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BMW i3 Test Drive

As most of you know if you are lucky enough to live on Florida’s Space Coast Saturday was beautiful. Not one afternoon shower or storm, a rare thing for the summer months. Josh and I were out and about and we figured it was as good a time as any for a BMW i3 test drive. Since we are due for a new vehicle in December and it has to be electric we wanted to compare the i3 with the 2012 Volt.

SCEV Drivers Co-founder Josh Pritt taking the i3 for a test drive.
SCEV Drivers Co-founder Josh Pritt taking the i3 for a test drive.

When we arrived we were able to plug up the Chevy Volt in BMW’s Chargepoint Level 2 charger for free while we talked with the client advisor and drove the i3REX around the block.

At first sight the i3 looks great on the outside but on the inside we quickly noticed the exposed fiberglass interior trim.

BMW i3 back seat door rest
BMW i3 back seat door arm rest

It is very “eco” looking, and while it goes with the other fabrics it seems like they could have put some kind of gloss or light resin over it.  Immediately I was poked in the hand by a stray fiber while getting into the back seat, a minus for the i3. The back seat area was roomy, but the lack of center arm rest left me wanting and getting in and out was a bit uncomfortable due to the position of the door handles.

The interior electronics are quite advanced and they kind of make you feel like you are driving a space ship.
If you have ever had a BMW with iDrive the “puck” controller is the same. If not, it’s pretty easy to navigate the screen and go through all the options like radio, navigation, Bluetooth audio, satellite radio, and selecting “profiles” for different drivers. But it’s not on the same level as a touch screen like most of us are used to.

Our advisor didn’t know much about the i3 as it was only her third month on the job so in true enthusiast fashion we took the opportunity to educate her. We compared it to the Volt in the way it drove and how it felt during stop and go traffic. The big difference we noticed immediately when starting the drive was the high regenerative braking that slowed the car down as soon as you let off the gas pedal. It was very similar to the Tesla Model S. In the Volt you have to shift from D to L on the “gear” selector to get that kind of regen and I think even in L the i3 is a bit stronger.  We asked if that was a selectable option on the i3, like the Tesla but she didn’t know.

The on site i3 specialist was busy with other clients at the time so we were unable to get that question answered as well as some maintenance questions.  Specifically we wanted to know if the BMW i3REX was as smart as the Volt in the areas of automatic maintenance. In terms of space the Volt has a bit more “trunk”. Given that, with the back seats folded down we have hauled  a 24 inch wall oven on one occasion, two large dogs on another,  and two fully assembled beach cruisers on yet another and were still able to shut the hatch.  Even with the back seats folded down i3 is short on that kind of space.  This leaves the volt the clear choice over the i3 if you need more room for storage/hauling.

Since the i3 weighs so much less than the Volt (i3 = ~2500lbs Volt = ~3800lbs) the i3 had a much quicker 0-60 time.  It also seemed to handle bumps in the road much smoother as well, but given it is more of an SUV that was not surprising.  Overall it had a very sporty and nimble ride. We couldn’t hear how quiet the ride was since we had the A/C on full fan but from what we could tell it  on par to most other EVs. There were still 28 miles left on the battery after our test drive so we couldn’t test out the range extender mode though we heard through other reviews that range extender engine sounds like a weed eater or dirt bike.

The main drawback of the i3REX and the one that would keep us from switching from the Volt is the road trips we take once or twice a year.  The range extension on the i3 is in one word, pathetic. The battery lasts about 80-100 miles and there is a 2 gallon range extending gas tank that will get you another 80 or so miles. So on an 800 mile road trip you would do the first 80 miles on battery leaving 720 miles, then 720 / 80 = 9. That’s right you would  stop for gas nine times and you haven’t even driven 1000 miles. This would get annoying and add significant time to a road trip. While the Volt only gets 40 miles or so on the battery you can go another 340 miles on its 9 gallon tank. So you’d only have to stop for gas two to three times, much better for road trips.  Depending on how often you take long road trips the Volt might be better. If you RARELY take crazy long road trips then the BMW i3 would still be a good choice.

In the end the pros of the BMW i3 for us are larger EV range, heavy regen for one pedal driving, fast 0-60 time, smooth ride (sits higher and handles bumps better.) The cons from our perspective are the scratchy feel of the fiberglass interior, the lack of a back arm rest, no touch screen for controls, small about of storage space even including the frunk and the real killer for us insignificant gas extended range.

 

July’s EV Event Recap

July’s EV Event Recap

Seven drivers of electric vehicles pose for a photo around a table at Panera Bread
Members of SCEV Drivers pose for a photo at the July EV meet up while at Panera Bread in Palm Bay, FL

Each month the Space Coast Electric Vehicle drivers host an informal Electric Vehicle drivers meet up at Brevard County area establishments located within walking distance of a public charging station. These events usually take place the first Sunday of each month, with the exception of months with holidays falling on or close to the date (such as July 4th). For those who couldn’t make it we post an event recap for each month to keep you all up to date!

This past Sunday we held our July EV Event at the Panera Bread in Palm Bay, FL’s Hammock Landing shopping area.

Two Chevy Volt parked in an EV designated spot at Kohl's in Palm Bay, FL
Two Chevy Volt’s parked in EV designated spots at Kohl’s in Palm Bay, FL

The Kohl’s, which is walking distance to Panera has two designated EV parking spaces with a single J1772 Level 2 charger and a 110V outlet. Unfortunately the charger was giving some of our members a hard time and it took quite a while to switch it from one car to another. Luckily one of our members who frequents this charger gave it a little tough love and solved the problem.

We welcomed one new local member with a Chevy Volt and had the pleasure of meeting Al Lococo and his wife, of the Central Florida and Sun Coast EAA who drove their Toyota RAV 4 EV all the way from Winter Haven, FL to attend July’s EV event.

A Toyota RAV4 EV parked in front of Panera
A Toyota RAV 4 EV from Winter Haven, FL attends the July SCEV Drivers meet up.

If you are counting rare EVs in central Florida this is the second 2nd generation RAV 4 EV to attend a Space Coast Electric Vehicle Drivers meet up. Pretty impressive when you consider they were never sold in the state of Florida, Toyota has only sold 1,594 of the 2,600  2nd generation RAV4 EVs produced and Toyota has announced they will not be producing any more of these SUVs in favor of other technologies.

Chevy Volt parked in an EV designated spot
Chevy Volt parked in an EV designated spot at Kohl’s in Palm Bay, FL

At the meet up we discussed efforts to place more local charging stations in and around Brevard, Melbourne BMW’s new dual level 2 dealership charger as well as handy, printable window displays for your EV.   Brenna discussed the early development stages of an official SCEV Drivers logo for the use on future signage, business cards, t-shirts and more. Brenna and Josh gave an overview of progress for Melbourne’s National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) event which will take place September 20th 2014. Please make sure to register to attend or volunteer at the NDEW event! But one of the highlights of the afternoon was that event attendees were able to take home copies of Al’s book Turning Point in History an “exploration into the subject of Energy and Transportation and how they affect our lives, our economy, our politics and our future.”

Overall it was a great meet up and we are looking forward to next month! The next meet up will take place on Sunday August 3rd from 2-4 PM in Downtown Melbourne. We will be meeting and parking at The Mansion located at 1218 E New Haven Ave Melbourne, FL 32901. Those with a L3 compatible car that need a charge are welcome to park at the charger at City Hall which is just a short 7 minute walk (.3 miles)

We look forward to seeing you there and thanks for supporting the Space Coast EV Drivers!

 

 

 

 

Install of EV Home Charging Station

EVLink Charging station
Install of new EVLink at home charging station

After a short wait we are happy to say that our new EV home charging station is installed! The cost was around $350, the same cost as running a new dryer plug, wire, and breaker.

It took a good two hours to install but most of that time was spent running a new wire up and over the garage ceiling to get it to the side we wanted it on.  It took about 20 seconds to actually connect the three wires inside the EVLink charging station and tighten down the set screws. While we didn’t want a portable Level 2 charger at home we did verify that if we were to ever move we could take this with us by turning off the breaker, unscrewing those three set screws, removing the wires, and capping them off with wire nuts and electrical tape.

EVLINK L2 at home charger
EVLINK L2 at home charger

The difference in charging speed between a 110v outlet at 12 amps vs. a 240v outlet at 30 amps is night and day! The 110v outlet would put back between 4 and 5 miles of range into our electric vehicle every hour it was plugged in. This new 240v “Level 2” charger gives a charge of 10-12 miles every hour! The difference is amazing for at home charging of EVs.

This is extremely helpful for those days when you take the car out for work/errands then come home for an hour or so and head 20140708_172917out again. Only now with a Level 2 home charger there will be lots of extra EV only miles to play with. In the short time we have had the Level 2 charger at home it has made a world of difference. If you are considering buying an EV home charging station we have to say it is totally worth it. It took a while for us to decide we wanted an EV home charging station and you can read an earlier post regarding our decision to finally purchase a Level 2 home charger here. For now there will be a lot more “sport mode” going on without worrying too much about running out of EV only miles and using the gasoline backup because while we have the option, we hate to use it if we don’t have to.

 

At Home Electric Vehicle Charging

For many drivers of Electric Vehicles charging at home is simple, they plug right into a 110V outlet and let it charge in their garage. That’s right the same outlet you plug your blow dryer, vacuum, and power tools into will charge your car. Did we just blow your mind? Boom!

For most drivers charging overnight on a 110V is sufficient for their driving needs. On the Chevy Volt’s 40 (give or take) mile battery we can drive across town, grab food, and still not use gas but on days where we do that trip in the morning and want to head out some where that afternoon and maybe again that evening the slow charging time leaves us wishing we had a faster charge at home.

For drivers of cars with a larger battery installing a Level 2 (L2) charger at home makes sense with increased charging time but for those of us with smaller batteries that get 50 miles and under we wondered if we really needed it. The truth is, once the majority of your driving is done on electricity you never want to use gas if you don’t have to.  It’s not just about the environment or moving away from foreign oil it’s about convenience.  Never stopping at a gas station, never spilling gas on your shoe or getting it on your hands or clothes, it’s amazing.

At home electric vehicle charging is clean, convenient, and cheap.  Not to mention the rate you pay for electricity almost never fluctuates from day to day like gas, meaning there is no shock when you drive by the sign.  Actually you won’t even look at those gas price signs for long once you make the switch to an EV. Skipping that weekly fill up and replacing it by charging your electric vehicle at home saves time and money.  It’s just that simple.

Josh Pritt and his new Level 2 at home charger
Josh Pritt SCEV Drivers Co-founder with his new L2 Charger

In the end we decided that even though we have a range extended electric vehicle and we don’t really need to worry about running out of battery we prefer to not use gas. We bit the bullet and bought the Square D EVlink by Schneider Electric, an indoor at home  L2 charging station or Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE) to cut our charge time in half from the 110V. There are plenty of resources online that break down what is currently on the market as far as EVSE but PluginCars has a Guide to Buying Your First Home EV Charger which we think gives a nice overview of what is out there.  All that is left for us is waiting for our appointment with the electrician. So much for that old myth that the adoption of EVs will cut jobs! We can’t wait to post our personal review, but with all the five star ratings we are pretty sure we made the right choice.

Have you bought any EVSE for your home yet? Let us know which one you picked and how you like it.

Looking forward to seeing you at our next meet up Sunday, July 13th at the Panera in Palm Bay’s Hammock Landing. We will be parking at the L2 charger at Kohl’s! RSVP via Facebook or comment on the July Meet Up post on our website. 

 

National Drive Electric Week Update

Powerpoint title slide showing electric cars and solar panels
Slide one of the SCEV Drivers presentation

Hopefully by now most electric vehicle drivers, owners, enthusiasts and potential owners have heard of National Drive Electric Week (formally National Plug in Day) hosted by City Captains in towns and cities all over the United States and abroad. National Drive Electric Week began in 2011 as National Plug in Day and is officially sponsored by  Plug in America, the Electric Auto Association, and the Sierra Club.

National Drive Electric Week aims to “…Heighten awareness of today’s widespread availability of plug-in vehicles and highlight the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more.”  This year National Drive Electric Week will be held from September 15-21, 2014 with events happening across America and beyond through out the week.  We are happy to say there will be an event held in Melbourne, Florida and as your city captains Josh and Brenna are working to make this event a great success.  Josh and Brenna have hosted two successful National plug in Day events in Huntsville, Alabama with their sister group the Tennessee Valley EV Drivers in 2012 and 2013. Using their experience from these events they hope to make Melbourne’s first National Drive Electric Week a huge success.

Over the next few months we will be looking to area volunteers, sponsors and donors to be a part of this grass roots celebration of electric vehicles.  The very first goal is to secure a location and today we pitched our request for sponsorship to the City of Melbourne. In the next few weeks the Space Coast Electric Vehicle Drivers team will work to answer any questions the city has to hopefully secure a city sponsored location and more.

Take a look at the presentation from the meeting and be sure to register for your local National Drive Electric Week Event.

Road Tripping in an Extended Range Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

Road Tripping in a extended range electric vehicle for Father’s Day 2014

Here’s the report on how the 2012 Chevy Volt fared on a long road trip from Indialantic, FL to Huntsville, AL and back – with a stop in Oxford, AL both on the way up and on the way back for Father’s Day.

We left Indialantic on Sunday June 8 at 9:45 am Eastern time. We got 33.2 miles and 9.7 kWh from the battery before it switched over to the gasoline generator. Not too bad for mixed city and highway driving.

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We arrived in Oxford by 6:30 pm Central time. It was a total of 604.5 miles from home to the hotel. 20140608_180306.jpg

We spent the night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Oxford Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night.  We picked this hotel as we know they are plug in friendly. Every night they allowed us to plug into their outside 110v outlets so we’d have a full charge to drive on each day. Their only restriction is that you can not obstruct a walk way and there are only about 10 spots that do not have a walkway in front of them.

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Monday at lunch time the Volt departed on a trip to Birmingham, AL so a mix of city and highway with the first bit on electricity then the range extended gas generator.  With some pre-trip research we plugged up at the McWayne Science Center’s free L2 charger in their garage after the $5 parking fee that applies to anyone parked in the garage.  It had a good two hours to charge over lunch but didn’t fill up completely.  Still it was able to drive a good part of the way back to Oxford on battery power before switching over to the gas generator.

Next we drove from Oxford to Huntsville to stay with a friend in their third floor apartment Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night. This is where we found the trouble with apartment charging when there are no actual charging stations and limited or no garages. We searched the outside of the building near all the parking spots and couldn’t find an outlet anywhere.  We asked the building manager if it was OK to plug in and if they knew of any outside outlets.  They didn’t know of any.  So we came up with a plan combining an extension cord, a tree, and some  masking tape. We are committed to our cause no? We managed to use our “just in case” 50 ft. heavy duty contractor’s extension cord and plugged it up in the outlet near the balcony sliding doors. Then we ran it outside and down the side of the building so it didn’t dangle in front of the downstairs balconies.  Then we  wrapped it around a tree and through the bushes where we plugged the car up and let it charge. We sealed the sliding door with the masking tape so bugs would not seek the comfort of the pull out couch in the living room with us.  We decided to wake up at 5 am so we could unplug it all before the sun came up in the event of lawn care or any anti EV people. To our knowledge no one knew we even did it.  Since our friend pays her own power bills we offered to pay her the $1 it used in power but she wouldn’t let us pay her.  We did get her an Amazon gift card for letting us stay anyway.

We went to a Pig Roast BBQ fundraiser event held at the Makers Local 256 makerspace and plugged in there twice.  We were able to charge up almost 100% each time so we gave them an extra $2 donation to cover the power we used.  After everyone had eaten and had started cleaning up and getting ready for the LAN party / video game party that night, someone brought a Tesla Model S to show off!  They gave several test rides and let’s just say each and every one of the riders left with the Tesla grin.  I had forgotten how fast it is and how it pushes your face and guts back like a roller coaster you can steer!

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After two weeks of calling every hotel in Huntsville to see who would let us plug in with no luck we stayed in the brand new Homewood Suites in Downtown Huntsville.  Their parking garage is shared by the nearby Publix grocery store and has several 110v outlets directly in front of a few parking spaces.  They would be perfect for an overnight charge for guests that stay in the hotel with ZERO cost for installing actual charging stations.  We asked the hotel if we could plug in but they said the garage is owned by the city so they can’t give us permission.  We would be glad to pay for the power to plug in there but we still need to figure out who owns the parking garage.

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We left for Oxford for Father’s Day first thing in the morning at 9 am and with no charge we packed up and headed out on gasoline.  We arrived right around lunch time and took Dad out for some good food at his favorite place to eat: The Broiler Room in Lincoln, AL.  After a fun fathers day we were back to the same Hilton Garden Inn in Oxford that lets us charge the car in the 110v outlet outside.  We charged it up over night and headed back to Florida first thing in the morning on Monday June 16.  We were able to get a good ways past the Georgia border and back into the Eastern time zone before it switched over to the gasoline generator.  We only had to stop for gas twice on the way back and there’s still plenty left in the tank that should last another two or three months.  We arrived home around 8:30 pm eastern time and the Volt is plugged up in its favorite 110v outlet in the garage.  It will have 100% charge before we wake up in the morning ready for another few months of gas free driving around town here in FL.

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Gasoline Costs

city

gallons

price

total

date

Macon, GA

5.041

3.999

20.16

6/8/2014

White Springs, FL

5.756

4.009

23.08

6/8/2014

Cocoa, FL

7.517

3.998

30.06

6/8/2014

Owens CR, AL

7.443

3.859

28.72

6/11/2014

Macclenny, FL

5.72

4.059

23.22

6/16/2014

Douglasville, GA

7.073

3.869

27.37

6/16/2014

Byron, GA

2.352

3.799

8.94

6/16/2014

Total

25.757

$3.97

$102.02

Total electricity costs: $3.13.  Total gasoline costs: $102.02.

#EVselfie to win a $250 gift card from The Electric Generation

EVselfie contest from The Electric Generation
The Electric Generation #EVselfie contest instructions

Our Friends over at The Electric Generation are hosting a #EVselfie contest! All you have to do is take a picture or video with an electric vehicle, a charging station, electric vehicle signage, or bumper stickers and post them to Facebook or Twitter with the #EVselfie hashtag @Elecgen.

Don’t forget to like them on Facebook and follow them on twitter @Elecgen. For more information check out the contest on The Electric Generation’s Facebook page.

Sunday July 13th Monthy SCEV Drivers Meet Up

It is meet up time!

To better show local areas that we appreciate the installation of chargers (EVSE) as well as to show off numerous electric vehicles at one time and place we will be rotating our meetings between the three current charging stations located within walking distance to food, fun, and shopping. These include the downtown Melbourne L3 charger at City Hall, the Eau Gallie library L2 charger and the Kohl’s L2 charging station in Palm Bay at Hammock Landing. Kohl's building from parking lot

Kohl's EV Charging Sign
Kohl’s EV Charging Sign

For July’s event we will meet in Palm Bay at the Kohl’s L2 charger, pictured above, and walk over to Panera Bread for a late lunch, coffee, tea, or just some great EV Talk. All Electric Vehicle drivers are welcome as well as those wanting to learn more about purchasing an EV from local driver/owners. While these events are normally on the first Sunday of each month, we decided to switch July’s event to the second Sunday due to the holiday. We are looking forward to seeing you there! Comment below to let us know you are going to be there or  Let us know you are coming on Facebook.

When: Sunday July 13th 2-4 PM

Where: The L2 Charger located in front of Kohl’s at 205 Palm Bay Rd NE Melbourne, FL 32904 (the shopping complex is located to the west of I-95 off of Palm Bay Rd)

 

June’s Monthly EV Meet Up Recap

Space Coast Electric Vehicle Club members and their cars
SCEV Drivers and their cars

The Space Coast Electric Vehicle (SCEV) Drivers want to thank everyone who made it out to the second meeting on June 1st at Squid Lips in Melbourne, FL.  As you can see in the photo above we had six EVs come to this months meet up which is double the number from May’s event.  We had three Nissan Leafs, two Chevy Volts and one Toyota RAV4EV just shipped in from California! Can you say awesome!? Not many groups can say they have the RAV4EV so of course we were thrilled to have one in our group so we could check it out. Here are some photos.

Toyota RAV4EV logo

RAV4EV logo
RAV4EV

SIlver RAV4EV rear Toyota RAV4EV

One of the coolest things about this group is the diversity of the drivers. At this month’s event we had drivers who have had their EVs since 2011, drivers who just purchased their car a week ago as well as everything in between. It is great to be able to share stories with potential buyers, new drivers, and the seasoned EV drivers.

Now for the real reason you are here the “what did I miss” recap.  Twelve attendees braved the scattered thunderstorms and descended upon Squid Lips in Melbourne from 2-4 PM. Our group took over a good chunk of the parking spaces surrounding the L2 charging station located at the Eau Gallie Library in the parking lot adjacent to Squid Lips where we enjoyed a late lunch, drinks, and good conversation.

Due to an unfortunate mix up two of the twelve were not actually able to find our group  and ended up meeting a few interesting characters in their search “We did however meet Jack, Jose and Bud(lite). lol” We are so sorry about that and we have added a phone number to the Facebook page so anyone who has trouble in the future can get in contact with us. Hopefully it won’t happen again.

During the two hours we discussed all things electric vehicle, shared how wonderful the PlugShare app is to our newest EV drivers and talked with a potential EV driver who shared his story of how the local Ford dealers do not have the car he wanted to test drive and the ones they do keep on the lot are not even charged! We discussed Septembers upcoming event for National Drive Electric Week, how our “outreach” aka leaving one of the SCEV business cards on every EV we see while we are out and about is going and more.

The highlight of the event had to be when we asked the manager to come to our table to let him know we chose to meet there because they are so close to the charging stations and he admitted “I have no idea what you are talking about.” We explained that we all drive electric vehicles and the “thing at the end of the library parking lot” is a level 2 charging station. We explained further that it is for our cars, because they do not use gas and he laughed and said to us “that is crazy, I always assumed that was an air pump for all the people who ride bikes around here.” Of course that comment was met with laughter as none of us had ever heard that one before.  It was a fun meeting! Check out this short clip from around the table at the event http://youtu.be/dUsSuBD6HlY

Be sure to check the Facebook page and the website for July’s event. Due to the first Sunday being very close to the holiday weekend we are planning to move the event to the second Sunday in July, the 13th. We will meet at the Kohl’s charger in Palm bay 205 Palm Bay Rd NE Melbourne, FL 32904 and walk over to Panera Bread for coffee, snacks, and or good conversation with fellow EV drivers.

Thanks,

Josh and Brenna

 

 

First Sunday of the month meetup this Sunday!

Be sure to join the event this Sunday June 1st at Squid Lips Grill in Melbourne from 2-4pm. This will be our second monthly meet up where we get together to show our EVs out in force around town and enjoy happy hour and good conversation. Anyone who has an EV or wants to know more about them is welcome to attend the meet up! We will be parking our cars next door at the L2 charging stations at the Eau Gallie Public Library. We Hope to see you there. You can read last months event recap here: http://www.spacecoastevdrivers.com/105
You can let us know you are coming by commenting below but it is not required.  See you there!