The BMW i3 wasn’t quite up to standard for motoring enthusiast and mechanical engineer David. So, he waited to close to the end of production and purchased the BMW i3S. What was the difference, I asked. The “S” has more power, larger wheels, and flared wheel arches. David keeps the treasured car in immaculate condition, even removing the wheels to give the car a thorough clean. At 12 months old, it still looks brand new in its Rocky Mountain Blue paintwork.
I remember when the i3 was introduced in Australia, and even took one for a test drive. It was a marvel. The Drive comments, “The BMW i3 range hasn’t turned the world of motoring on its head in quite the way its futuristic looks might suggest. It is, however, a pivotal part of the foundation of what an electrified future might look like.
“The incredibly kart-like responsiveness also fuels the desire to treat the i3s as sporty rather than sluggish. There’s instant torque from any speed, lightning-fast responsiveness thanks to a transmissionless drivetrain, and a much more urgent power delivery than the more sedate i3.”
The i3S has a comfortable range of 300 km (186 miles) and can do 280 km (174 miles) without David getting apprehensive. It is a good daily driver for the city commute, not a fragile science experiment.
David has a passion for what he describes as “the million-dollar car,” although it only cost AU$90,000. “They locked the accountants out.” He tells me that Sandy Munro called the i3 “The Model T of our time.” The car is made of carbon fibre and weighs only 1200 kg — that’s only 150 kg more than the Honda Jazz. It is the lightest EV on the road in Australia — until the Wuling Mini arrives, that is.
When David bought his i3S, the BMW dealer said that it could have sold 200 of them. There was high interest as, sadly, BMW wound down production. I can only speculate how well the car would have done if BMW had promoted it more energetically.
David’s passion for the BMW i3 began when he saw the body in white while at the Munich factory museum in 2010 on a 3-month sabbatical in Germany. Early BMW i3 cars were driving around the streets of Germany in camo at the time. David fell in love with the construction design. As a master engineer, he can appreciate the fact that the BMW i3 can achieve a 5-star rating without a B pillar.
When it comes to cars, David has an impressive history with German and English automobiles (before the BMW, he owned a 2-door Bentley). He has spent 40 years repairing and maintaining Mercedes, Porches, Audis, Land Rovers, and Range Rovers, not to mention BMWs. Although David is environmentally conscious — he has solar on the roof and rides his electric bike to his factory each day — the main reason he bought the i3 was for its engineering excellence.
Now retired, David ended his career as a private mechanic maintaining 5 car collections of vintage and classic German and English cars for private owners. The star of the show was a Jaguar D-Type. The car he has owned the longest is a Land Rover Discovery 4. He is thinking of replacing it with an INEOS Grenadier. (Google it. You may be surprised. I was.) Vera would be impressed. David has just sold his Unimog — you should google that too. Vera would be even more impressed.
I had to ask, why not a Tesla? “Poor turning circle, 2 and half ton, everyone has one,” was his short answer. The BMW appeals to David as a more elegant engineering solution. The BMW i3s has a 9.5 metre turning circle. Maintenance is simple — change the wiper blades, check the brake fluid, and put in new cabin filters. You can also control the car easily with an app.
As for a comparison with fossil fueled BMWs: “There is no comparison, the way the i3 moves off the line is way better than the stop, start of a petrol engine. The main reason I bought an electric car was its drivability. Fuelling an EV is so efficient — there are five commissions paid between the ground and the pump. With an electric car, it’s off my roof and into the car.”
The BMW i3S has some futuristic Hella technology — the headlights adapt to “dark spots” on the highway. There are five segments of lights. On high beam, as a car comes toward you, the inner segments turn down but the outer ones still give great visibility of the side of the road — just in case a kangaroo is about to jump out!
David tells me that people tend not to notice the BMW on the highway. He thinks it looks like an ordinary car. There aren’t many around — with just over 200,000 sold globally by the end of 2021.
His family has nicknamed the car a spaceship, because of the sound it makes when traveling slowly. Although some owners have complained that the sound is too loud, I could hardly hear it when he drove out of my driveway this morning. His neighbor (a nurse who works nights) certainly appreciates how quiet the electric car is.
After over 40 years of maintaining ICE cars, 4-wheel driving, being a silver-level scrutineer for Formula 1 and Formula SAE, and being on the technical team for the Finke desert races; David says that the BMW i3S is just “simple to drive.”
“You just have to think it around the corner.”
David does most of his charging at home using a range of chargers, depending on how much time he has. On the left is a Fronius Wattpilot, which he programs to charge from his solar. In the middle is a 7 kW charger. The one on the right was supplied by BMW — it charges at 10 amps. David believes that the slower you charge the battery, the better for it.
This morning, I went for a very short drive in David’s i3, and he reciprocated with a very short drive in my Tesla Model 3 SR+. I was once again reminded of how different each electric car is. It’s what you get used to, I guess. He didn’t know which buttons did what, and neither did I. The start/stop button was unexpected. But I am sure it wouldn’t take long to get used to once you’re driving it daily.
We have some EV events coming up in the next few months and I am trying to encourage David to come along. He will be able to answer the tricky technical questions and will certainly speak with authority. He would be appreciated at Zero Emissions Noosa on the 18th June. Perhaps you would like to join us? Queensland is paradise in winter.
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