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Monday, July 23, 2012

It's True, I've Become an EV Snob!

My loaner: A 2011 Convertible 135i. If this doesn't get me back into gas, nothing will.
Just like the MINI-E program, the participants have to bring the cars in every 5,000 miles or every three months whichever comes first. Since I drive a lot, I'm taking the car in every seven or eight weeks.

The guilty gear.  Luckily mine was fine.
The service usually takes one full day, but this time BMW wanted to thoroughly check the main drive gear because there are some ActiveEs that are suffering a failure of this gear. It appears a few cars had the gear splines strip from a lack of lubrication. I'm not sure if the cause was a failure to properly lubricate the gear during manufacturing, or if there is a problem that allows moisture to infiltrate the gear and wash away the lubrication, but a couple of cars have had total gear failure so now all of the cars are having their motors dropped and the gear inspected.

Mine was fine and I had the car back in three days. However this post isn't about my car and the service visit, it's about what I was given to drive as a loaner while JMK BMW was servicing my car.

When I dropped off the car, I was handed the keys to a bright red 135i convertible. It packed a 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-6 engine with 300 hp and 300 lb-ft torque. By comparison my ActiveE has 170 hp, 184 lb-ft torque and weighs 400 lbs more. We don't have to line up both cars to prove which one is faster because there really isn't anything to debate. The 135i is a rocket and I have to admit I had some fun with it when I was driving back from the dealer.

I tried to plug in - didn't work
However it didn't take long for the fun to wear off a bit and leave me wanting for my ActiveE. After driving electric for over three years now, I guess I'm just ruined for life. If this red-hot convertible with 300 hp, paddle shifters and the "M" interior package didn't make me want to go back to an ICE, then I guess I'm just a lost cause, hopefully hooked on electric drive for good. While it was definitely a fun car to tool around in, it definitely lacked the sophistication of the smooth, effortless torque of the ActiveE. The 135i would scream at it's red-line and vibrations are felt right up through the steering wheel. There's none of that driving an EV; you get all of the power the car has without any lag or needing to get the RPMs up; it's there instantly when you need it regardless of your speed.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in driving the 135i was the lack of regenerative braking that I've grown so accustomed to. I actually had to use the pedal on the left...a LOT! The strong regenerative braking on the ActiveE (and the MINI-E before) improves the driving experience immensely. Everyone I know who has an EV with it complains when they drive a gas car without regenerative braking. They are like, "I can't believe I used to drive gas cars and actually like it!"  And I feel the same. While being brutally fast it also felt primitive. It jerked and lunged back & forth, had a noticeable lag between the time I pressed the gas pedal and the time the car took off and the roar of the engine, something I used to love, was just an annoyance now. I love the peaceful quietness of the ActiveE's cabin, it definitely enhances the driving experience in my opinion. OK, I guess I'm officially an EV snob, looking down my nose at gas cars forever! 

When I parked at the dealer to return the car, I reached down and swiped my finger across the exhaust tip to get a nice supply of pollution sludge that builds up inside the exhaust. Nice! I can just imagine how much your lungs must love filtering out this crap when you breathe it in. No thanks, I think I'll pass from now on. Give me a solar powered electric car and I'm good to go.

So if you see me out driving on the roads somewhere and for some reason I don't wave and say hello, don't take it personally. It's not about you, it's your car I'm no longer talking to ;)


  1. Tom,
    Great entry, one of your top ones -- and you do a lot of good stuff :-) I'm going to Tweet it!

  2. As soon as someone comes out with an EV convertible (cheaper than the Tesla), the Volt is getting traded in. Nothing like that top down motoring.

  3. Tom -- I loved this column as well! You described to a T exactly how I feel about my Active E (and how I feel when I have to slum it in an ICE). That said, I hope the next time I get a loaner from Open Road BMW, it's as nice as the one you got. Last time, they gave me a smelly old Nissan that had little to no pick-up so the gap was even larger!

  4. Damn it man! My ActiveE is in for service and I was already working on a blog post that mirrors yours a little too closely. Early bird certainly gets the worm. Guess I need to go and rework it...

  5. Thanks Christof, I enjoy your writing on just as much!

    Tyler: There's nothing I know of on the horizon in regards to convertible EV's. Unfortunately the ragtop really increases the drag and will cut down on efficiency, something everyone is trying to increase to gain range.

    Thank you B. Cohen & twscrap for the comments!

  6. Convertible EV smart cars are available for ordering right now. However, I recomend waiting for the third gen EV smart due out later this year.

  7. I really enjoy following this blog immensely. Can't wait for new posts. It made me realize that the EV future we dreamt of is right around the corner...exciting times indeed. I wasn't aware of BMW's efforts in the EV sector until I found out about the ActiveE and your blog; this definately changed my view on this company lots... to the better, obviously. :)

  8. Thank you Luke. Knowing people are reading the blog is what keeps me doing it. I really appreciate the feedback.