Top Gear’s James May Discusses His BMW i3

SEP 18 2014 BY STAFF 24

BMW i3

BMW i3

Back in May, Top Gear’s famous host, James May, stated he was considering the new BMW i3 electric car.

Part of a team which has traditionally taken great pains to paint electric cars as slow, boring, expensive and impractical, the news came a surprise. May purchased the BMW i3 REx variant.

“We’ve known for a long time that the electric motor is the ideal way to propel an electric car,” he said. “We’re discovering that there’s a different sort of pleasure in motoring in an electric car because of the smoothness, the silence.”

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG.  Check it out here.

Even though May’s i3 is not in his possession yet, he offered some more insight into his purchase decision and potential conflict’s with Top Gear’s agenda.

But I’m still very excited. Why, though? Why would I be so sleepless over a car that’s going to traumatise me with this new syndrome of ‘range anxiety’, a very polite name for ‘battery tyranny’? Why, when I’ve recently driven La Ferrari LaFerrari 
– a car that harnesses the wonder of electricity in a very intelligent and sustainable way – am I worked 
up about humming around in an overpriced battery-powered aircon unit? It troubles me.

I’m taking a lot of stick about this car. A number of people have pointed out that buying an electric car but continuing to work on Top Gear is somehow not very ecological. But who said it was? I’m not interested in the ecology, I’m buying it because I’m a car enthusiast, and I’m really not going to sleep better in the knowledge that Nick Clegg is pleased with me. Quite the opposite, to be honest. Doesn’t explain why I’m jumpin’ about it, though.

Someone on Twitter was also having a pop at 
my credentials as a car fan. How could I deny the passion of driving, they asked?

Well, look. There’s more than one way to be excited by cars. I love daft supercars, but I also like 
a Rolls-Royce Ghost for its serenity and sense of detachment. A whisper-quiet electric car may expose a new facet to this thing that used to be called ‘motoring pleasure’. We’ll have to see.

The full article written by James May can be found here.

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24 Comments on "Top Gear’s James May Discusses His BMW i3"

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Agree there is something really sweet in a seamless drive train and being able to dart in and out of traffic with just the accelerator that compensates for the rumble of dino power.
EV’s have a special drive feel that no convectional car can deliver.

Yes their is something about gasoline engines. It might be the roar of an american muscle car, or the grown of a Raptor fighting its way through the mud. It could also be the purr of a finely tuned luxury car casually making its way down the Highway at over 100mph.

For the 98% of cars that don’t in one of those categories electric motors are an improvement.

I also do love the thunder of a group of Harley-Davidsons driving by, but I could do without the squeal of the rice burners.

H-D noise is one of my pet peeves. I love the serenity that my Volt provides.

As a Harley Davidson owner, I’ve noticed that I have a means of controlling the the noise my bike makes. It’s called the throttle. I’m told even ricers have them, but it seems many users are unfamiliar with its operation.

That being said, if The Motor Company does produce the Livewire with acceptable specs and price, I will trade in my V-Twin towards its purchase.

Does the throttle on a typical ricer have any position other than “wide open”?

or any/every H-D traveling down my quiet neighborhood street, not going 100mph, mind you, >30mph but in 2nd gear.. sigh.

As soon as people start adopting electric cars for their utility, efficiency and sportiness the electric car will take over. It looks like its starting to happen.

And that is why the Model S is succeeding in its market. The eco factor is a tiny one for the vast majority of people.

Everyone else so far has it wrong. You need to make it better than the ICE incumbent in as many ways as possible: acceleration and cargo room are the easy ones if an honest effort is put forth in EV design. Get a smartphone-like payment plan that clearly beats gasoline, and you can make it cheaper as well.

You two gents have NAILED it, and actually its the bottom line of my PhD thesis….most people care about the environment, just not enough to change their core habits like driving.

The sooner the EV is no longer framed as an eco-jellybean (current Leaf) and looks more like the future Leaf renders, then they will take over. Stop trying to cram “eco-friendlyness” into peoples top 5 desirables when shopping for a new car!

Price parity with gas cars the key to making that happen. Without price parity, there has to be some additional reason (such as eco-friendlyness, or whatever might be somebody’s attraction) to buy an EV.

What about a $15k in gazoline savings over a five year ownership? Doesn’t count?

Who is saving $3k per year over gasoline? Even if you take 25MPG (which is low) and $4/gallon (which is high), you can travel 22,500 miles on $3k worth of gasoline. That is incredibly high for your typical driver. Most people drive half that, pay a little less for gasoline, and get better than 25MPG (for a brand-new mid sized or compact car). Plus don’t forget that electricity may be less expensive than gasoline, but it certainly isn’t free. All told, your figure is off by a factor of about 3x.

So $5k savings over 5 years is still something but 1) it’s not enough to make up the EV premium and 2) most people are not looking at total cost of ownership when they purchase a car.

Agreed fully with price parity. Its working though. Government subsidy here in the UK is £5k + option to lease battery programs is giving the many manufacturers the room and time for range to go up and costs to come down, because those government subsidies wont last forever.

Clarkson spotted in an i8, May is now getting the i3 REx, what next? Do I hear the flapping wings of pigs?

Flying electric pigs are almost dangerously silent, unfortunately.

Jezza was only undergoing a road test. May has bought his i3. May is used to the flack he gets for his ‘strange’ motoring attitudes already.

“We’ve known for a long time that the electric motor is the ideal way to propel an electric car,”

Well, duh! What other way is there to propel an electric car? Twin Ion Engine? Not invented yet. 😛

I got a chuckle out of that too 🙂

Well, ion propulsion has been invented (used on numerous spacecraft)…but rather impractical for anything requiring even modest acceleration.

James is still upset Shell Oil wont let him buy a Tesla, while still on the show’s payroll…

Beaking News:
Clarkson is buying a Model S. P85 of course.

Surely Musk will just give one to his good buddy? 😉

I love my Volt largely because it’s different. When you’re talking about your daily runaround car, an electric car is ideal. Other than Tesla, they are practical, easy to park, require minimal maintenance, and provide a better environment to ‘convey oneself from one place to another’. I’ll keep my BMW motorcycle for when I want to be engaged with driving/riding and experience the road (or lack thereof when off-road) and maybe eventually purchase a Caterham or other ultralight car if I want a more engaging 4 wheel companion. But until that day, I’ll enjoy the comfort of the Volt, not because it’s supposedly better for the environment, but because it’s a nice car…