Friday, December 13, 2013

BMW i3 First-Ever Hot Lap - Video

====== I've started up my new i3 blog - check it out here ======

All the way back in October I had the pleasure of whipping around a race track in an i3....check out my story at have also pasted the content below

For updates on more videos and the i3 follow me on Twitter

Other sites my story has appeared on or posts related to it

Review From the Track: BMW i3 Gets Driven to the Limit by Pro Driver – I Ride Shotgun (w/video)

Taking the BMW i3 on a track…a real race track, riding with a professional driver at the absolute limit for a full day at Monticello Raceway in New York and having it all caught on video; all this is what was spinning around in my head days before the shoot was set to take place.
Finally...The BMW i3 is on a Race Track
Finally…The BMW i3 is on a Race Track – Image Copyright Chris Neff
I’ve been driving EVs since 2009, a MiniE and now the BMW ActiveE.  I’ve always been the kind of EV fan where performance was first for me, the eco was the bonus.  You can find me touting the benefits of EVs at many “green,” events but you will find me more often happily showing off my EV at exotic car meets and, in the past year, joined by other EV drivers who make it to the meets.  I’ve always felt the best way for people to embrace EVs is to show them off where you would never expect to see one…parked next to a Ferrari or Lamborghini or Mclaren…we all love cars and mine is a fun daily driver.
Now, along comes the i3, with its funky look and skinny tires.  I have to admit I was wondering if the i3 would be as fun as my ActiveE, I mean how could it be, just look at those tires.  Still, I liked the styling, it started to grow on me….but would it be fun to drive?  I know that is the question on the minds of many.
…and now here we are, I’m ready to learn if the i3 is a real ‘drivers’ EV and on a race track.
Monticello Raceway - I3 Handles Those Curves With Ease
Monticello Raceway – I3 Handles Those Curves With Ease
It’s track day and now I get to meet the professional driver who is going to take us around the track.  Let me add that she is a professional race car driver.  Erin Crocker, who has been racing competitively since 7 (Nascar racer, sprint car racer, stunt car driver and EV newbie, nope never driven an EV) and she’s just an all around cool person.  She is laid back and, like the rest of us, loves automobiles.  So, this is going to be a real blast then right? I’ve never ridden in an i3 or been on a race track and Erin has never driven an EV.  I begin thinking we will just hit some decent speeds and test the handling…what could possibly go wrong.?
While filling out the final paperwork in preparation for the day I was asked if I kissed my family goodbye….umm….yes.   A few others came up and asked if I would be “ok” today…umm….why?
I'm Explaining to Erin What a "Frunk" Is
I’m Explaining to Erin What a “Frunk” Is
Any concerns I had quickly turned back to pure excitement when we headed over to the garage and there was the i3.  Photos do not do the i3 justice, you really need to see it in person.  No, it does not scream BMW, but it doesn’t have to.  It is a beautiful car in its own right, the eye catching details are plenty.  Erin and I did a quick walk around and I pointed out some of the unique attributes to an EV as well as the i3.  Especially those tires.  You are immediately drawn to them as they are so skinny and you have to wonder how this car can ever handle a road much less a track.
It’s close to 8 am and we head out.  Erin is scanning the dash and soaking up the new controls she will need to get used to.  That took maybe 30 seconds and then we are off.  I don’t mean gradually.  Nope, she really went for it right away.  I calmly looked over and asked if she wanted to get familiar with the i3.  She replied “no it’s ok.”   I then asked has she ever driven this track.  Never, she replied.  Right…ok….now this is getting interesting.
So we do about 3 laps and the speed is increasing.  Erin is feeling more comfortable, I’m not and it is not because of her driving, this is a first for me and all I’m seeing is how fast we are heading for a hairpin and no regen or braking is going on at all, at least not until the last second and when we go into that turn we are right back on the accelerator to pull out of it…..the i3 never flinched…I can’t say that for me.  I had such little time to process what was going on, but one thought was clear…the i3 is impressive.
i3 track
This Was a Closed Course – That Means Nobody Could Hear Me Scream
We did a few more laps then pulled back into the pits.  Wow!!! I was full of adrenaline, a combo of fear and excitement.  I never expected the i3 to do that.  But wait, there is more, another 10 hours of this was left to go.  You see, this was to be a video shoot which means take after take…..we had two i3s to play with, one was the full electric and the other was the REx (extended range).  How would they both hold up through repeated on-track abuse?  We were going to find out and that was exactly why we were there.  Yes, I said 10 hours.  Now I understand why they were asking if I was “ok” with this.  Going flat out was pretty scary, but how long could that last?  Apparently close to 10 hours.  Okay then, let’s do this!!!
I won’t talk about the details of the shoot in this writing, I’m going to focus on what I think you all want to hear, how did it do on the track.   There are lots of reviews to be had on the i3, but none of them are about a track experience so here we go.
…before I head into my thoughts let me quickly chat about Erin, this was a fun experience for her.  It was clear she was eager to see what this funky little car could do.  While we zipped around the track I filled her in on EV terminology which she got a kick out of…’frunk’ was probably her favorite word.   She is truly a pro, she has been racing since 7 and does the sprint car circuit now, those are those tiny little 700hp race cars that go round and round a dirt track, very aggressive because you have to be.  Her driving style is all on or all off with quick turns of the wheel.  In many ways, an EV suits her style since they deliver power immediately or don’t and the i3s steering is instant quick…it was an observation of mine and she absolutely brought out all the i3 could do….I definitely got more grey hair that day.
Bet You Never Imagined You Could Fit All This on the I3's Dash
Bet You Never Imagined You Could Fit All This on the I3′s Dash
First and foremost, the i3 is an extremely nimble critter.  How in the world can a car handle that well with such skinny tires and on one of the i3s was all seasons?  I’m no engineer, but a low center of gravity and low weight play an important roll.  The i3 looks tall, but the weight is down low and that chassis is as stiff as can be.  The i3 leans, but not enough to unsettle it.  Erin commented a few times how she was impressed at how easy it was to take a turn, very predictable and the front tires just kept grabbing.  Granted, the electronic stability brains were keeping us from sliding out, but not so much to ruin the fun.  The real issue that kept us from creating a slide was the computer cutting the power, there is no way to fully disable the anti-skid brains unfortunately.   Is this a problem?  Not in the least.  We were taking hairpins and long sweeping turns extremely fast, there is a sharp uphill hairpin, turn #18, and during the shoot we must have taken that 12 or more times both ways.  Not once did the i3 flinch…I sure did.   Especially going the other way where it banks to the outside, I could swear we were headed for the grass, nope, it was like the i3 was on rails….maybe it is.
The steering is incredibly quick, Erin had a real chance to test it in the slalom.  You will notice at around 20 seconds in the video is an abrupt turn to the right, the i3 can do that all day, left then right and vice versa.  It is hard to tell in the video but those cones were pretty close together and Erin got through them all a few times, that is her skill and the i3 was keeping up with her with lightening quick steering and a chassis that likes to dance.  The i3 was definitely in its element here.  Erin and I both said…wow.
That's the Chase Vehicle
That’s the chase vehicle – a Mercedes-Benz AMG ML63….the i3 had no trouble staying ahead of it
Turning radius
The i3 basically turns in on itself.  This is one sharp turning radius, take a look at 24 seconds into the video.  We were actually trying to get the i3 to do doughnuts, but the computer would not let the rear brake loose, still, you can see how it held and how sharp we were turning….about 27 times in a row.
In a word….wow!  We did a number of hard braking  shoots where we would be rolling along at 30 or so MPH and Erin would slam on the brakes…my eyeballs popped out with my brain following.  This car really does stop on a dime, we did this a few times and the brakes never faded.   In fact, the first time Erin slammed on the brakes it caught her by surprise, we did not expect it to stop that quickly, this car can stop!  This just might be the best braking street legal BMW out there.  We noticed no difference with the REx.
Ride quality
BMW has nailed it, of course this was a track and it was smooth but we hit those rumble strips regularly and fast.  The i3 never shuddered, it just soaked them up while still holding the track with composure.   It is one thing I noticed right away, the i3 ride is not punishing but it is extremely composed.   I’ve been driving my ActiveE for nearly 2 years and I do find the ride firm and a bit tiring after awhile but not the i3.  We even had an opportunity to have a full car, 4 adults, with gear inside, the i3 managed it well, never bottomed out or felt floatie.  This truly is an everyday comfortable driver that is athletic.
Another wow, we had 2 cars to play with and we were on the track for nearly 10hrs.  The cars never complained, they came and left with the same tires, not a single creek or rattle and believe me when I say both cars were pushed to the edge time after time.  The i3 has no B pillar on either side….it does not need them.
The i3 is quick, probably the quickest street EV other than Tesla that is available.  It has basically the same power as the ActiveE, 170hp and 184 ft lbs torque but it is pushing over 1,000 pounds less.  The i3 is quicker at everything and very refined, power delivery is amazingly smooth and that’s saying a lot since EVs are inherently smooth.   The i3 also keeps up its acceleration all the way to top speed, around 90.  There is also a cool ‘Sail’ feature where basically there is a neutral spot between acceleration and regen where you can coast.  Erin did it at around 80mph a few times.
I was very impressed with how both cars kept taking the punishment being delivered to them.  They never faltered and were consistently comfortable.
Other Than 110 Chargers in the PIts - We Had Some Portable Charger
Other Than 110 Chargers in the Pits – We Had Some Portable Chargers
The regen of the i3 is much more refined then the ActiveE is, more linear.   When I drove I did not really get a chance to try it myself and to be honest we never slowed down enough to experience it.
Other than the bits I was grabbing for dear life I did get a close look, mostly because my face or body was plastered on different areas of the car so I can confirm there are lots of soft touches in the i3.  This is a very high quality interior.   The i3 feels much bigger inside that you would expect and outward visibility is excellent all around.  The EV is quiet even at high speed, while cruising along at 90 the wind was not that bad….I never had to raise my voice to speak to Erin….well maybe when I was screaming in fear.
In the wet
Now this was pretty interesting.  The goal was to get the i3 to drift through water, no matter how hard Erin tried the i3 would not keep a sustained slide.  The anti-skid computer electronics kept the car in check even when flying into a puddle at high speed….is this a bad thing…not at all, this is a safety feature.  The i3 maintains control.
Well basically we killed it, none to speak of.  The i3 had its ‘juice’ pedal mashed to the floor most of the time so it was impossible to tell what range we were getting, however with that said, I was able to see how efficient the regen was.  It was amazingly efficient, now I’m comparing to the ActiveE but just a bit of a roll down a hill and the i3 had some juice back, a few more rolls and we had even more.  For those know even a 1% difference is huge when you are trying to get home.  It looks like the i3 will have some very effective regen.
Erin and I After Our Awesome Day...The i3 Truly Impress Us Both
Erin and I After Our Awesome Day…The i3 Truly Impressed Us Both
So what was the REx like?
We had a pre-production REx version so it still needed some software programming but it works.  The little engine kicked on automatically with around 5 miles left of range, once it got us up to a few more miles it turned off, it was pretty quick, it pumps energy into the battery fast.   We had the chance to whip it around the track and it felt just as fast and just as planted.  Erin said she thought it felt a little better balanced…..all I know is it stayed on the track and I was extremely happy about that.
Summing it Up
I finally got my chance to drive the i3, it was a quick run but I got to feel it’s handling and acceleration.  The i3 is worlds ahead of the ActiveE.  I was really impressed, for me driving an EV is about performance and the eco part is the bonus, the i3 nails them both.
This was an absolutely amazing experience, being that this was my first true track experience, that alone was cool enough, but that it was in the i3 and with a professional race car driver that had never driven an EV before made it all the more fantastic.  As EVers, we always want to give EV newbies seat time for that ‘A ha’ moment but the opportunity to get a professional race car driver into one and watch her expressions as she clearly enjoyed the car was icing on the cake.
I’m sure you are wondering how does it compare to other EVs? It does not compare, it’s a whole different type of machine.
Did Erin really push the i3 to the edge…without a doubt…yes.  What you see in the video is not all out, there is more to come.  In the beginning she was holding back a bit, maybe giving me a chance to recover from shock, but eventually she opened it up, game face on, all business, and we were flying…literally…we caught some air.  We once went off the track into the grass but the i3 held the line and just tip toed over the blades of green and back onto the track.  There were a number of times I really thought we were headed for a guard rail or into the woods but Erin and the i3 just took it in stride….oh and the seats were comfy too, even though I was only in them half of the time.
There are some sounds of what appears to be tires squealing in the video….that is probably me.
Stay tuned…there’s more to come of this experience in the future
Soon To Be a Collectible?
Soon To Be a Collectible?

Friday, October 11, 2013

EVs and Yoga - Of Course

 Even with the drizzle in the air we had decent foot traffic

The other weekend the New Jersey Electric Auto Association joined in on a wellness event called Wellness: Mo-Town.  The idea for us was to show our cars to an audience that was not there to see EVs or talk green, they were there for health and wellness, I for one feel EVs are all about both so this was a perfect venue.

As luck would have it the weather on that day was foggy with drizzle, but that did not stop us from bringing our EVs and talking with the attendees.

Yoga was well under way (Photo by Kevin Coughlin)

I found that the folks that came by to talk with us were truly interested in EVs and not at all hesitant to speak with us.  Whether it was a pure EV or extended range like a VOLT they were very interested in one as their next car.  Of course we ran into a couple of those who just don't want to get it but otherwise the majority of our visitors were keen on the idea and were curious how we got along with them.  We of course were more than happy to tell them how much we loved driving an EV and how much sense it made.  Many of the visitors had families with them and were immediately drawn to the two Honda Fit EVs especially the one with the roof box and two child seats in the made an EV very real for them.  

Overall a good crowd and the right crowd, a few were now going to check EVs out at their dealer, always good.  The event was a little lighter than expected due to the weather but our section got pretty busy.  Oh, and not once was I asked if I worked for BMW, a first!   

We were even picked up in Morristown Green.  Check it out to see us and the rest of the event

Zero S, Tesla Roadster, BMW ActiveE, 2 Honda Fit EVs

The Ford Focus EV joined us a bit later....all the way up front

Ben conducting an interview with Morristown Green

The Fit EVs are always a hit with families

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Most Rewarding 25,000 Miles I've Ever Traveled

I recently rolled past the 25,000 mile mark and had time to reflect about what I thought of my ActiveE and driving an EV.  After a year and a half, simply, I'm loving it!!

So many thoughts and words come to mind but I have to say it is the overall experience, it just feels right.  I currently drive 80 miles round trip daily and I'm not dreading it.  I look forward to hopping into my ActiveE and driving, I enjoy taking longer routes home, if only there were some public charging stations along my route I'd drive a little extra.

People coming up to the car and asking about it never gets old and showing the car off at events is awesome.  Speaking of events this has been a very busy summer for them, nearly one event after another and its not over.  How much do I enjoy showing the car and talking and spreading EV luv....see below....

Long Valley NJ Green Festival

 Prepping for the event

I eventually squeezed my up into the action on the grass - much better.  Nobody heard me sneak in

Cars and Croissants - Chatham NJ

 A bit of red here

Always fun to park adjacent to a classic

Cars and Coffee - Ridgewood NJ

I was their first EV, great turn out.  That's a pre-production M6 Gran Coupe next to me...good to know peeps at BMW

Tesla Owners Club Meet-Up - Paramus NJ

 Right after Cars and Coffee I rolled on down and crashed the Tesla Users Meet-up - Well...I was invited

 Nice to get attention, we don't compete - all EVs are amazing and compliment each other - this gave folks a chance to see other EVs that are on the road or coming and talk shop. 

These Model Ss look like they are going to take a bite out of my rear

Not staged...we really had to push an ICE vehicle for a rolling start at the Tesla Meet-up - nice ZR1 though 

Getting a boost at Bergen Community College before my next adventure 

Cars and Croissants - Hacklebarney State Park

On the way to Cars and Croissants Hacklebarney Park, Long Valley  - was hoping to recruit this guy to join dice 

We had 2 Honda Fit EVs join us - awesome 

A very good turn out and 4 EVs in total 

This is really a great event, all cars welcome

We are usually the last to leave 

Offered my Fit EV friend a boost before he headed home - wow these Fit EVs charge fast!

NJEAA SmartED Ride and Drive - Wagner Farms

A full review of this event can be found at InsideEVs

We had two SmartEDs (Electric Drives) to toss around

 We brought a few other EVs show up - Mitsubishi iMiEV, Tesla Roadster, Tesla Model S, Ford Focus EV, BMW ActiveE and the Chevy VOLT

 This was a fun little EV - very stable

Something you don't see very often - an EV chasing other EVs

Cars and Croissants - Chatham NJ

Forming our EV row - a SmartED joined us

 The Honda Fit EV always draws attention

 The SmartED was the crowd favorite

Father's Day Cars and Croissants - Summit NJ

The biggest Cars and Croissants to date - 500 cars

Yes that really is a potato and a few visitors really thought we got a boost

 We had a lot full of EVs - 2 Tesla Roadsters, 1 Tesla Model S, 1 BMW ActiveE, 1 Honda Fit EV, 1 Nissan LEAF, 1 Chevy VOLT, 1 Prius Plug-in and 1 Zero S motorcycle

 Group shot

Metuchen Cruise Night

 On main street - joined by a Nissan LEAF and a Zero S motorcycle

The ActiveE was very popular

Monday, June 3, 2013

Charge Up and Eat Up

Ever wondered what restaurants there are that have EVSEs for customer use?  It would be so convenient to be able to get a bite to eat while you charge up your EV in an EV friendly place.  Unless you already know of those places you are probably out of luck since the EVSE locator apps don't let you search by business category.

I figured I will do something about it, I'll build a map listing all the restaurants or food places that installed EVSEs for their customers.

The qualifications are pretty simple.  I'm looking for restaurants that installed EVSEs specifically for their customers.  EVSEs near a restaurant that the restaurant owner/management did not install don't count.  Hotels with restaurants count as long as the customer can plug in and eat but not have to stay the night. With that said I will also be including chains and franchises, specific locations, so if a McDonalds has an EVSE for customers to use it counts.

I'd like to call upon the EV community to help me populate the map.  Please submit locations you know of to myactivee(@)gmail(.)com (delete brackets) or post them in the comments section.

Please include the business name, full address, website and phone number if you have it, plus, any other details you think may help like where the EVSE is located.  I will verify each submission to be sure they have a working EVSE and it is for customers as well as what kind of EVSE it is and what fees if any.

If all looks good I'll add it to the map which you can find HERE (last updated 6.21.13)

I'm using Google Maps to plot the locations

Thanks in advance for the help....check back often for updates.

Since I live in NJ let me share the three that are here.

Nauna's Bella Casa
148 Valley Rd, Montclair, NJ

Centrally located and within 15 miles of NYC as well as easy access to other parts of Northern NJ is Nauna's.  Tom Moloughney, owner and friend on mine as well as a passionate EV advocate (he drives an ActiveE) installed two Level 2 chargers in his restaurant parking lot.  You will find one from ChargePoint and one from Ecotality (Blink).  There is also a bike rack.

Juicing up at Nauna's

This is a very busy EV location and you will often see another EV charging up there.  When you go in ask for Tom, you will have a great EV conversation and get additional inside scoops on the industry, don't forget to visit his blog here

Restaurant Details:
Note: Their calzones are huge and the staff extremely friendly. 

EVSE details:
  • Two marked parking spots near the front entrance. Pull into parking lot and turn to your right.  The ChargePoint is on your right and the Blink is on your left, both at the end of lot.  
  • The ChargePoint is a dedicated EV space, the Blink is not.  If both EV spots are taken and you need a boost go inside and ask for Tom.  If he is there he can help you out.
  • ChargePoint Level 2 and Level 1 - ChargePoint Network card required - Charging is free
  • Ecotality (Blink) Level 2 - Blink Membership card required - there is a $1 fee per hour to charge

Mrs Riley's Publik House
4-6 Main St, High Bridge, NJ 08829

In the Western part of NJ along Rt. 78 is Mrs. Riley's which has two Level 2 chargers from AeroVironment.  John and Denise Hickson, the owners, drive a Nissan LEAF.  Mrs. Riley's was actually the first charge-up spot for Men's Health Electric Car Challenge in 2012 - a drive across the US - read about their visit here

The front of Mrs. Riley's - Chargers are around back from Center St.

4-6 Main St High Bridge, NJ 08829 is the address. My GPS can't do 4-6 so I entered 4 and was fine.

Plugged in around back

Restaurant Details:
  • Food: American
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Liquor license: Yes
Note: They have a huge selection of good beers on tap and bottled and the customers there are always excited to see another EV

EVSE details:
  • Chargers are accessible in the restaurant lot behind the building on Center St. - pull in and they are all the way to the back left.
  • Two AeroVironment Level 2 EVSEs and one Level 2.  
  • No network card needed, just plug in - free charging
  • This is a gravel lot so there are no marked EV spaces.  If blocked walk in and talk to the staff, they will help you out.

Smokey's Brick Oven Tavern
2 Vernon Crossing Rd, Vernon Township, NJ

I've have not been to Smokey's yet but it is located up in Northern NJ near the boarder of NY and has two Level 2 Chargepoint EVSEs.  According to ChargePoints site they are solar powered and from pictures I saw online they have a Nissan LEAF that they make deliveries in.

Restaurant Details:
EVSE details:
  • It looks like they have the stations near the entrance along McAfee Glenwood Road - go in and they should be to your right
  • Two ChargePoint Level 2s - ChargePoint Network card required - Charging is free

With the locations of these restaurants Northern NJ is covered.  You can shop, take a drive with the family and explore the pretty country and small towns and charge up your EV while you charge up yourself or family with a bite to eat.  I hope Southern NJ is not far behind.

All of Northern NJ is pretty much fully accessible with an EV

Not New Jersey but the owner used to drive a Mini E and now he drives a Think!

Cliff's Elbow Room
1549 Main Rd, Jamesport, NY

I have not eaten there but I see his posts on FB and the food looks amazing.  They have one Clipper Creek Level 2 EVSE.  Their website is and FB page is

A final note but a very important one.....please be responsible and use Charging Etiquette.  The restaurants listed above have all installed these chargers on their own dime and in most cases charging is free for you.  The owners believe in EVs so please be courteous and stop in for some food if you are using their chargers and say hello.