BMW i3 review – part 2 #GoUltraLow

BMW i3 bowling party

HELP!!!! They’re taking the BMW i3 back tomorrow.

I have fallen in love with my BMW i3 without a doubt. The more I drive it the more driving becomes a pleasure and this became crystal clear the day I had to take out our diesel car as I hadn’t changed over the child seats after the weekend.

Why did I revert back to our car for the weekend? Because we had to tow our caravan for a quick weekend trip ;)

Anyway I jumped into our diesel run Picasso and it felt sluggish and had no power to the accelerator. I pushed my foot down but it was slow working through the gears and slow to get going. 

In our first #GoUltraLow review we spoke about what are ULEV’s and gave lots of basic information that will be very helpful to read if you are considering investing in an electric car. This time I want to talk about charging and costs.

BMW i3 at Bluewater

Charging an electric car

When the car was dropped off I sat in the car for an hour whilst Geoff, the BMW man, went through all of the details with me and we also spoke of charging the car. The car came with two cables to cover the different types of charge:

Standard charge

This cable allows you to connect your car to any household 3 pin socket. We tried this overnight and got an 80% charge the following morning. It’s an AC type 2 charge giving up to 2.4 kW/10Amps an estimated 7 hour charge giving 0 – 80% charge.

BMW i3 keys

AC Fast Charge

For regular fast charging this method is extremely convenient, to use it you will need a Wallbox fitted on the exterior of your house in a convenient place to plug your car in. Please note that British Gas will install a charging point at your home free of charge until 31 March 2015. The AC Fast Charge is extremely easy to use and it locks into place so no passer by can pull the plug out whilst you’re charging. The Wallbox can also be padlocked to prevent any cheeky chargers whilst you’re away or switched off at the mains.

This AC type 2 charge uses 7.4kW/32 Amps and will give a 0 – 80% charge in 3 hours.

Take a look at my video here at just how simple it is.

How much does a full charge cost?

I have checked our meter and on average a full charge will use about 20kW. We’re on a Standard plan and pay 13.37p per kW. That’s a cost of £2.67.

NB. Thanks so much to @shovelbarn_mike who spotted I had completely misread my meter reading and have since updated this post to show a full charge costs me



How long will one charge last?

It will obviously depend on how fast you go, if you have the AirCon switched on (I have!) and music blaring out (yep). A charge would normally last me more than 10 days for short after school activities, a trip or two to the supermarket and a trip to Bluewater our local shopping mall. Longer journeys use more juice.

I have also noticed the car loses some charge when sitting unused as various electrics are still functioning I imagine.

I tried out a longer journey to Essex to visit Talliston House and Gardens a 50.8 mile journey one way which takes 1 hour 7 minutes. I didn’t have a full charge so knew I would need to charge at some point to get home as the petrol was running low as well. I stopped at a supermarket garage and filled her up which took about £10 and gave me circa 70 miles. I got home with no problem.

DC Rapid charge

I have yet to try this method but will be doing so on our trip to Butlins Bognor Regis. The DC Rapid charge is the best and quickest solution and can be found at a public DC rapid charge stations across the UK. The charge uses 50kW/125Amps. It gives a 0 – 80% charge  in 30 minutes. It is also currently FREE. There are various networks but I have an Electric Highway credit card which I swipe and charge at no cost to me. This is current at the time of writing as the aim is to encourage more and more people to convert to electric.

On a long journey half an hour goes really quickly for us, by the time we’ve all visited the toilets, had a peek at the shop and filled our water bottles half an hour is for the best part done. I will discover more on our trip to Bognor

BMW i3 charging times

So as I write with only one more day to go with this dream of a car I would love to know any questions you may have which I can address in my next #GoUltraLow blog post. I’ll be back with news on how our long journey went (85+ miles one way)

The most common question so far has been – do you like it? And the answer to that is YES, I love it. It’s a dream to drive.

Pssst. Have you seen the new BMW i8 *swoons* 

BMW i8

Disclosure: This BMW i3  is on loan to us for 6 weeks so that we can test how it fits into our lives and I can report back with my honest opinions as part of the #GoUltraLow campaign.


  1. July 24, 2014 / 8:55 AM

    I’d love to have a go with an electric car. I suppose my biggest worry would be not being able to find a charging point available when I need one. Imagine turning up at motorway services needing to get somewhere and finding a queue of people waiting to charge their cars. Not quite the same as at the petrol pumps. I know it seems like a silly thing, but if you’ve got all the time in the world to get somewhere then you can accommodate that, but if you’re dashing to catch a plane or for a meeting you’d be a bit stuck.

    • July 25, 2014 / 8:44 PM

      That’s why I really like the BMWi3 as it was a range extender – that means it runs on electricity but also has a small tank of petrol which gives you 70 miles circa. I had to use this yesterday on my way back from Bognor as the Ecotricity AC point was unavailable

  2. July 24, 2014 / 12:04 PM

    Where we live, it’s quite common (obviously) to see many test cars cruising the streets in special swirly paint so that you can’t take pictures of them clearly if you are the competition. I remember seeing the i3 (and more recently the beautiful i8) and thinking how cool they look! Mr R is in line for a new company car soon, I will be showing him this! Emma xx

    • July 25, 2014 / 8:45 PM

      I’d love to see a picture of a swirly paint one, how weird?

  3. Paul Dann
    July 24, 2014 / 3:19 PM

    I was quite surprised to read your estimation of nearly £30 for a full charge! I think you may be overestimating:

    Our Nissan Leaf has a 24kWh battery pack, and we’re on an Economy 7 tariff of 7p/kWh overnight. Assuming we charge from empty, we can expect to pay 24×0.07 = £1.68. That gives us about 95 miles, which works out at about 1.7p/mile.

    From what I can tell, the BMW i3 has a 22kWh battery. On your standard tariff of 13.37p/kWh, for a full charge I’d expect you to pay: 22×0.1337 = £2.94. If we assume that gets you 100 miles or so, that would work out at about 2.9p/mile.

    In reality, I expect the figures may be slightly off, as there will be some losses involved in charging the batteries, but I think your 200kWh figure may have been a mistake?

    • July 25, 2014 / 8:47 PM

      Absolutely right Paul, what an idiot I am! In my defence the separate meter is really low down and very dark in the cupboard under the stairs – quite simply I missed the decimal point which as you say makes a huge difference.

      Thanks so much for pointing that out.

      I’m hearing lots of good things about the Nisan Leaf and I find the whole subject really interesting, it’s been a very exciting project to work on

  4. July 24, 2014 / 6:12 PM

    I am incredibly envious, not only is this a good looking car design but with it being an electric car it is also friendlier on the pocket too. We are considering an electric car when we come to replace our car but not sure we could stretch to a BMW no matter how gorgeous it is

    • Paul Dann
      July 25, 2014 / 8:50 AM

      I can highly recommend the Nissan Leaf. It’s absolutely *fantastic* to drive. If you phone around, you’ll find that you can get some really good deals if you find a dealer with a target to hit.

      Don’t forget to get the 6.6kW charger upgrade if you buy a Leaf: the ability to charge at 32A halves your charging time, which is particularly important when you charge on the high street or in car parks. Just be careful: Nissan only supply one charging cable, and with the 6.6kW charger upgrade, you don’t get the kind that plugs into a domestic socket. If you make enough fuss, it’s possible to get Nissan to send you one free of charge. Every EV owner needs both types of cables, really: one for a domestic socket, and one for public charge points.

    • July 25, 2014 / 8:49 PM

      I know that feeling too! There are lots of models around and I’m sure the others are fabulous too but this one stole my heart. It was so quick and nifty. No hanging around, just push and go.

      Va va vroom!

  5. Mike McLaughlin
    July 24, 2014 / 6:13 PM

    Can I suggest you check your numbers the electricity, an 80% charge is more like 20kwh ie 7hours x 3kw. To use 200 KWh on a 3 amp supply would take about 70 hours. The cost of a full charge is less than £3,

    • July 25, 2014 / 8:53 PM

      Thanks Mike, I did check the numbers and I didn’t read the decimal point as explained in the comment above.
      I’ve now changed the post to reflect the proper reading.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to show me my error.
      Still a fab car though ;)

  6. Matt
    July 24, 2014 / 6:37 PM

    Erm… Electricity is bought in kWh not kW – which means that 1kW of power for 1 hour is one unit (1kWh). So 2.4kW for 7 hours will be 2.4 times 7 = 16.8kWh. At 13.37p per unit this would be £2.25 per full charge.

    • July 25, 2014 / 8:54 PM

      I wish you’d been around Matt when I was trying to figure it out the other day, you’d have spotted straight away that I had missed out the decimal point in the bad light when I took my reading.
      All corrected now and apologies for my gaff

  7. Mark
    July 24, 2014 / 6:50 PM

    I think you may have misread your meter. Your i3 does NOT take 200kWh to charge it’s battery, it has an 18.8kWh battery, allowing for heating in the charger/battery 20kWh is probably reasonable. So a charge cost of £2.67 is much more realistic.

    A top of the range Tesla only has an 85kWh battery, and it can do 250+ miles on it.

    Please check your facts before posting. :)

    • July 25, 2014 / 8:56 PM

      Thanks so much Mark.

      I tried to check with my electric supplier but they confirmed the previous amounts and not knowing any different I went with their result.

      I have now corrected the post to reflect the correct charge cost

  8. Jim
    July 24, 2014 / 6:52 PM

    It does not take 200kwH to charge you numptie.

  9. Darren Griffin
    July 24, 2014 / 6:55 PM

    You may want to re-check your figures, the i3 has an 18.8kWh battery so a full charge could never require 200kW! A full charge to the theoretical maximum would cost about £2.51, not £28.07, that’s quite a big error there!

    • July 25, 2014 / 8:58 PM

      Thanks Darren,

      You are absolutely right as explained above I didn’t see the decimal point when taking the reading and not knowing any different I went with that figure.
      Boy – I won’t make THAT mistake again eh?

      Happy weekend

  10. Tom
    July 24, 2014 / 7:05 PM

    Glad you’re loving your car, and I too drive an EV. *BUT* your article contains a couple of major errors on the charging and cost !!! Basically you are only putting a maximum of 20kwh back into the i3, not 200kw – that’s enough to run a house for 2 weeks 24-7 ! The cost of 20kwh at £0.13 a unit (daytime rate) is about £2.60 (not £28 !). However, the whole point of owning an EV is to leave it plugged in over night so it can top up every night and be ‘full’ every morning – just like a mobile phone. Night time rates are even cheaper at £0.06 per kwh and will mean the cost of a total fill up would be around £1.20. I’ve never heard of anyone driving around in an EV and waiting for the ‘tank’ to go dry before refilling it with more electricity – that’s totally defeating the object of charging them at home every night !!!

    • July 25, 2014 / 9:02 PM

      Thanks Tom for your advice above.
      I never thought to top up every night in all honesty. It never occurred to me but this is all very new to the majority of car owners. I think there will be a lot of people out there, like me, who are a bit clueless and maybe that makes my review even more valuable as I am not a motor journalist but a mum, who makes mistakes but is willing to try and save the family money.

      Again, had I realised it cost so little to charge I would have topped up more regularly too.

      I loved the BMWi3 it was a joy to drive and I will be very tempted to convert to EV when the time comes to change our family car.

  11. Barry P
    July 24, 2014 / 7:45 PM

    I suggest that someone has misread the electricity meter, since the BMW only has an 18.5 kwh battery the MOST you could put into it works out at 18.5 x 13.37p which my calculator makes £2.47p.
    I drive a Leaf which over the last six months has worked out at around 4ppm using a mixture of off peak and standard electricity prices. Please Marianne re-edit your review, with correct pricing.

    • July 25, 2014 / 9:04 PM

      I have done so Barry and thank you for taking the time to point it out.

      Apologies for missing the decimal point first time round and putting it down to being a novice

      Thank you

  12. Jeremy Bloomfield
    July 24, 2014 / 8:11 PM

    You have a serious mistake with the amount of power stored in the car its not 200Kw, and it wouldnt cost nearly £30. The battery is less than 20kw, so you are a factor of ten out. Thats quite misleading.
    Personally I havt the interior finish that looks like dirty compressed garden fleece, and the charge lid is so flimsy.
    I have been driving EVs as daily transport for nearly 5 years now, and even make my living repairing them, I love EV driving and will happily let others try our EVs out.

    • July 25, 2014 / 9:07 PM

      Hi Jeremy,

      I have altered the post to reflect the correct figures now and I apologise for making the mistake, it wasn’t intentional.
      You say the interior finish isn’t nice, are you talking of the BMWi3? I thought the design and interior was gorgeous on the model I reviewed.
      One question I wonder if you can help me with – How long does the battery last?
      A lot of people asked me this but I don’t have the answer fro them yet and would like to address it in my next post

  13. Mike Ball
    July 24, 2014 / 8:12 PM

    By no stretch of the imagination does a full charge of an i3 take 200kwH! The battery on an i3 is under 20kwH in capacity, so suggest you may have misread the meter? A full recharge is very cheap, no more than a couple of quid.

    • July 25, 2014 / 9:08 PM

      Thanks Mike for your comment. You are absolutely right – I missed out the decimal point and have now corrected the post to reflect the correct charge cost.

      Thanks for your time

  14. July 25, 2014 / 5:11 AM

    Would you make the swap or is it too inconvenient to have to charge it?

    • Paul Dann
      July 25, 2014 / 8:54 AM

      Regular charging is not an inconvenience at all for EVs: you just make sure it’s plugged in overnight. It’s also extra-cheap if you get an Economy 7 meter installed.

      The problem comes when it comes to longer trips: you need to plan your journey carefully to account for 30-minutes rapid charges at motorway service stations, and journeys feel more like a series of hops. It’s actually enjoyable to stop a little more regularly for a breather and to stretch your legs, so long as you can afford that time.

      • July 25, 2014 / 9:13 PM

        I think Paul it will be a case of changing our habits and counting the time in to our journeys.

        Originally this was one of my major fears, the recharges on long journeys but as EVs become more popular so charging points more frequent and most likely quicker too.

        I’m gutted the one time I did try to recharge (yesterday at Pease Pottage) the AC declared itself ‘Not available’ So annoying!

    • July 25, 2014 / 9:10 PM

      Definitely not an inconvenience to charge and yes having driven this car for 6 weeks now I would seriously consider swapping.
      Our only problem is that we tow a caravan for our holidays and I’m not sure there is an EV that can do that just yet?
      But it will only be a matter of time I imagine, this is the future

      • Mike Ball
        July 25, 2014 / 9:57 PM

        Yep, for towing have a look at the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Same price as the diesel version, has a battery and normal engine so for local trips is 100% electric, and can tow. :-)

  15. Paul Dann
    July 26, 2014 / 7:33 AM

    I can definitely identify with the enjoyment of the electric acceleration :) The automatic transmission is so lovely too; so much less work and no time wasted switching gears! Makes me wonder why everyone still drives manuals!

    In the i3, you should be able to go 90-100 miles on pure electric. It might drop to 80 in cold weather, or as low as 75 if you’re really pushing it on a motorway. In an EV, the big efficiency factor is wind speed. The faster you go, the more power is used to push you through the air. So basically, the slower you go, the further you can go.

  16. July 26, 2014 / 8:23 AM

    Oooh Mari, I would love an electric car, and this one looks AMAZING! Do you know if there is one that fits three kids in the back?

    • July 30, 2014 / 3:51 PM

      I’m sure Emma there will be a larger model out there that will fit 3 seats in the back, positive and I’d seriously recommend converting. I will be when the time comes

  17. July 28, 2014 / 1:42 PM

    That i8 looks gorgeous! I used to think of electric cars as tinny powerless things, but I was so wrong! The Renault Zoe totally changed my opinion – it’s a perky powerful car – and the BMW’s look amazing!

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