The BMW i3 didn’t quite live up to the standard for car enthusiast and mechanical engineer David. So he waited until the end of production and bought the BMW i3S. What was the difference, I asked. The “S” has more power, bigger wheels and flared wheel arches. David keeps the cherished car in pristine condition and even removes the wheels to give it a deep clean. It is 12 months old and still looks brand new in its Rocky Mountain Blue paint job.
I remember when the i3 was introduced in Australia and even took one for a test drive. It was a miracle. The ride notes: “The BMW i3 range has not turned the automotive world upside down as its futuristic looks suggest. However, it is a crucial part of the foundation of what an electrified future could look like.
“The incredibly kart-like responsiveness also fuels a desire to treat the i3s as sporty rather than sluggish. There’s instant torque from any speed, lightning fast response from a gearless powertrain and a much more urgent power delivery than the quieter i3.”
The i3S has a comfortable range of 300 km (186 miles) and can cover 280 km (174 miles) without worrying David. It’s a good everyday car for city commuting, not a fragile science experiment.
David has a passion for what he describes as ‘the million dollar car’, even though it only cost AU$90,000. “They shut out the accountants.” He tells me that Sandy Munro has the i3″The Model T of our time.” The car is made of carbon fiber and weighs only 1200 kg – that’s only 150 kg more than the Honda Jazz. It is the lightest electric car on the road in Australia until the arrival of the Wuling Mini.
When David bought his i3S, the BMW dealer said he could have sold as many as 200. There was great interest because, unfortunately, BMW production was discontinued. I can only speculate how well the car would have done had BMW promoted it more vigorously.
David’s passion for the BMW i3 started when he saw the body in white while at the Munich factory museum in 2010 during a 3 month sabbatical in Germany. Early BMW i3 cars drove 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 without B-pillar can achieve a 5-star rating.
When it comes to cars, David has an impressive history with German and English cars (before the BMW, he owned a 2-door Bentley). He has spent 40 years repairing and servicing 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 every day – the main reason he bought the i3 was because of its engineering excellence.
Now retired, David ended his career as a private mechanic and maintained 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 considering replacing it with an INEOS Grenadier. (Google it. You might be surprised. So was I.) Vera would be impressed. David just sold his Unimog – you should google that too. Vera would be even more impressed.
I had to ask, why not a Tesla? “Bad turning radius, 2 and a half tons, everyone has one,” was his curt reply. The BMW appeals to David as a more elegant engineering solution. The BMW i3s has a turning circle of 9.5 metres. Maintenance is simple: replace the wiper blades, check the brake fluid and install new cabin filters. You can also easily operate the car with an app.
As for a comparison to fossil fuel BMWs: “There is no comparison, the way the i3 comes off the line is much better than stopping, starting a petrol engine. The main reason I bought an electric car was the ease of driving. Refueling an electric car is so efficient – five commissions are paid between the ground and the pump. With an electric car, he goes from my roof into the car.”
The BMW i3S has some futuristic Hella technology – the headlights adjust to “dark spots” on the highway. There are five light segments. If a car is approaching you, the inner segments will swing down at high beam, but the outer segments will still give you a good view of the roadside – just in case a kangaroo is about to pop out!
David tells me that people often fail to notice the BMW on the highway. He thinks it looks like a regular car. There aren’t many around – with just over 200,000 units sold worldwide by the end of 2021.
His family nicknamed the car “spaceship” because of the noise it makes when it moves slowly. While some owners have complained that the sound is too loud, I could barely hear it when it pulled out of my driveway this morning. His neighbor (a nurse who works at night) knows for sure how quiet the electric car is.
After more than 40 years of servicing ICE cars, 4 wheel drive, a silver judge for Formula 1 and Formula SAE, and be part of the technical team for the Finke desert races; David says the BMW i3S is just “easy to drive”.
“You just have to think around the corner.”
David charges most at home using different chargers depending on how much time he has. On the left is a Fronius Wattpilot, which it programs to charge from its solar power. 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.
This morning I took a very short drive in David’s i3, and he responded with a very short drive in my Tesla Model 3 SR+. I was reminded again how different every electric car is. You get used to that, I think. He didn’t know which buttons did what, and neither did I. The start/stop button was unexpected. But I’m sure it won’t take long to get used to if you drive it daily.
There are a number of EV events coming up in the coming months and I’m trying to encourage David to come along. He will be able to answer the tricky technical questions and certainly speak with authority. He would be appreciated No emissions Noosa on June 18. Maybe you want to join us? Queensland is a paradise in winter.
I don’t like paywalls. You don’t like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a restricted paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong – and it was always hard to decide what to put behind that. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then less people will read it! We just don’t like paywalls so we decided to drop ours.
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