Going electric: A year in the life of a BMW i3 owner by Neil Allison

Going electric: A year in the life of a BMW i3 owner by Neil Allison

Prior to going electric, I was driving a superb BMW 520d M Sport which was something I had worked towards and was absolutely loving. 


However, as fuel prices were skyrocketing and as I drive a fair few miles for work, I decided to look at other options.


I contacted my friendly neighbourhood BMW dealer, Sytner Coventry, with whom I have a very good relationship with and asked them to look into options for me. We briefly looked at a PHEV but to be fair to the sales guy, he said that they were mainly ‘a tax break’ and that I wouldn’t actually save very much as the car is heavier than a standard ICE car and that I would be better either sticking with diesel of going fully electric.


An iX3 or an iX were out of the question financially, so they offered me a very good deal on a new BMW i3. I’m very lucky as I have dealt with them many times before and in the words of my sales contact, there is a first time customer deal, a repeat customer deal and then there is a ‘Neil Deal’ which meant I was able to get the i3 on very competitive terms.


So, after locating a car within the Sytner network, I was presented with an i3 in Caparis White. It had the Loft Interior World (tan with part synthetic leather) & Comfort Pack (Harman Kardon sound system, extended storage and sun protection glass.)


Going electric: A year in the life of a BMW i3 owner by Neil Allison


To say I was apprehensive was an understatement. Hitherto, I had been a massive petrolhead and the thought of potentially never owning an ICE car again was quite daunting.  That said, I already knew how entertaining the i3 was having had an extended test drive, so I was excited nonetheless. So the swap was done and off I went!


Are you seriously considering your first or next EV? Then visit Electric Road’s CAR FINDER to get the right car for you!


First impressions

The BMW i3 is a totally unique car. It is constructed from carbon fibre and is very lightweight. As a result, it is very quick!  The acceleration is entertaining to say the least and it would easily outrun anything I had owned before, even my Z4, so that was an instant buzz. The quality of fit and finish is also outstanding and the use of interior space means that it has an air of roominess which none of my other cars seemed to convey. Near silent power and lots of it, totally rattle free and a very relaxed place to be.



Learning to adapt 

And yes, it is a big change.  You do spend a lot of time looking at your range meter (or ‘Guessometer’) and at first, like many others, I did suffer from a bit of range anxiety. To begin with, I charged at home using a ‘granny charger’ with a 3-pin plug and it took forever, so I quickly decided to look for a wall box.


Having been let down on one by British Gas, I found a company called ‘Egg’ who were offering 7kW wall chargers by Indra on subscription with maintenance included. This meant I could avoid shelling out several hundred pounds on a box and I was able to get it installed for the monthly sum of £30. It works really well and I’ve had no issues with it. A full charge takes about 6 hours.


I then decided I would need to explore public rapid charging which, to be fair, is not without issues to a novice. To begin with I hadn’t used any apps other than Zap-Map and found that contactless charging was rare and patchy to say the least.  I can remember chatting with a few very nervous EV newbies worried about being able to charge and getting stranded but after successfully downloading a few apps and trying them out, I was on my way.


My first long journeys were to Yorkshire and by this time I had discovered InstaVolt. So far, they haven’t let me down, meaning that as long as I planned my charging stops, there were no issues at all.


Going electric: A year in the life of a BMW i3 owner by Neil Allison



The biggest bugbear for EV drivers (and one that attracts sometimes quite ridiculous negative press) is that the charging infrastructure in the UK is nowhere near good enough. I would agree with this in part, particularly on motorway services, where you are likely to queue and where chargers can often be faulty.


Going electric: A year in the life of a BMW i3 owner by Neil Allison


I found that charging at sites off the motorway results in less queueing. I’ve nearly been caught out at motorway services where I have been very low on electrons only to find the chargers to be offline, even though, in some cases, I had only used them a day or two before. It can be very frustrating but I’ve not been left high and dry. On the whole, the negativity I see across the media is unfounded but that is just my experience.




The BMW i3, like all EVs, is fitted with a range meter, aka the ‘guessometer’. Range is very dependent on outside temperature but it also seems affected by how high the heater is turned up and also by whether you have your sat nav active.  For some reason, if I enter a destination in the sat nav, the car will helpfully reduce my available range by up to 40 miles!! The only way to get this mileage back is to deactivate it which is a bit daft but again, I have not been caught out.


On a summer’s day, I have managed to charge up to 206 miles (BMW’s stated maximum is 185) and on a freezing cold day, it has been as low at 125 (in -9 degrees). Also, motorway driving eats away at your range MUCH more quickly than if you are in the town. So you do have to be mindful of this and if you’re travelling a distance, good planning is required.


Are you seriously considering your first or next EV? Then visit Electric Road’s CAR FINDER to get the right car for you!


Driving the BMW i3

Boy this car is good!  I expect this is true of all EVs. The BMW i3 is extremely rapid from a standing start and will see off anything within reason from the lights, if that’s your thing. It’s quiet apart from some tyre rumble and the ride is firm but compliant. Despite having such skinny tyres, the grip is pretty good too, although I don’t think the standard tyres last as long as ICE tyres do. Ultimately, the car has been faultless, it cruises with such composure you do feel more relaxed when you arrive at your destination.


Going electric: A year in the life of a BMW i3 owner by Neil Allison

The BMW i3 is a very funky piece of design and is still unique today. Lightweight carbon fibre construction, rear suicide doors which are disliked by many but actually I love them as access into the car is amazing. It also has a beautifully designed and constructed interior which is incredibly spacious and some of the most comfortable seats of any car I’ve owned, which is surprising given how thin they are.


At the time of writing, I have covered 18,000 trouble-free fun miles. Even with hikes in the cost of electricity, it’s still saving me approx. 50% on my fuel costs and with no road tax at present and slightly lower insurance all mean that my monthly running costs are down by about £200.



The EV community

One of the things I really enjoy about driving an EV, and especially a BMW i3, is the people you meet and chat to online. Also, when you charge up, you inevitably end up chatting with other owners of all types of electric cars and it can be really good fun. Additionally, the EV online community is generally a happy place too and even people who don’t have an EV will often contact me online or come up for a chat when I’m charging. It makes it more than simply a car, more like a way of life and a social club to boot!




Changing to full electric was a big step and I was nervous at first but as time has gone on it has become a real pleasure. The car is brilliant and I shall never go back. Whilst electricity is costly at the moment, hopefully this will not be the case long term but even if it is, the cost advantages are still considerable.


Driving is way more fun. Yes, I do feel good about being environmentally friendly but for me, this is about the car itself and the ownership experience and to that end, I would recommend it to anyone. If you are able to, take the plunge. Hopefully EV prices will come down to make them more accessible for all. The main message here is…you have nothing to  be scared of!

Share article:


Related articles

UK Car Survey:

Fossil Fuels V's Electric

Electric Road’s UK Car Survey has been devised to ‘gauge the temperature’ on the adoption of electric cars by UK motorists. The survey is 100% multiple-choice questions so will only take you a few minutes to complete and the ongoing findings will be published via the Electric Road Newsletter.