Electric Cars

I Bought a CPO i3 Not C3PO. I Kind of Feel Like I’m Driving a Star Wars Car Though.

A little over a year ago I began looking for a new car. The lease on my GTI was coming to an end in August of 2019 and I was thinking about going electric. Since the VW electric models wouldn’t be available in America for another 12 to 18 months, I began researching the usual suspects, Tesla, Nissan, BMW, Chevy, etc. What I discovered was there are quite a few models available. All of them have pros and cons, and the prices ranged from reasonable to astronomical. What I didn’t expect was to find was what you could get if you looked at certified pre-owned models of specific brands.

After almost a year of looking, reading, watching YouTube, test driving, pricing, and pondering, I decided to purchase a certified pre-owned BMW i3. Why? Because I found out I could get into a 2-year-old car with about 20,000 miles on it for less than half the sticker price of the new car. And since it is a CPO BMW it comes with an additional warranty.

I chose this vehicle for several reasons. Proven Brand, Styling, Technology, Fun Factor, and Size. There is also that I never have to buy gas thing too.

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The styling can be quite polarizing. In most cases, people either love it or hate it. I love it. I feel like I’m driving a little space pod most of the time. It’s short, squat and tall. It doesn’t look like any other car on the road on both the exterior an on the interior.

With wheel s pushed close to the corners, it accentuates the stubby look of the i3. Its window line expands at the small rear doors, dips into the body line, then pinches together at the rear. Visually this creates a flow down the body line that I like quite a bit. One disadvantage to this is that the rear windows don’t lower. Technically it’s a 4 door car, but the rear coach (suicide doors) are more like funky half-size extensions of the front doors. The car sits on 19-inch wheels that seem impossibly thin, designed to reduce friction with the road and improve range. At times they almost look like mountain bike tires though. One nice thing that BMW did was to leave the iconic kidney grills on the front. Technically they don’t do anything, but without them, I’m not sure the i3 would read as a BMW since it’s such a styling departure from every other car they make.

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The interior is a mash-up of environmentally friendly materials produced from sustainable and recycled sources. The i3 I purchased doesn’t have leather seats, by choice. I actually prefer the look of the cloth seats over the leather or leather and cloth combo. If you did opt for the leather seats though, the tanning process is done with olive-leaf extract rather than chemicals to keep it greener. It’s hard to describe the materials used. You need to see them in person, and while at first, it might seem like a bit too much they work well together combining into a series of well-matched textures.

Another thing I love about this car is how big it feels on the inside. With no transmission hump, the floor is flat adding to the feeling of space. The interior roof gives plenty of headroom. At 6 foot 4, this is a big deal for me. I will say this, the back seat is cramped for someone my size. It’s probably cramped for anyone over 6 feet, to be honest. This is, after all, a car designed for city driving and to only seat 4 people. Cargo space is ample, and with the back seats folded down, it’s pretty amazing how much stuff you can get in this car.

From a technology perspective, the i3 doesn’t disappoint. Actually, for my model year, it does in aspect, (I’ll get to that in a minute). The i3 dash consists of 2 floating screens. There is the unit directly in front of the driver that contains the speedometer, battery usage, and the gauge showing energy use and regeneration. This screen can be configured to display any number of items from the iDrive system in the car.

The second screen is equally configurable and primarily houses the infotainment system which includes navigation, phone systems, messaging, radio and media displays and more. Below it is 6 buttons that can be programmed to do everything from radio presets to function as shortcut keys for any additional functionality.

All of this is connected to the center console dial of the iDrive system located in front of the center armrest. I’m not going to go into detail with all of the functionality here. Let’s just say that the system is deep and has a bit of a learning curve. Coming from 8 years of VW’s it was quite a bit different.

In addition to the built-in systems, there is also an iOS and Android app available that can be used to control the car remotely. It allows you to climatize the car, lock and unlock doors, set charge times, send destinations to the car, and more.

Other tech tidbits include the ability to lock the doors by touching a small patch of raised ribs on the door handle. Unlock the doors by simply sliding your hand inside the door handles. Unlock and lower the windows by holding the unlock button on the key fob. One foot driving using the regenerative braking system. Self-parking (yes it can park itself, but every driver should know how to parallel park or forfeit their driver’s license). Adaptive cruise control and more.

I didn’t get the REX (range extender) version. I don’t need the range extender. I never drive more than 120 miles in a day so the BEV (battery electric vehicle) i3 was perfect for my needs. After 90 days of ownership, I can honestly say I have never had any range anxiety at all. Frankly, I don’t think most drivers would. The navigation system can be configured to show you every charging station close by as you drive around town so you will always know where you can charge up if you need to.

One thing I wish this car had was Apple CarPlay. It doesn’t and I miss it. You can, however, upgrade the main head unit of the car with this upgrade from Bimmertech. I watched the install video and it looks like something anyone with a bit of technical know-how and set of tools could do themselves in a few hours. I have a feeling this voids the warranty on the car so I’ll be waiting a couple of years before I do this.

Speaking of upgrades, the battery is upgradable as well and Lion Smart announced an upgrade option a couple of months ago that would extend the range of BEV i3 to about 400 miles. No word on when this will arrive, or what it’ll cost but if you own an i3 and plan on keeping it for an extended period of time this is something you might want to look into.

One great thing about living in Kansas City is the fact that KCPL has partnered with ChargePoint and many local businesses to install level 2 charging stations all over the city. Each grocery store run, trip to the library, visit the Kaufman performing arts center, Nelson Atkins Musem, Restaurants in the Cross Roads or dozens of other places guarantee that I can plug the i3 in and charge it up.

Every Hy-Vee has at least 4 ChargePoint charging stations

As for fun factor, the i3 is a hoot to drive. It really is a blast. The electric motor delivers instant torque with a distinct “push you back in your seat” feeling. Acceleration is quick delivering a 0 to 60 time in about 7 seconds. It handles like a BMW with responsive steering. You have to drive the car to understand how the i3 performs.

The car is absolutely silent aside from a bit of road noise from the tires, and an almost imperceivable whine from the electric motor. It’s one of those things you notice at first and then become so used to it you don’t realize how loud the interior of other cars are until you ride in one with an internal combustion engine.

So, is a certified pre-owned BMW i3 worth it? Yes. Think about this, you can get a low mileage, highly optioned i3 for about half the price of new. If you get a CPO i3 you get 2 years of warranty on a car that require little to no maintenance. In my case, I got a $60,000 car for a little over $20,000. It had just over 20,000 miles on it, was a one-owner vehicle, and was purchased from a reputable BMW dealer here in the Kansas City area.

If you use a site like Car Gurus you can find plenty of examples just like this all of the United States, and depending on where you live have the car delivered to you for less than a grand. Sites like Carvana, and Carmax also have i3 inventories available for delivery. The only downside is the car won’t be BMW certified, and the warranty options might not be as good.

If you are in the market or are thinking about going electric, I highly recommend going with a CPO i3. Save your money and skip the Tesla. Skip the Bolt, Volt, Leaf, or any other traditional-looking EV sedan and get something a bit more unique looking.

Oh, and while you could buy new and get a $7500.00 federal tax credit, chances are it still won’t be as affordable as going with preowned. If you are curious about why EV’s depreciate so much, Doug Demuro has a great article here that answers, or attempts to answer that very question.

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Friday Math Fun with the Tesla Model 3.

Model 3I’m not going to bash the Tesla Model 3. I like the idea of the electric car, and I like the innovation that Tesla is doing with their vehicles. I am going to do a little math though. Why? Because it’s Friday and everyone loves math on Friday’s.

So Telsa has 325,000 pre-orders for the Model 3. That is 325,000,000 dollars given them to hopeful buyers that are willing to wait for a new car, and wait they will and here is why. “Time.”

There is only so many hours in the day, and you can only assemble a car so fast. With a launch date set for “Late 2017” the first cars won’t start rolling off the assembly line for 19 months from now at the soonest. Now, let’s look at that 325,000 order number and divide it out over time.

Say Tesla sets a moderate time frame of 48 months to build all 325,000 Model 3’s.

325,000 divided by 48 months equals 6,770 a month. 6770 divided by 30 equals 225 a day. Which is about 9.5 cars an hour.

The Ford F150 is one of the most popular vehicles in America. In comparison Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant produces about 1,250 of these trucks every day it operates. or roughly 62.5 trucks assembled by 1000 people over a 20 hour shift. (I see Tesla hiring a boat load of assembly line workers. Don’t forget Tesla will have to train them all and that adds even more time to the problem)

Now let’s revise our numbers a bit. Let’s say half of the 325 thousand drop out of the race to get a Model 3. How many would Tesla still have to crank out and at what rate? So, 162,500 Model 3’s over 48 months.

162, 500 divided by 48 months equals 3,385 a month. 3,385 or about 112 cars a day, if Tesla works 30 days a month, 24 hours a day. so 4.75 cars an hour every month for 48 months non stop to reach total demand. And that doesn’t include production of the Model S and Model X. That folks is a tall order, and remember they do not have a dedicated plant to built the Model 3 in yet.

I’m not saying Tesla can’t do it, or won’t do it. I’m just thinking it’s going to be a while after late 2017 before some people see their Model 3 and quite a bit can change in the next 3 to 4 years. I wonder if we’ll have flying electric cars by 2020?

VW Electric Café. Augmented Reality, That Seems a Bit Surreal.

There are a couple of things that struck me when I saw this video on YouTube. First it’s a great use of Augmented Reality to advertise the thrifty nature of the VW Electric Golf. Second, it is how absolutely Western the setting, and people look. The Chinese people, not the token white guy in the video.

I know there is a huge fascination with western culture in China, and especially all things American, but Ogilvy Beijing and Ogilvy Hong Kong took it to a new level by using only English language titles in the Augmented reality application, and by making the only place the application functions a café that feels like a cross between an Apple store and a Starbucks.

The Augmented Reality app “Electric Café” from Volkswagen, was setup to educate and inspire people in China about how energy efficient the VW Electric Golf actually is in comparison to other electric appliances they use every day.

The café is peppered with AR markers on each of the appliances that are in the Café space.When an iOS device is pointed at any of the markers the AR experience comes to life and shows a comparison between the appliance, and how far you could drive the Golf based on the amount of juice that appliance uses in a day. It’s a pretty clever idea, and one that I wish I knew more about that strategy behind. I’d be really curious to see what the thinking was behind the very western execution of this.

By the way, is it just me, or do all of the people in this video look like they were just plucked out of some mid-western shopping mall in America.

Zero. The Nissan Leaf.

With gas prices hovering around 4 bucks a gallon in the USA, and closer to 7 in Europe, Nissan could probably say nothing about the new all electric Leaf and it would sell.

Playing off of the number zero, Nissan’s latest TV spot plays into two factors the Leaf represents. Zero gasoline consumption, and zero emissions. (the latter is debatable when you consider how electricity is made) The spot is well shot and edited completely playing up  the Leaf’s place amongst today’s cars.

I’d love to know how many people they convince to trade in their gas guzzling planet killer SUV’s for one of these. Somehow I’m thinking that number will be pretty small here in the USA.