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Thursday, December 12, 2013

BMW to Make a Limited Edition "Electronaut Edition" i3

Introducing the "Electronaut Sport Edition". Something like this would be my first preference for the Electronauts .
A few weeks ago in LA at the West Coast Electronaut i3 event we first heard that BMW was planning on making a special "Electronaut Edition" i3 that would only be available to the ActiveE Electronauts. We weren't given any details, only that we would be offered a special version of the i3 that nobody else will be able to buy and that we will get the first i3 that arrive in the US.

The MINI-E was no stranger to a flatbed
Most of the ActiveE drivers expected some kind of thank you for being in the ActiveE trial lease program. In fact, many of us have been in BMW's e-mobility test program for nearly five years now, dating back to the MINI-E days. While most of us have genuinely enjoyed our time with these special cars, it hasn't been without sacrifice. Just about all of us have been left stranded on the road at some point or another because the car broke down, and some have had it happen to them many times in fact. I don't remember exactly, but between the MINI-E and ActiveE I've probably had to have the cars towed to the dealer for service five or six times and they have been in for service for probably a combined 4 or 5 months. Besides that, we had to take the cars in for regular check ups every 3 to 6 months or 5,000 miles and with my high mileage, I've had to have the car serviced every two months or so. That adds up to about 25 trips to the dealer for me alone so far for basic service and check ups. What I'm basically saying is that we have been good soldiers. We have provided BMW with an immense amount of real world data and a tremendous amount of feedback, all of which has helped to make the i3 and future BMW electrics better cars.

Personally I was expecting some kind of generous discount on an i3. I figured we would get some kind of deal like we'd get a fully loaded i3 with any options we want for the i3's regular base price of $41,350(BEV) or $45,200(REx). That way we would still be paying for the car, but get any options we wanted for free. I'd sign up for that and feel that BMW was definitely showing their appreciation for our efforts and inconveniences during the trials. But now that they are talking about a special limited "Electronaut Edition" I'm not sure what to think. I like the idea, but a little worried that some of us won't find the "special features" so special. It's hard to please everyone.

White i3 with BWM i Blue accents
So yesterday we had the East Coast Electronaut meet at BMW's North American headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. After taking turns driving i3's and getting a tour of the battery tech department and even getting to see a real i3 battery back opened up, we had a question and answer session with Jacob Harb, manager of electric vehicle sales and service for BMW NA. It didn't take long for the topic of the special Electronaut Edition to come up. We still didn't get much details, but were told it's not just going to be stickers and a chrome badge, that the car will indeed have special equipment that isn't available on any other i3. Then Jacob asked us what we would think about it being available is a special color combination that isn't available to regular buyers and he threw out white with BMW i Blue accents. That surprised me a bit because that is one of the regular i3 color combos. I later asked a program manager about that and was told the white i3 will not be available in the US like it is in Europe, for at least the first year! So white would actually be an exclusive color here. Still, I'm not going for that. I don't really like the i3 in White and I'll have to pass on the Electronaut Edition if it only comes in white which is what Jacob was implying.

Laurel Gray is my favorite i3 color
However they weren't saying that this is etched in stone. BMW was just trying to take our temperature on the subject of color. Personally I don't think they can mandate any one particular color for the Electronaut Edition. No matter what color they choose they will get a minority approval. BMW will have to let us pick the color or at the very least offer three exterior color choices for this special edition. My favorite i3 color is Laurel Gray with the BMW i Blue trim. I like how it lessens the two-tone color scheme that stands out on all the other i3's. plus, if they really want to offer us a special color, they should use the Protonic Blue offered on the i8 or grab a unique color from the ///M division. The white with a black hood and roof looks too much like a Panda bear for me and in fact we joke about that in the i3 Facebook group all the time.

I definitely appreciate that BMW is making the effort to make us feel special, and as a group we all think that's a great gesture. However I just hope they get it right. Obviously nothing short of giving us free cars is going to please everybody - and even then some will probably say they should have given us i8's!  So I'll offer three different ideas that they could do that would be pretty cool.

1) My #1 choice: The i3 Electronaut Sport Edition. Think Mi3. Available only in Solar Orange, Laurel Gray and Ionic Blue. Give it a special interior, beef up the suspension, add unique sport wheels with stickier tires and give it a little more torque and HP (I'm sure they can do that with the same motor they have with very little tweaking) and you'll have a 6 second 0-60 car that will have better handling than 90% of all the sports cars out there. Sure we'll have a little less range but the smiles-per-hour will increase.

2) Old school: The MINI-E i3: Start with MINI-E numbered badges. This will add to the exclusivity of the cars.  We loved our numbered badges in the MINI-E program. It gave our cars which all looked alike unique personalities. I was MINI-E #250. The MINI-E pioneers even identified ourselves by our numbers and would say something like "I saw 183 last night". That was a cool feature that we all loved. Bring it back for the Electronaut Edition! They could also have an optional  MINI-E Gray & Yellow trim color scheme(hell, all the i3 colors are gray anyway!). This edition would also come fully loaded with every option available but we would pay only the base MSRP, essentially getting all the options for free. Although I was MINI-E #250, I'll gladly take i3 #1 if offered! ;)

3) The discount deal:  A straight 20% off. Instead of trying to figure out what color we want or what options are most popular just let us order our cars in a configuration we want and simply give us 20% off. That is a significant deal, considering the cost of the car. A fully loaded i3 REx will be about $50,000 before incentives. This would slash $10,000 off the price and after we get the $7,500 tax credit it our net would be about $32,500 and in CA it would be $29,950 because of the State discount! Yes it's a big discount but it will also save BMW money in not having to make a unique color or offer options that aren't available on other i3's. Making things like that in small quantities cost's a lot. Don't do anything special and just pass the savings along to us.

If you're an ActiveE driver post what you would want the Electronaut edition to be in the comments, I'm sure BMW will be reading!

Edit: A fellow Electronaut, David Sapp just offered a great suggestion over in our Facebook group. He wrote:

I like these ideas, Tom, but I'm going to throw out one not yet mentioned: for those of us who don't want to lease, offer a LIFETIME WARRANTY for Electronauts' i3 purchases. Bumper-to-bumper, everything included, with no limit in years or coverage restrictions. If there has to be a mileage cap, it should be somewhere north of 150,000. 

I've had two motor replacements in my ActiveE in addition to a host of other squirrelly things going on. I won't have confidence in my i3 purchase unless I have an ironclad warranty for as long as I choose to own the i3. Making the lifetime warranty non-transferable is fine, but make it last as long as the original Electronaut-owner chooses to drive the car, not just the typical 3-5 years. When I buy a new car, I want to keep it longer than three years, but I certainly don't want to get stuck with a five-figure motor-replacement bill. 

I think a lifetime warranty for us would be a great perk and appropriate. Since we have been the real world Guinea pigs and driving beta test cars for years now, we all have had many technical issues to deal with. Knowing that for as long as we own the cars we don't have any worry about paying for any repairs would be awesome. Great idea David!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Long, Long Way to Go

On the way to work today I stopped at Lowes Home Improvement store to pick up a couple things. As I quietly rolled into a parking spot I could see a guy that was walking towards my car looking intently at it and and then making eye contact with me. After driving my MINI-E for 2 1/2 years and now the ActiveE for nearly 2 years I can immediately identify the people that are just curious about my car from the people that are not only curious, but want to ask me about it and this guy was definitely the latter.

So I hopped out of the car once I parked and looked right back at him and before he could say anything I said (as I usually do in these instances) Yep, it's all electric and it's a real BMW. With a big smile he said that's what he thought be didn't know BMW made an electric car. I then proceeded to give him the whole MINI-E and ActiveE history and how they are leading up to the i3 which will be available in a few months. So we chatted about electric cars for a bit and he then tells me a little story about his personal EV experience that occurred about 8 months ago. He was at a Nissan dealership buying an Altima and while the paperwork was being completed he walked around the sales floor and was checking out a LEAF. His salesman came over to tell him he was all ready to see the finance department so he asked the salesman about the LEAF and if they were selling. His salesman rolled his eyes and said sarcastically "Oh yeah, like hotcakes. Everybody needs a car that only lets you drive 25 or 30 miles from your house".

As much as I know this is happening I still get depressed when I hear stories like this. A little over a year ago I did a long blog post here that discussed the less than stellar marketing and poor dealership experience that has been in my opinion really hurting electric car adoption here in the US. There are enough obstacles to overcome already without getting hit with "friendly fire" like this, but regardless it's just another road block that EV's have to get past.

Tesla has talked at great length about why they don't think the dealership model will work successfully when electric cars are sold alongside gasoline or diesel powered cars. They claim it's just not possible to extoll the virtues of electric vehicles without simultaneously criticizing the rest of their product line, which just happens to generate the bulk of your profits. However Tesla is in a different position than the other OEM's. They don't currently sell any gas powered cars so it's easy for them to say you can't sell both in the same showroom. The others have no choice, it's either sell them side by side or don't sell electric vehicles at all.

Another problem is it takes a salesperson three times longer to complete a sale of an electric car than it does a conventionally powered vehicle and time is money in the sales biz. Customers that are interested in an EV are going to ask a lot of questions that the sales person just doesn't have to deal with when they sell a "regular" car. So while I completely understand why so many car salesmen seem uninterested in selling the EV that their brand makes, I don't excuse it because it's really just a matter of being lazy. If they took even a small amount of time to learn more about electric cars, and specifically the ones they sell, they could probably sell one nearly just as fast as they can a conventional car. After all it is their job to have at least a reasonable understanding of the products they sell. Not having the knowledge or information on hand is part of why it takes longer. I'm sure that manufacturers could also do a better job of preparing the sales force and providing comprehensive point-of-sale literature to help assist the sales process.

What is encouraging though is that even despite the less than stellar dealership experience that many people encounter, plug-in car sales continue to rise. In 2011 there were a little over 17,000 plug in car sales in the US. That number increased to over 52,000 in 2012 and this year we are on pace to sell over 90,000 plug-ins. I can only imagine how much higher the numbers would be if the majority of the client advisers in the dealerships were enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the plug-in cars they sell. There definitely are people that get it and do a great job selling the EV their brand offers, but I find those to be the exception more than the rule. BMW has an advantage with bringing the i cars to market a couple years after some of their competition started selling cars with plugs. They have had the chance to observe and see where others have made mistakes. Hopefully they have watched, listened and learned. I know it won't be perfect, but I at least hope the client advisers don't steer their customers away from the i3 and i8 and towards their conventionally powered offerings because there may be a bit more work involved in completing the sale. We'll find out soon enough!   :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Old Meets New

The 1917 Detroit Electric was the hit of the car meet
Cars and Croissants is a local, informal gathering of rare car owners who meet on weekends in Northern New Jersey. Fellow ActiveE driver Chris Neff has been going to the meets for the past couple years to show off his electric ActiveE. While the parking lots where the events are held are filled with Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and other rare and very expensive cars, the ActiveE and other electric cars attract a lot of attention from the other car owners. These are car buffs (some would say car "nuts") so they are very interested in anything rare or different, both of which the ActiveE is.
My ActiveE with a Ferrari on one side and the Detroit Electric behind it was in nice company!

Chris has also recruited other EV owners to attend so now there is usually an "electric section" every week and I go whenever my work schedule allows it. This week we had a special treat. Just before I arrived a completely restored 1917 Detroit Electric silently rolled into the lot and parked right next to a Model S. Needless to say this made the electric section the busiest area of the whole parking lot. However they weren't there to see the Model S, the Roadster, the Ford Focus electric or the two ActiveEs, everyone wanted to check out the Detroit Electric and I don't blame them as it was gorgeous.

The owners recently bought it and spent a lot of time and obviously money restoring it back to the original form. They even had to have some of the parts like the decorative wheel hub covers custom made. The owner said he has driven it over 30 miles on a charge and that it still had a lot more in it but he didn't want to push it. The original Detroit Electrics were known to go up to 100 miles per charge depending on which battery they had but the top speed is only about 25 mph which was typical of cars back then.

It was great to see such a piece of electric car history up close. Chris got the contact information from the owner and hopefully we can get him to come to some of our New Jersey Electric Automobile Association meetings and other electric events. The car was just brilliant to admire in person and the pictures here don't even do it justice.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New ActiveE For National Plug in Day

My "new" ActiveE
Shortly after I had my accident BMW let me know they would find a way to get me another ActiveE for the remainder of the trial lease period, which will coincide with the release of the BMW i3. The timing worked out perfectly because the BMW i program managers will soon begin getting i3 company cars to drive so they had an ActiveE they could spare. We were able to get everything worked out just in time so I could bring my new-used ActiveE to National Plug in Day.

My "new" ActiveE had only 5,900 miles on it and compared to my old car which had over 53,000 miles and it feels like a brand new car. It's still early, but my measurements so far indicate it still has 27kWh's usable for me which would be expected with such low mileage and use. My old ActiveE with 53K and having been charged 1,325 times only had about 25kWh's available, having lost about 8% of its original capacity. So I'm good for a few more miles per charge now and that's not a bad thing!

We had 4 or 5 LEAF's show up
This weekend I brought it to the North Jersey National Plug in Day event held at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ. It was a great place for the event and kudos goes out to Michael and Pamela Thwaite for scouting the location and getting permission to have it there. The Liberty Science Center recently installed solar canopies over most of their parking lot and also installed twelve electric vehicle chargers, making this a prime location for such an event.

This is the third annual National Plug in Day and it was so great to see how far we've come in only three years. The first NPID was held in 2011 and there were only a few events held in mostly the big cities in the country. I was at the one in New York City, since there were none in New Jersey that I knew of. There were a few Volts, one LEAF, a Tesla, my MINI-E and a plug in Prius in attendance that day back in 2011. This year there were over 95 events, with thousands of cars on display across the country. At our event we had about 25 EV's including a few Model S's, a Tesla Roadster, a few ActiveE's, a few LEAF's, a couple Honda Fit Ev's, Volts, Ford Focus EV's, a smart Electric Drive, a Ford C-Max Energi plug-in, a Plug in Prius, a Rav4 EV, an iMiEV and a Zero electric motorcycle.

One of the only RAV4 EV's in NJ
We were there most of the day, talked to many of the visitors coming to the Science Center and even gave out some test rides. What is so encouraging to me is how the attitude of the public is beginning to change. A few years ago people looked at me with great hesitation when I would tell them my car is 100% electric. I could tell they were thinking I must be some kind of weirdo or extreme environmentalist, but that perception is changing. As more and more electric vehicles are becoming available and more people see them on the roads and parked in their neighbors driveways they are slowly becoming "normal". Sure it will be a long, slow process to get the majority of the public ready to embrace ditching their oil burner for an electric vehicle, but the tide is definitely turning. I can clearly see that in how people approach me with questions or comments about EV's now. They are much more open to discussing them and they look genuinely interested and ask questions. Back in 2009 or 2010 when I had my MINI-E on display and would talk to people about it, many people looked at electric vehicles as almost like a science project, and something perhaps for the distant future. Now many people are asking me about them because they see one in their future, and that's awesome. Yes, it's really happening!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

ActiveE Part Duex!

Back on January 13th, 2012 I picked up the first ActiveE at a nice handover ceremony held at BMW's North American headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ.
Getting an ActiveE was so much fun last year, I decided to do it again! We'll, that's not exactly the case, but I am getting another ActiveE tomorrow. The real reason I 'm getting a second ActiveE now is because six weeks ago I was unfortunately involved in a bad accident and my ActiveE was declared totaled.

In the interim I have been driving my Toyota Tacoma pick up which usually gets very little use. On one hand it was good to give it some use, but for the first time in over four years I've been driving a gasser every day and I have quickly been reminded how expensive gasoline is! I drive a lot and put over 53,000 miles on my ActiveE in the 19 months I had it so I drive nearly 100 miles a day. I've needed to refill the Toyota every four to 5 days and at $60 a clip it has added up to a lot of money even in this short period of time. I figure I've spent about $350 so far and I didn't even drive much initially after the accident. If I had my ActiveE I would have spent about $100 in electricity over the same period. It's really easy to see how high mileage drivers can quickly recoup the higher initial cost of some electric cars by the fuel savings alone.

Plugged in at home
I've really missed the smooth, quiet driving experience of an EV, and it's been strange going to gas stations so often again. I definitely look forward to pulling into the garage and plugging again when I arrive home at night. Funny how many people who have never owned an electric vehicle think plugging in will be such an onerous task, but experienced EV drivers like doing so, and really prefer it to going to gas stations. I know nobody likes going to gas stations, so I don't know why some people aren't jumping on the opportunity to relieve themselves of ever doing it again. Perhaps it's just a case of  "the devil you know".

Next post: Pictures of my new ActiveE and other electric cars from our North Jersey National plug in Day event at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ. Stop by to check out the cars and say hi if you are in the area. The event is this Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

Monday, September 23, 2013

National Plug In Day Approaches

The third annual National Plug in Day is being held this weekend. The event has grown so much in the past two years that it's being spread over two days this year, (Saturday, September 28th & Sunday, September 29th) to accommodate more people that want to attend. Perhaps we'll have to change the name to National Plug In Weekend in the future!

National Plug in Day began in 2011 and was held in only a small handful of cities. It was an opportunity for owners of plug in cars to gather to display their cars and to talk to people interested in them. This year there will be about 100 different events spread around the country and even one in the UK! We'll have tens of thousands of people in combined attendance and well over 1,000 cars on display.  
My MINI-E on display at the 2011 Plug In Day event in New York City.

That's not surprising as more and more people are buying cars with plugs. In 2010 there were less than 1,000 plug in cars sold in the US. Then in 2011 that number jumped up to over 17,000 and in 2012 over 50,000 plug in cars were bought or leased in the US. Through the first eight months of 2013 we have already surpassed 2012's total and are on pace to come close to 100,000 plug in vehicle sales this year. It's true that number represents a very small percentage of overall automobile purchases, but it's also very clear the plug-in car movement is gaining traction.

So if you have a plug-in car, make sure to check out the official Plug in Day website to see where the closest event is being held and bring you car for the afternoon. They'll be plenty of curious onlookers there so make sure you're ready to tell them how much you love driving electric. If you don't have a plug in car, please come also. You can check out the cars, ask actual owners any questions you have and maybe even get to take one for a drive. I'll be at the North Jersey event at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City so if you're in the area, stop by and say hello. Our event is on Sunday, 9/29 from 10:00 am till 4:00pm. I hope to see you there!  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chargepoint Introduces Their Next Generation Public EVSE's

The recently released ChargePoint Ct 4021 will very likely be the most desirable public charging station on the market

Since I still haven't gotten a replacement for my ActiveE (stay tuned because that will change soon!), I thought it would be a good time to do a post about the new line of charging equipment from ChargePoint. I frequently have people reach out to me for advice on charging equipment for home and for public charging and I am a big fan of ChargePoint and ClipperCreek for that matter. However ChargePoint has recently unveiled their new family of CT4000 public chargers and they are worth checking out. According to their website, ChargePoint is the largest of electric vehicle charging locations worldwide. They have over 13,200 charging stations deployed and have completed nearly 3,000,000 electric vehicle charging sessions. I personally account for about 1,500 of those charging sessions as I have a ChargePoint CT500 EVSE at my home and a CT 2100 public charger at my restaurant in Montclair, NJ.

The CT2100 at my restaurant
The holster broken off
I have been very pleased with both units, and neither has had a single problem in the year and a half I have had them. The only thing I could really complain about was how the CT2100 holster for the connector was attached to the side of the unit. The holster cap was plastic and if a 'curious' passerby decided they really wanted to grab the connector and pull it hard while it was locked in the holster, they could break the plastic holster off the side of the unit. I know this from personal experience as I had some curious teenagers do just that and it cost me $300 to replace the holster. So I was pretty happy when I saw the new design which eliminated the side holster. When not in use, the connectors now plug into the center of the unit. I believe this is a much better, more robust design.

A Volt charging on Nauna's CT2100
However the improvements don't end there. The units now have customizable video and branding options with a 5.7-inch color LCD screen that allows station owners to run their own video content. They also feature built-in signage that is easily replaceable with custom branding. This is very important. Public charging stations need ancillary support outside of the revenue stream of charging for the electric in order to be a profitable venture. By allowing the station manager to advertise on the stations, they can attract additional revenue and subsidize the expense of buying, installing and maintaining the stations. Electricity is inexpensive and electric vehicle drivers won't pay much more for it at a public station than they do at home. Sure they'll agree to pay a little more for the convenience of charging in public, but if the rates are too high people simply won't use the station. By offering the station manager an additional revenue stream, they can charge lower rates for charging and still recoup their investment.over time.  

A new CT4021 in the wild!
The new stations also have what ChargePoint calls Clean Cord Technology. It's maintenance-free, light-weight, self-retracting cords come standard on all models. This keeps the cable from being left on the ground by an inconsiderate EV driver after they've used it. It's unfortunate, but I can tell you that happens a lot and I have to walk out to the parking lot and coil up the cable myself after someone left it lying on the pavement. Another feature the new stations have is that they have the ability to share power between the two connectors if needed. That means the station owner can use a single 40amp feed to power the station and it can still charge two cars on 240/208v. The previous versions like I have could not do that; you would need to run two 40amp feeds to charge two cars on 240v or 208v at the same time. The only downside to this is if you do use one feed to charge two cars then they will charge at a slower rate since they are sharing power. Station managers need to have proper signage if they have a single feed powering two connectors so the EV driver knows they may get reduced power if someone plugs in while they are charging. This will not effect most PHEV vehicles like the Chevy Volt or Ford C-Max since they charge at 3.3kWs and even if they were power sharing on a CT 4021 they would both get the maximum 3.3kWs they can charge at.  I would still recommend new installations to use two 40amp feeds and allow both connectors to charge at the higher rate, but if the feed is already there, and the owner doesn't want to incur the expense of trenching, and running a second cable then this is a good way to allow more cars to plug in without adding much cost.

All this adds up to a much improved EVSE, which is the best option available for networked public charging today in my opinion. Add that to the great service ChargePoint has always provided and it's easy to see why ChargePoint seems to be pulling ahead of the others in the relatively new world of electric vehicle charging.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Untimely End of BMW ActiveE #1

The large black case up high near the center of the car is one of the three battery cases in the ActiveE. Even though this was a pretty severe accident the battery was unharmed and could be safely discharged.
All good things come to an end. Last Thursday, August 15th, I was involved in a pretty bad accident while driving home from work. Neither the car nor I fared very well, but fortunately I'm still here. Unfortunately, the first ActiveE ever to be delivered to a customer (me) is no longer in commission. It sacrificed itself to protect me and it did a very good job of it.

I'm not going to go into every detail of the accident because it's still under investigation, but this is basically what happened: I was driving along in the center lane of a highway and there was a car in the left lane just slightly in front of me.  The car veered into my lane and was about to come in contact with the front left of my car. I quickly looked right and to my right-rear to see if there were any vehicles in the right lane. There weren't so I drifted right into the slow lane to avoid being hit by the car entering my lane from the left. As I was just about completely in that lane and was done checking my right, I looked forward and was surprised to see I was about 15 feet from a dump truck that was driving very slowly, probably about 20mph. I quickly applied the brakes, but I wasn't able to stop in time, because the truck was going so slowly, and I drove into the back of it.  I hadn't seen this vehicle at all previously for a couple reasons. First, this one-mile stretch of highway has no streetlights on either side of the road and is cut through a mountain with 200 feet of rock wall on each side of the road so it is pitch dark at night.  Secondly, it is also a long steep upgrade so heavy construction vehicles like a dump truck will likely drive up it very slowly. I was traveling about 65mph (the speed limit there) but since the truck was crawling up the hill I must have closed ground on it very quickly. The truck did not have its mandatory flashing hazard lights on when traveling below 45mph. In fact, I didn't even see its taillights at all so if they were on and functional then perhaps they were dimmed by mud or other construction film. I know you can't just drive into a vehicle from the rear, so to that extent I assume responsibility here, but getting cut off combined with the truck not properly lit with flashing hazard lights at night definitely contributed to the unfortunate incident. I have been involved in a few accidents in my life but never were any of them declared my fault in any way. I guess my streak is over because I do acknowledge some of the blame on this one.
You can see how dark this area is here. This was taken by a friend who came to see if I was OK. He actually got a call from someone who drove by and saw my car on the side of the road and recognized it. He called my friend who happened to be 5 minutes away and he actually beat the police and emergency crews there.
As for me I have a lumbar compression fracture and two bulging disks. I'll be wearing a hard upper-body back brace for six to eight weeks but I shouldn't need surgery as long as the fracture heals the way it is expected to. I'm cautiously optimistic because after four days of pretty severe pain it's now starting to feel a little better each day. I'm pretty much just resting to give it the best chance to heal. The more movement I make the longer it will take for the fracture to heal so I'm obeying doctor's orders and taking it easy.
The interior right after the accident
I always like to look for a positive side of any bad situation. Yeah, I'm hurt a bit and the ActiveE is totaled - not much good there, but this could have gone much, much worse. Immediately after the accident my lower back felt like it was on fire and I couldn't even stand up on my own so I don't even like to think about what could have been. The car really saved me. The airbags all deployed and the seat belt restrained me like it's designed to. The interior of the car looked perfect, there were no intrusions at all. Within seconds BMW Assist activated and was talking to me; asking me if I was OK and if I needed assistance. They called the police and ambulance for me. I couldn't have done this myself. I was in bad shape and had no idea where my cell phone was. To top it off, no passing cars stopped to assist me. I crawled out of the car because it was sitting in the slow lane of the highway and I was fearful somebody else would come along and hit me again. I was laying on the side of the road for about fifteen to twenty minutes before my friend pulled up because he got a call from someone who saw my car there and recognized it. It's hard to believe nobody stopped to see if anyone needed help. This reminds me of a few years ago when I passed a minivan that had just turned over on the road. I was driving my MINI-E and I even did a blog post about how I stopped and helped the guy.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any good Samaritans come to my aid, and just laid there as the cars whizzed past me until my friend arrived. About a minute or two after my friend came the police and ambulance showed up and they loaded me up and took me to the hospital

Better Days: First delivery ceremony
So here is the humorous part (yes there is actually something funny about the incident). I'm in the ambulance, being transported to the hospital. My neck is secured by a brace and I have an oxygen mask on and I hear over the driver's radio: "The vehicle has just burst into flames, call Fire for assistance."  As much pain as I was in, I immediately felt 100 times worse. As any of you who follow this blog know, I'm a huge advocate for electric vehicles, so all I could think of was how damaging this was going to be for all electric cars, especially if someone got hurt trying to put out the fire and I would be the cause of it! Fox News would no doubt have a special broadcast about how the electric car burst into flames after an accident. This would be especially devastating to BMW considering the timing of the BMW i3 release in only months. So I reached up, pulled off the oxygen mask and was trying to speak. I got out the words to the medic, "It's an experimental electric car, warn the first responders, it's an electric car!" The medic then went up and told the driver who radioed the information to the people on the scene. A few seconds later the response was ,"Are you talking about the correct vehicle, this is not a white BMW here that is on fire,"  They were evidently talking about a different accident that coincidentally happened at the same time.  I was so relieved.  I was really crushed thinking about how bad this could have been and how the media would run with it like they did with the Chevy Volt that caught on fire three weeks after a federal crash test. Funny, nobody heard about the gas car in New Jersey that caught on fire on the night of August 15th after an accident, did you? I bet if it was my ActiveE, it would have been plastered all over the news.

All that's left of ActiveE #1
So now it's nearly a week later and I'm beginning to feel better. I realize the ActiveE is gone and appreciate how well it was built to absorb the energy of such a severe collision and protect me inside. BMW Assist worked perfectly and was there to assist me within seconds. Without them I would have definitely waited longer for emergency services to arrive. I appreciate the outpouring of well wishers from the ActiveE community. Many have sent me emails and even Get Well cards addressed to my restaurant. BMW has been great also. I've been getting emails from BMW employees asking how I am from both BMW North America and from BMW AG in Munich. The BMW i EV team sent flowers to my house and cleaned my belongings out of the car and delivered them to me the day after the accident. They even removed one of my EF-OPEC license plates and sent it along with my stuff which was pretty cool 

Besides all of that, I have to mention that three of the other ActiveE lessees have even offered me their car for the remainder of the lease period. I can't express how great that made me feel. I wouldn't think of taking anyone up on that offer, but it's so nice to see people care so much that they would actually offer me their car. Without revealing the name of the person who sent it, I want to share with you one of the offers:


First, I am sorry to hear about the accident and I am glad you are for the most part ok. Since you do so much for the EV world and you did so much for me, I wanted to offer my car if they can't fix yours or find you a replacement. This does not mean I am trying to get out of the ActiveE program, it just means you do a better job promoting EVs then all the other people in the ActiveE group and I don't want to see that end. I have enjoyed every one of my XX,XXX miles but I know it can't compare to your 60,000. I am sure you have a ton of people worrying about you and a ton of emails to answer, so just keep it in the back of your head if you need anything. I wish you well and let me know if I can help in any way.

Again, I really can't express how great that made me feel to read that. I've said this before and really mean it: One of the greatest parts of being in the MINI-E and ActiveE programs has been meeting so many fantastic people who are in the program as well as communicating with complete strangers who have contacted me through my blogs. It's made the whole experience that much more enjoyable. What's next? I'm not 100% sure. The BMW i3 is on the top of my want list but the US launch is still about 8 months away. Maybe once I'm healed enough to start driving again the good people at BMW could find a way to get me one of them a bit early? Too much to ask? Perhaps, since they may not be making US spec i3's for a while as the European launch is going to happen 4 or 5 months before they start shipping cars to the US. Still, I can dream right? Stay tuned...



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

More Electric Choices on The Horizon

The Mercedes B-Class EV will be available in the US in early 2014
Back in 2008 when I first applied to lease my MINI-E, there were very little electric vehicle options. If you wanted to drive an electric car you could build one yourself,  you could buy a $109,000 Tesla Roadster or you could do as I did and apply to lease the MINI-E. A lot has changed in the past 5 years. Today you can buy or lease one of about 10 cars that plug in, and the good news is more are on the way.

I was paid a visit yesterday by some nice men from Daimler who stopped by my restaurant for some lunch and just happened to have one of the few Mercedes B-Class EV's made. It's basically a standard B-Class that has been fitted with a powertrain and battery pack that is supplied to Daimler by Tesla. It has a 28kWh battery, a 134 hp motor with 228 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says it will go 0-60 in "under 10 seconds",  it has a top speed of 100 mph and has a city range of 115 miles. I expect the EPA range rating to come in pretty close to what the BMW i3 does (about 90 miles per charge).
The i3 with the rear seats down
It seats 5 and has a lot of cargo room in the back, especially with the rear seats down, although it didn't look like they will lay flat when down like the BMW i3's rear seats do. While this is really a different vehicle from the i3, it is inevitable that comparisons will be made. They are both electric vehicles with similar range from premium German auto manufacturers that will be released about the same time. They will probably be similar in cost, although I believe the Benz will cost a few thousand dollars more. However they couldn't be any more different
Parked out in front of Nauna's
if you look at how their manufacturers produced them. Mercedes took an existing gas car, outsourced the drivetrain and battery system from Tesla and put it together. BMW basically reinvented the car with the i3. It's a purpose designed and built electric vehicle, the first volume production car ever to be made mostly of aluminum, carbon fiber and thermoplasic and has an entirely different manufacturing process from any other car ever made. BMW has incorporated mostly all renewable energy, materials and processes in the entire manufacturing chain. It is indeed a giant leap forward in car manufacturing. All that said, do customers really care about all that? Some do for sure, but I suspect many feel that they are already doing their part by buying an electric vehicle alone, so they really may not care how it was made. They want a car that's fast and fun, has utility and is affordable. So how much the sustainable manufacturing process impacts sales is yet to be seen. 

These are just a couple of the new electric offerings coming to market within the next year. I hadn't really given the B-Class much consideration but after seeing it in person and talking with the folks from Daimler it seems like they are really making a go at it. That's good news because the more electric choices the better!
The 2014 BMW i3

The 2014 Mercedes Benz B-Class EV

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Past 52K & Still Rolling Along Quietly

With only about 6 months left of the two year lease, things have been getting a little quiet around here. I haven't been posting here as frequently and have instead been paying more attention to my BMW i3 blog because there has been so much news about the i3 lately. I haven't lost interest in the ActiveE and I still love driving it every day, but the newness has worn off a bit and realizing I was only "borrowing" it for 24 months I can't help but look forward to the car that the ActiveE was really designed to help refine for production, the i3. No more Trial Lease programs. I'll own my i3 and won't have to worry about a countdown 'till they take it back like I did with the MINI-E and now the ActiveE. Don't get me wrong, I've loved being involved in these programs. They have allowed me to drive great electric cars that were very rare, rack up as many miles as I wanted to and just hand back the keys without any worry of a mileage penalty. It's just now I'm getting ready to move on to what BMW has been working on all of this time; their first production electric vehicle, the i3.

I recently passed 52,000 miles on my ActiveE and recorded my 1,200th recharge. That's pretty intense usage for only 18 months of driving and no doubt the data BMW is getting from my car has been useful. That's really about 3 1/3 years of driving for the average US driver. By my calculations my battery has lost only about 8% of its usable capacity. This is well within reason for this amount of use and is encouraging to me for long term battery life, although I realize battery degradation is not perfectly linear.
Other than that everything has been pretty much status quo. The car is running fine, although I had to have the communications COMBOX replaced recently. That didn't effect my driving it at all, I just couldn't use the BMW Assist if I needed to while it was not working. It's interesting to me that I no longer have as many things to report on here because now that I know pretty much everything about the car, and reported the features here, it's just a regular car to me. That's a good thing though. It's just a car that I drive to work and to run errands. It's not some special, strange thing that people need to adjust to. EVs need to be "normal" for mass adoption. They can't be something that's filled with drama where there's always something interesting to write about. They just need to be reliable cars that do what's needed and allow the driver to enjoy the time they spend in them and the ActiveE is doing just that. In fact for me it's doing it very well.  :)

Side Note: I was fortunate to be invited to the BMW i3 World Premier last week and did a blog post about it on my i3 blog. You can read about it HERE if interested.