BMW i3 Outdoor Test Drives At LA Auto Show In November

BMW i3 Outdoor Test Drives At LA Auto Show In November

My brother and I were at the Los Angeles Auto Show this past November mostly to drive one of the fleet of i3s BMW shipped to the convention center, but also to survey the other EV offerings available.

As California is the biggest EV market in the country, there were many to see including some that will not be for sale until later this year. We looked at the Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Ford Focus EV, Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, Nissan LEAF, Fiat 500e, Cadillac ELR, Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive, Chevy Spark EV, VIA Motors trucks and more.

Rather than help us make a decision, seeing all of the choices left us with EV model overload. A few that really struck a chord with us were the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Chevy Spark EV. They were so inexpensive and yet they seemed ostensibly like they could do the job of transporting us and our families efficiently and safely to work and soccer and tee ball. The Spark really through us for a loop with its 400 lb.-ft of torque, reasonable range and even more reasonable price.

Making An Informed Decision

I came home determined to figure out how I could justify paying $15k-$20k more for an i3 when these other vehicles were available (in California). So I entered the vehicles side by side in a spreadsheet and began entering all of the standard and optional features of each, excluding chassis design and material technology which the i3 wins handily.

When I got to the i3, the list became long quickly, very long. And it was loaded with acronyms and features I was not familiar with like CBC, DBC and Brake Drying. I haven't owned a BMW since my M3 in 2004 and I realized I was going to have to identify all of these features to be able to make an informed decision.

To make a long story short, I searched the web extensively including BMW sites, forums and blogs and automotive magazines. The BMW Technology Guide was the most informational. I found and defined each feature, investing much more time than I thought I would. The current BMW guys probably recognize most of them but for the uninitiated or reinitiated like myself, I present the index here (at the bottom of the story). In the end, I was amazed at the volume of vehicle control and safety functionality in the car. No other EV has this amount of technology available, not even the mighty, technology stacked Tesla Model S - the Bavarians put it all in there. In fact, you won't find this amount of technology on any car at any price.

Cutaway Of Upcoming BMW i3 Showing Battery Housing

Cutaway Of Upcoming BMW i3 Showing Battery Housing

The Technology

The technology presents itself in many forms. In terms of safety technology, the list is long. The car has throttle control and braking control of all four wheels independently and by monitoring lateral acceleration, steering wheel position and accelerator and brake pedal motion it can mitigate various conflicting input conditions to prevent skids and slides and even enhance traction. It can predict imminent collision situations with other vehicles and pedestrians and warn and intervene. It compensates for brake fade, keep its brakes dry in the rain and preconditions the brakes prior to emergency maneuvers to reduce response time. And more.

As for information and convenience technology, it is "online" with its own SIM card and provides a spectacular amount of trip information including a 3D street map, a dynamic range map with charging station locations, real time traffic data and most efficient route guidance. It provides access to Google local search and email and contacts. It has theft prevention and recovery features, it can parallel park itself and assume part of the driving input on the freeway. And it provides several entertainment options including SiriusXM and HD radio. And more.

I felt good that my wife would have such safety and convenience on her daily commute, especially safety. Needless to say my decision to choose the i3 was on solid ground.

(Links to the i3 features and technology list and the Technology Guide follow can be found here and here)