Driving 312 Electric Miles In BMW i3 In One Day

MAR 17 2015 BY STAFF 23

Looks Like You Could Bike It One Way In Approximately 15 Hours

Looks Like You Could Bike It One Way In Approximately 15 Hours

A 312 mile, all electric day in a BMW i3 REx

On November 11th, 2014 I was scheduled for a research study for my car in Sherman Oaks, California. From my house in East San Diego County, it is about 160-mile trip one-way.

On any given day this “normal” trip would take approximately 3-4+ hours in any vehicle with an engine (ICE) as the main power source. Those of us living in Southern California know the different routes to take to avoid traffic blunders, and are often looking for the carpool lane when it’s an option.

In order to arrive on time for my 2pm appointment, my husband and I had to build in a few charge/food stops; this set us to leave right after 8am. First, we stopped 39 miles away at the Carlsbad Premium Outlets to charge and grab coffee at Starbucks. *We charged for 30 minutes knowing we had enough range to reach our next stop in Santa Ana.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on “The Electric BMW i3” blog.  Check it out here.

We next stopped at Crevier BMW, 58 miles from Carlsbad. Just days prior they had installed four DCQC (SAE Combo) stations and we were on a mission to check them out. Normally we would not choose this route through Los Angeles, but since it was a Federal holiday we took advantage of the “lighter” traffic. We charged for an hour while our SOC (state of charge) reached 99%. While we didn’t plan to stay that long, we enjoyed talking to the “iGenius” in the new “iBuilding”. There was also a Starbucks and restroom on site for us to use. We left there with our next intended stop in Sherman Oaks, not knowing for sure where we would charge, but would look once we got up there. I was fully prepared to have my range extender kick in if needed, but I really was trying to do this trip without it.

We found that the local KIA dealership claimed to have an ABB charger, which is the same unit that NRG eVgo uses (yes, CHAdeMO and SAE Combo). We called to see if – 1) the charger exists, which it does, and 2) to see if we could charge, which we were told yes, to come on by. It was a few miles from the Sherman Oaks location, so off we went. The charger was blocked, but they immediately moved a car and allowed us to charge. Unfortunately, the charger was so new, that it hadn’t been provisioned yet, and did not work. At this point I had 22 miles of range, and 27 miles to the next, known Freedom Station in Hermosa Beach. So we set off, knowing my range extender would probably kick in.

Chargers At Crevier BMW

Chargers At Crevier BMW

With some luck, and HEAVY Los Angeles traffic on the 405, we managed to get to Hermosa Beach with 6 miles to spare, and no REx usage. I drove **83.3 miles on that one charge from Crevier. Once at Hermosa Beach, we managed to find the charger, a nearby bar offering Taco Tuesday, and managed to do all of this while just getting a 30 minute charge. Next stop, the Westminster Shopping Mall ***27 miles away. We arrived at the mall with no range issues, and were able to charge again for just 30 minutes. FroYo and a potty stop…and away to Carlsbad for the last stop.

We arrived in Carlsbad, once again hit the Starbucks and charged for only 20 minutes, enough charge to get home. We were there about 30 minutes, but the charger faulted and stopped early. We arrived home at just before 10pm. 312 total miles driven, all electric, no REx used, and all charges were free. We spent a few dollars at Starbucks and for the dinner, but overall, did the whole trip for less than $50, all-inclusive.

Some key points to this trip:

  • I did not use any climate control until the last leg, there was no need for heating or cooling, but I had to run the defrosters a few times for the last 30 miles.
  • I ran the entire trip in Eco Pro driving mode.
  • I preconditioned the car that morning prior to leaving, hoping to warm the batteries before the trip for maximum range.
  • I purposely did not use the carpool lane. While this might have been necessary in another situation where time was an issue, I preferred to stay in the traffic in order to get maximum range.
  • The total time spent portal to portal was 14 hours. I was at the research facility for almost 3 hours, and then we spent almost another 45 minutes to an hour at the Kia dealership talking to the manager about the charger, and looking at their Soul EVs.
  • Charging added 3 hours, which by using the DC quick charging options, made this a very reasonable trip. If we had stopped in an ICE for breakfast and dinner, and potty stops, the total stoppage time would have been less, but not significantly, maybe an hour less, overall.

My Personal Records:

  • 312 all electric miles in one day (previously 187 in my Active E, which did not have L3 charging)
  • 83.3 all electric miles in one charge (previously 80 miles, in the summer, while hypermiling and drafting behind a truck for 20+ miles)
  • Cheapest day EVER to drive 312 miles, food and energy included.

*These outlets have two NRG eVgo charging options: level 2 and level 3. The level 2 option has one universal J1772 plug, and the level 3 option has a CHAdeMO (for Nissan Leaf’s, Kia Soul’s, and other Asian brand EVs) as well as a SAE combo (CCS) (for BMW’s, VW eGolf, etc.). This Freedom Station powered by NRG eVgo is part of free fast charging offered by BMW.

**This car will definitely do better on range with slower speeds, ie: bumper-to-bumper traffic, and city stop-and-go vs full, freeway speeds.

***The mileage between Hermosa Beach and Carlsbad is 87.1 miles. While we could have easily avoided a stop and used the REx, I would have been forced to charge longer at Hermosa to get a bigger charge, thus not saving any time AND using gasoline.

Categories: BMW


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23 Comments on "Driving 312 Electric Miles In BMW i3 In One Day"

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While I admire the persistence and planning of this lady, this article almost could be published by anti-EV folks as an example of why the technology isn’t ready for prime time: multiple required lengthy stops for a 160-mile journey, effective speed of 30 MPH for the journey, and $45,000 to buy the car for the privilege of doing so. Not many people are going to be willing to do this, nor should they be expected to. It’s like writing about taking your 1973 Ford Pinto to the racetrack for a spin. That wouldn’t make me want to buy a Pinto, nor would this article sell me on an i3.

I view this as a negative article for EVs. It would be better to use the range extender than waste so much time eating and shopping everywhere. It cna be rather unhealthy to eat so much. An ICE would cover that distance in 4 hours if no traffic.

People need to use the right tool for the right job. Using a little gas is ok. The electricity in US comes from gas anyway.

You two probably don’t know much about LA traffic… and/or missed the part where much of the way the speed was determined by traffic speed. This is not a Montana highway where 160 miles might take you 1.5 hours 🙂

Read again: the *net* travel time was 8 hours, that’s driving while in the car, not charging. Yes, 4 hours each way just driving, that’s LA traffic.

And – after being stuck in LA traffic for hours on end, even people in ICE need to get out and have a break. Like the author estimates, with ICE those overhead times would have been 2 hours, with the i3 it was 3 hours. Big deal.

That’s #1.

#2 is that yes, if you do 300 miles every day and need to get there in optimal time, then the present-day i3 (or Leaf, FWIW) might not be the car for you. But if you do it once in a blue moon… then it can still be done, and it’s not the end of the world either.

Blog author wrote:
“I purposely did not use the carpool lane.”

Well, I do know LA traffic and there is no way I will sit in traffic while there is clear passage on another lane just because I want to maximize range.

Truly a fail case for EV’s.

I meant ‘4 hours both ways’. 80 mph is avg. freeway speeds in CA. Worse, these people had a carpool sticker and could have easily traveled in the carpool lane.
Since their appt. was at 2 p.m., if they started at 11 a.m. they would have seen little traffic.

I agree 100% on using the range extender in this situation, which would have resulted in much closer to ICE travel times, and maybe 4 gallons of gas used for 310 miles of travel. Not bad for the occasional longer journey for a car mostly used closer to home. However, petroleum accounts for only about 1% of overall U.S. electricity production: http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3. In California, oil amounts to .01% of power used.

“The electricity in US comes from gas anyway.”

Ugh. You are such a troll. No, the electricity in the US does not come from gasoline. Less than 1% of our electricity comes from oil and that is only done in places like Hawaii.

Well said. Road trip reports like this one merely remind people that plug-in EVs are still in the “early adopter” stage of the technology. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. For those “EVangelists” who can’t understand why plug-in EV sales are still less than 1% of all car sales… this is a good example of why.

But a more positive way of looking at this is that it’s, to some extent, merely the “chicken and the egg” problem. As EVs become more commonplace, public chargers will also become more commonplace… and more likely to be actually usable when they are found.

While it does illustrate that, with planning and patience long distant EV trips are possible without a TESLA, I do think that non-ev enthusiasts will read this and say, “Not for me”.

The good news that the era of the 200+ mile affordable EV seems just around the corner, and these early pioneer stories will be something to look back on and smile.

That era can’t come soon enough…

Allen Helton said:

“…these early pioneer stories will be something to look back on and smile.”


Such reports always remind me of the early days of the motorcar, when most roads were unpaved, and cars experienced frequent breakdowns and flat tires. When setting out on any journey of more than a short distance, you never knew how long it would take to reach your destination.

That’s fine if you want an “adventure”, but most car buyers are looking for reliable transportation.

Well said Allen. I’ve completed even longer trips with my [non fast charging] Fit EV and have enjoyed them all.

Well at least it shows a 150 mile trip to Virginia Beach will be fairly possible on the DC quick charger system we are getting. In that we would be spending the night and driving back the next morning vs trying to cram 300 plus miles in one day.

Thanks for an awesome post. Great to hear the CCS network is beginning to be viable in some parts of the country.

Can you add the author’s name, or did she keep it anonymous on purpose?

Recently visited the SoCal area and driving an ICE in traffic it took almost 4 hours to travel from San Diego(Mission Valley area)to L.A.(Burbank). And this was taking the HOV lanes the bulk of the way and no stops for gas. The return trip, which came at an offf time for traffic was less than 2.5 hours. EV or ICE, SoCal traffic can be a bear.

I’m always interested to hear these ‘Slice Of Life’ stories, but they are rather like Tom and Ray (may Tom RIP) that always encourage young people to take a jalopy on a long trip and see what breaks down, and how it will generate memories for you decades later, whereas if you just had a car that worked, the trip would be uneventful. EV’s are currently like that. I know everytime I go to Syracuse and go outside my ‘Virtual Leash’ (the circle of where I can’t just drive back home on my own without recharging), its a bit of a challenge to fine a WORKING charging point in an unfamiliar city. (Charger Docks that work for Leafs usually, 60% of the time, will *NOT* work with a roadster, as I’ve explained many times.) Or public places that have Nema 14-50’s on hot tub ground faults that instantly trip when my ROadster is plugged in, and of course the loadcenter is locked up tighter than a drum. So after a few trips fortunately you get to be familiar with the places that work and those that don’t. Unfortunately, there is no learned info if you should next go to someplace… Read more »

I got a taste of this last summer when I headed up to the Thousand Islands for some camping. Driving into Watertown with nothing more than plugshare and vague hopes was more than a little unnerving. It didn’t help that the first EVSE I came to was blocked by a dealership Volt and the second was OFF. I did eventually find a working EVSE, but all the extra miles driving around town looking for it resulted in an extra hour of charging just to recoup the energy.

By contrast, a single well-placed QC off the highway would have reduced my total trip time by 2-3 hours. Just like the lady in this story, well-placed QCs would make the trip almost the same as taking an ICEV and stopping for gas.

“Driving 312 Electric Miles In BMW i3 In One Day”. That heading is misleading. It should have read, “Driving 312 Electric Miles In BMW i3 Rex In One Day”. There is a big difference.

Good story and overall shows that EVs can be used for longer range travel, though not always all that convenient. More quick charging stations will help. Biggest issue here is what the charging would have cost if the owner didn’t currently have complimentary charging on the eVgo network. eVgo has two plans: An a-la-carte plan with QC @ $4.95/session + $0.20/minute w/L2 @ $1.50/hr and a subscription plan at $14.95/month + QC @ $0.10 minute and L2 @ $1/hour. I counted the following eVgo QC stops: Carlsbad 30 minutes Hermosa Beach 30 minutes Westmister Shopping Mall 30 minutes Carlsbad 20 minutes 4 sessions, 110 minutes. On the a-la-carte plan this would have cost $41.80. On the subscription plan this would have cost $11. Obviously the subscription plan is the way to go if you make trips like this even once a month, but you’ll really pay for the QC if you only rarely make these trips. As an EV owner which only occasionally needs public charging, I really detest the eVgo model with session fees – I really wish they’d use a single plan where you get a discount when you charge on volume. I’d be much happier with a… Read more »

This slightly beats my record of 302 miles in a day. That was pretty easy, though, so I suspect that the UK now has a better rapid charger infrastructure than California.


She has an i3 with Rex and steadfastly refused to use it for its primary purpose. This is the kind of article that erodes the credibility not of the technology but the user.

I love articles like this. Road trips with pure EV’s are fun. My longest trip to date is 331 miles in one day with my Fit EV. I bring a folding bicycle and tour new areas where I charge. The people who think this article is a negative for EV’s are silly.

Been there , done that, in a LEAF without any kind of ‘fast charging’. I now have an i3 REX. These long distance all electric trips are fun but the novelty wears off. Aside from the occasional ‘adventure’ in the Leaf or i3; I simply dont take them on long trips. If the trip distance is long, I use an ICE car (we are a 2 car family). As someone mentioned – use the right tool for the job. Families of all income classes have multiple cars and they use them for different purposes. Not every car meets every possible purpose. I cant fit a sheet of drywall in my Corvette, nor can I tow a boat with it. Does that make it a bad car? No, the Corvette is not intended to do those things therefore we dont expect it to. Yet when we talk about EV’s (knowing they are not intended to go long distances) Our biggest concern/critique is that EV’s cannot easily go long distances with little or no planning. It just seems unfair – one class of cars we understand the intended use and our expectations follow that; a different class of cars we understand the… Read more »