Meet Born Electric BMW i3 Owner Harold From California

OCT 3 2014 BY STAFF 33

My name is Harold and I was born electric on August 19th, 2014.

There are two parts to my story here. The first is about my path to selecting and buying the i3, and the second is about my experiences owning and driving the i3.



When it comes to global warming, I’m embarrassed to say that for far too long my wife and I were part of the problem. We’re a two car family, and over the years we’ve driven a series of big, luxury, premium fuel guzzlers. As recently as 2007 we each had one of the full-size Range Rovers. Yikes, and yuck!

I gradually realized this was not tenable, but I found it very, very hard to give up the comfort (I’m 6’3 and don’t fit in most cars) and sportiness of a big luxury SUV. The very thought of shoehorning myself into the ugly and painfully boring Prius hybrid was enough to make me puke.

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

So my first tentative step in the right direction was to sign up to make annual contributions to one of those carbon-offset charities. I even got vanity license plates that said “I OFFSET.” Wow, how big and how brave of me!

Then BMW came out with a diesel version of their X5 so I dumped my Range Rover in favor of that on the theory that at least I would be burning a lot less fuel. As nice a car as the X5 was, it ended up only getting about 16mpg, and I also came to understand that the diesel wasn’t as clean as I had thought it might be.

Meanwhile, there were more hybrid cars coming on the market, but all still seemed to frumpy for me. I’m sorry, but I live in California and I spend a ton of time in my car and I want it to look and feel great!

And then Audi launched their stylish little Q5, and I dumped the X5 in favor of this smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle. But even that only got around 20mpg.

So about a year ago I started the search for my next car. I did my first exploration of EV’s. The RAV4 was too clearly a Toyota. The Leaf, which a neighbor of mine happily drives, drove like a turtle to me. The Volt was claustrophobic – and a Chevy to boot. The Tesla was way cool, but I actually don’t fit very well in it and, at least in the San Francisco area, driving one has already become interpreted as a sign that you are an obnoxious snob.

Harold With His Dog And BMW i3

Harold With His Dog And BMW i3

So, I had resigned myself to getting the new edition of the X5 diesel, which promised to deliver significantly better – and cleaner – mileage than the original one. And then one day while I was checking out the new X5 on one of the BMW forums, I saw something about the coming of the i3. It looked weird as hell in the photo, but it sounded intriguing. I started to follow stories about it.

I went to a car show in San Jose to see it in person. I fully expected to discover that I could not fit in it, but when I sat down in the model on display I discovered that it had more head room and leg room and better visibility than my Q5. (Of course at this point, BMW was showing it with a sunroof – more about that later….). Plus, the interior design was stunning. And the exterior, while weird, was weird in a sexy way. So I was hooked.

When the test drives started happening in the Bay Area, I went to them at three different dealers. Driving the car was a total blast (all the more so with the sunroof open…..) and I had to have one. I went to my dealer and said I’m willing to pay MSRP for one of the first ones you get, I just need to get two key options – the sun roof and the REX. Can you arrange that please?

And then things started to fall apart. For one, it turned out the sunroof was not going to be offered in the US. No reason for this has ever been provided, but that alone was enough to put me off. I’m claustrophobic, and I always felt I needed a sunroof to have the feeling of openness they give. And then some negative stories started to appear about the REX – a review in Europe said driving with the REX was like driving in limp-home mode, and then it was revealed that the REX was being modified in the US in ways that made it seem even less desirable. And, being new to EV’s, I was at that point too chicken to go the full BEV route.

So, I abandoned my quest for an i3. I signed off of the i3 forums and facebook group. I went back to my dealer and started haggling over prices on the X5 diesel again. But the x5 diesel remained in hot demand, and I couldn’t get what I thought was a reasonable price. And then the i3’s actually arrived. I saw two in one day “in the wild.” I went behind my dealer’s back and went to another dealer to test drive an i3 again. I found that even without the sunroof it still felt very open. And it was just as fun to drive as I had remembered.

So I went back to my CA, said you’re not going to believe this, but I want the i3 after all. He laughed very heartily. We worked the numbers for a while. I ended up doing the two year version of “owner’s choice.” (Went with owner’s choice vs. lease to get the full advantage of the federal tax credit, and went two years rather than three just because I expect the EV technology is going to advance pretty rapidly over the next couple of years and I may want to move to the next edition sooner rather than later.) And within just a few weeks I was driving my new Andesite Silver Terra i3, loaded up with everything except for the 20” wheels. And, surprise surprise, I even got over my fear of running out of juice and went with the BEV instead of the REX.

White Sticker Applied

White Sticker Applied



As I mentioned earlier, a key factor that kept me from switching sooner to a more environmentally correct car was that they all just seemed too ugly, too uncomfortable, and too boring. I wanted to do the right thing for the planet – but I wanted to still be able to enjoy driving at the same time.

Thankfully, my i3 has solved all three of those problems for me.

While I will admit that the exterior is a bit of an acquired taste, there can be no denying that the interior is stunning. Yes, the materials are all very environmentally friendly, but more important to me – they are gorgeous. The design is very fresh, very high tech, and yet very simple. Among the features I like most are the floating high definition screens (one for the instrument cluster stuff, one for the navigation and multimedia stuff) and the eucalyptus dash. I also really appreciate the openness of the cabin and the great sight lines.

The interior is also quite comfortable. I was initially skeptical about the thinness of the seats. As a veteran business road warrior, I have equated the steady thinning down of airline seats over the years with an equally steady decline in the comfort of those seats. Well, I can only hope that the designers at Boeing and Airbus get to drive an i3 soon so they can see how to make a thinner seat super supportive and comfortable.

And as for the driving experience, well, I haven’t had so much fun driving a car since the very first one I owned. First comes the peppiness. As the folks at BMW are fond of saying, the i3 is the fastest car they make from 0 to 30 mph. And I believe them now! Zipping in and out of city traffic is as easy as can be – aided by how tight the turning radius is. Likewise, accelerating on to freeway ramps and passing at freeway speeds is also quick and easy. When we had a meet up of Bay area i3 drivers recently, I had t-shirts printed up for everyone that carried this message: “I drive a BMW i3. So you can eat my dust, not my exhaust. You’re welcome.” Trust me, the message is appropriate: this car hauls ass.

The blue T-Shirts everyone is wearing are the shirts Harold made up for the Crissy Field i3 meet. Photo credit: Dino Ignacio

The blue T-Shirts everyone is wearing are the shirts Harold made up for the Crissy Field i3 meet. Photo credit: Dino Ignacio

The steering is also very tight. I’m sure it has some degree of electronic assistance, but it doesn’t feel in the least bit mushy or vague. If anything it’s too responsive – you have to be attentive or it’s a bit too easy to oversteer.

The ride is firm, but in a good, BMW way. If you don’t want to feel the road at all, then this is not the car for you. But if you like to get some feedback from your driving, you should like this.

I really like the quietness of the car. If you keep the windows rolled up, it is super quiet; there is of course some wind noise at higher speeds, but I have not found it to be objectionable. And, at the same time, if you drive with the windows open, you can actually hear the sounds of nature!

I’m still learning all the fancy new tech tools. Love the Harman Kardon stereo, love being able to use apps like Pandora and TuneIn. Appreciate that iDrive has gotten clearer and more manageable, though it still requires a learning curve. Love the collision avoidance system and the adaptive cruise control. Haven’t yet tried the self-parking thing – but haven’t felt the need either, as this is the smallest car I have driven in ages and I would feel like a total wimp if I couldn’t park it by myself. : )

As for downsides of the i3, anyone who buys this car has to accept that they are on the bleeding edge of technology and that things may go wrong. And they have for some of the early owners. But, knock on wood, after just about 1,000 miles, the worst thing that has happened to me so far is that one morning while I was driving along a nearly empty six lane freeway a warning message popped up on my screen that said something about “Danger – objects detected in roadway.” There were no objects to be seen, so I ignored the message and kept on driving and the message ultimately disappeared.

Also, if you choose as I did to go with the BEV instead of the REx, you will probably find yourself being more than a little bit paranoid about monitoring how much charge you have left. I have been running somewhere around 75 miles per full charge – a little less than what the EPA says, but then I drive with a bit of a lead foot and I leave the AC on all the time. So far I’ve only once gotten the dreaded verbal warning “you have 15 miles of range left,” and thankfully that happened when I was only about a mile from my house.

One other downside is that, to my way of thinking, the i3 is not practical as a family car. The “suicide” doors (aka coach doors) make access to the back seat just too awkward for regular use, especially if you are trying to cope with child seats.

OK, so the i3 is good looking, it’s comfortable, and it’s fun to drive. But how does it do on my original overall reason for getting it, which is to help address the problem of global warming?

Well, for one thing I have not been to a gas station since I got the car. And will never have to go to a gas station with it. Take that, Exxon and BP and the rest of you big oil companies! (The vanity plates I have on order for my car will read: “I86DGAS”) And, at least according to the i3 mobile app, so far I have already saved 530 pounds of CO2 from being pumped out into the air.

So, in sum, thank you BMW for giving birth to the i3 so that I can at last do my part for solving global warming – but do it in a way that fits my own selfish needs for style, comfort, and fun!

PS – The i3 may not be right for everyone, but there are now plenty of EV’s on the market – surely one of them will be right for you!

*If you drive an i3 and want to share your Born Electric story, just send Tom an email at this address –

Categories: BMW

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

33 Comments on "Meet Born Electric BMW i3 Owner Harold From California"

newest oldest most voted

Congrats on your fun new car!
Technically in many ways perhaps one of the most advanced on the planet.

So is it just me, or did the author pretty much slam every other hybrid/EV and it’s owners, besides the i3? Volt’s not good because it’s a Chevy, Leaf is a turtle, Prius makes him puke (ok, I agree with him on that one), Model S owners are obnoxious snobs, Rav4 EV = no because it’s a Toyota….

Pretty impressive being able to offend 95% of the EV crowd in 1 article!

Agree, he’s a snob in his own right.

The Brave Little Toaster

And a spoiled man-child, no less. Like honestly? I couldn’t read any more past “I spend a ton of time in my car and I want it to look and feel great!”

But, in the end does the right thing and enjoys it.
Wish there were more like him on the East Coast.

Snobs with tee shirts!

Yes, kinda. But I gave the guy big big points for giving up not one but two gashogs in his transformation. He might not be pulling on the same rope, but at least he’s helping to pull the cart in the same direction! I actually agree with his comments about roominess about some of the other choices since I’m 6’4″ and 22 stone myself. I’d love to have a Tesla but getting in and out of one is akin to doing the limbo. But I sure enthusiastically supported a coworker who bought one and went along with him when it was delivered. I sure wish I could fit in one, though . . .

i’m 6’4″ and once in while stoned. 22 times is impressive 🙂
Just having a bit of linguistic fun.

Oh it was a relief and a revelation the first time I sat in the i3. My comment to the salesman: “Leave it to the Germans to make a car for tall fat people.” (Stone sounds less horrific than putting the weight in pounds). Thanks for the answer about the range the other day.

Over the years I’ve run into a lot of BMW owners that are just like this guy.

Ever heard what some Tesla owners (or probably mostly wannabe owners) write about other EVs? Seend the same from basically every type of EV owner, it’s not a BMW owner thing.

” . . .at least in the San Francisco area, driving one has already become interpreted as a sign that you are an obnoxious snob.”

I’ve been driving a Model S in the bay area since March of 2013 and while I’ve gotten tons of positive comments, I have yet to get a single negative comment. Maybe if I drove it by a group of people protesting the google bus, I’d get some hate. But I’ve probably had close to a hundred people talk to me about the car and so far everyone has been positive.

I want to thank you for the cleaner air, the no-carbon solution, you buying first, so that I can buy later, and your non-support for Canadian Tar sands and Arab Terrorists, funded by Arab Oil.

You the Real MVP.

Kudos for choosing BEV over EREV, you will get a couple of bonus points in the environment paradise for this.

Good for you Harold. Mazal Tov. I can’t wait for my gas gussler car lease to end. I already got the Ford Fusion Enegri for my mine. She loves it. She get 100 MPG on it. I’m considering the i3. Still worry about hy the BEV and I don’t want to spend 4k on the Rex. We shall see.

I was thinking the i3 “suicide” doors would be great for kids.. at least foward facing seats.

Jimmy? You’re wrong about the suicide doors. You really have to try them to see what I mean. They only close when the front door is opened first – a real pain. You and I might suffer through them because once you get the drill, it’s routine. Kids? Occasional passengers? Not so much. They wang the doors shut wondering time and again why they won’t shut. You’re constantly “teaching” people how they work, and they are small openings to boot.

As I’ve said. Many here don’t think these things through enough. Once the novelty wears off ( which is pretty soon! ) These types of doors are a real pain. Tom doesn’t sit kids in the back and admits he usually is hauling things from the back with the seats folded down. For a commuter who travels alone or with one front passenger – the doors aren’t a big deal. For everyone else = BIG DEAL.

Thought I’d take a break from watching our country fundamentally change itself out of existence to drop by and see how the “EV Community” was coping.

Nice to see that that someone could manage to use the personal pronoun “I” in excess of 90 times in such a short space.

As I like to say whenever I encounter anyone I don’t agree with about AGW which I use to govern any movement I or others should take because I know what’s best:

Global Narcissism Causes Global Climate Change

I think, anybody that’s buying an EV, is helping YOU by an EV.

“The Leaf, which a neighbor of mine happily drives, drove like a turtle to me. The Volt was claustrophobic – and a Chevy to boot.”

I guess this clearly confirms that a BMW owner is a prick…

Maybe there is some truth to that Audi commerical about how “bad” BMW owners are….

That picture with him and the dogs should probably reflect that there is more than one dog there. At first glance it does look like one dog but there are clearly two dogs there.

I thought you said your dog didn’t bite?

But, zat iss not my dog!

Congrats on the ugliest BMW ever made… Those other drivers on the road aren’t laughing with you, they’re…

Most of the things that I don’t like about the i3 span all BMW models, e.g., iDrive, climate control always on when you start the vehicle, etc. The i3 handles like a BMW and the acceleration borders on insane. The fact is, this car is a blast to drive. Interior and exterior aesthetics are unique, and while I’m not a huge fan of the way this car looks, it attracts attention in a way that the FFE can’t. I get almost zero attention in the FFE, even with a 100% Electric sticker in the rear window. The i3, on the other hand draws people in. I’ve had conversations with people in other cars at stoplights because people are so interested in it.  At the NDEW event we attended last weekend, people flocked to the i3. It drew so much attention that I was asked to put the motor cover back on and close up my vehicle so that folks would go inside for the presentations that were scheduled. Ultimately this was one of the reasons that we got the i3 – it is a great ambassador for starting a drive electric conversation without me having to be an over the top EVangelist. It causes people to come to… Read more »
I just can’t comment on Harold. People who hear me comment on i3 wouldn’t believe it, but when I’ve seen ( two, so far ) people out and about who’ve purchased one, I congratulate them – they’re driving an electric car and that’s tops for me. Harold? For guys like you who get into a new car every year or two – and an image guy who puts so much weight on what brand impresses his peers and neighbors – and wears a car like a pair of pants…? I cannot relate at all. I’m a car guy – nuts and bolts. I do care if a car is made in the USA AND has quality ( like the Volt and Tesla ) because I care about our economy and jobs. If, like in the eighties-nineties, I cannot get quality sourced from here, I’ll buy foreign, but not because others will be impressed. Car snobs will buy i3 because it’s a BMW. I get that. I do encourage everyone to compare capabilities of cars – and match them with their needs. i3 is very expensive for it’s battery size and what it gives back to you in ability. With or… Read more »

Please get your facts straight. You have to be kidding me when you say the car is only a 100 mile commuter with or without the range extender. The range extender gives you an extra, 50-75 miles as needed. Secondly you are so wrong about the prick BMW owner. It may surprise you that the i3 is BMW’s highest “conquest” model. Meaning most i3 owners are coming from a different brand.

You also completely seem to forget the engineering achievement of the i3 being the most efficient car in its class, the most Innovative and the quickest.BMW is very conservative with their acceleration numbers with more than one magazine getting 6.5 second, 0-60mph times. This is makes the Volt or Leaf seem slow in comparison. Yes some of us still care about performance. And compared with a RAV4 or B class I recently drove which embarrassingly chirped and spun it’s tires while accelerating no stronger than the, i3. The superior RWD of the i3 has sure footed traction during acceleration with nary a chirp.

Yes. The I3 is clearly 10 years ahead of everything else on the market.

Once, while in LA in the eighties, I commented on how many Mercedes convertibles and SLs I saw on any given drive. My dad – who was a nationwide top salesman for Cadillac back in the sixties, told me that in LA they call those Mercs “LA Chevrolets”. Why? Because the majority are on lease…Basically an expensive rental car. In LA it’s all about image – how you wear that car and caring what others think of you.

Sure – some BMW drivers own their own cars, and I have no problem with BMW owners who did their research and believe their car fits their needs the best. Problem is – there are so many others who bought into the “Ultimate Driving Machine” hype, and either act like fools or look down on others.

I can’t wait to hear from North East drivers who bought an i3 how it handled the snow.


BMWs have some of the most advanced traction systems in the industry. Additionally skinny tires in rain and snow in not necessarily a liability.

Geez, sorry for having offended so many people. This piece was meant to be solely about MY feelings about and experience with the i3. I do believe cars are very personal things, and everyone needs to find the one that’s best for his/her needs. For those who felt I was dissing every other EV, I would ask you please to read the concluding line: “PS – The i3 may not be right for everyone, but there are now plenty of EV’s on the market – surely one of them will be right for you!”

Congratulations on arriving at EV, but you should expect that others who arrived at Their EV did the same (arguably more) due diligence as you, and are loving Their EV experience as much as you do. For instance, I tested the I3 at arrival (CCA) and found it wanting, though Many things improved After launch day.. your BMW dealer may or May Not be beneficial to your EV experience.

The “besides, it’s a Chevy” line won’t play well in many venues.. just sayin’..