the sun fell on the beautiful majesty of the Smokies, as seemingly they flew up to their steep heights. The blue natural fog, the “smoke” ringed or circled the mountain peaks. The warm sunset cast over the blue Smokies one of those stunning orange, blue, gold moments of day end. I briefly forgot about how low my charge was.
Not so long later, I reached my exit and easily found my way to a friendly charger in Hendersonville. It was fast for a level 2.
Over the next week, I found the i3 does love these quiet mountain roads winding up and down in elevation. They are so much more esthetically pleasing to drive — the cooler sparser roads of North Carolina — than what it was used to in Florida. I don’t drive fast, but I find myself wanting to whiz on them (there is virtually no traffic) like I am in an old sports car and a Cary Grant movie in the mountains of Italy. Winding up and down faster and faster with the i3’s torque, I caution myself about the sudden curves. Yet, the i3 hugs the road and seems to enjoy her new home as much as I do.
Next month, the BMW i3 will try out some steeper roads, higher in the mountains — perhaps a few unpaved, guard-less, rugged ones. These will be real mountaintop roads.
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