Thursday, April 16, 2015

The 2014 BMW i8, Electronaut Edition.

It’s a very, very special car for Julie and me.

The Electronaut grill location is the same as the i3.

Subtle and beautiful on the door

In the i3 this badge is located in the front under the media center
When the doors are open, everyone can see the Electronaut Edition
The EE is on the door sill of the i3 and the bottom of the door on the i8
It's like a jewel case for the Electronaut badge that you can see when walking around the car.


We have spent the past six years of our life exploring the electrification of cars and powering those cars and our home by solar energy.  While I never considered owning such a car, it became possible as our careers benefited by our efforts and our cost of powering a home and cars was greatly reduced. 

It’s our life and our experience… our walk as it were… that we celebrate with the 2014 Electronaut Edition of the BMW i8.

What is an Electronaut?  

There were several hundred drivers across the globe that field tested the BMW Mini-E and the BMW ActiveE, contributing to the development of the BMWi brand, the BMW i3, the BMW i8 and all the BMW's with plugs that will follow these first two cars.    At the release of the BMW i3, a Special Edition was made that was only available to these few drivers. A few hundred of these drivers including Julie and I transitioned to the BMW i3 Electronaut Edition.  

Naturally through the years, many events and activities, we formed a warm relationship with the leadership of the BMWi division in the USA.  As we contemplated getting the BMW i8, I asked if we could do an Electronaut Edition to memorialize our journey.  Julie and I wanted a 2014 first year Electronaut Edition of both the BMW i3 and the BMW i8.

Although no official Electronaut  program exist for the BMW i8, once an Electronaut, always an Electronaut, and BMW enthusiastically agreed to allow us to have an Electronaut Edition consisting of the exact same components of the BMW i3 Electronaut package minus the DC fast charging as this is not offered in the BMW i8.

We are grateful and thankful for the assistance of BMWi in helping us bring this special car to our home.   The BMW Electronaut accessories (available only to Electronauts) look simply stunning on the BMW i8 with the blue stitching,  blue seatbelts and frozen blue trim elements of the car.

Thank you BMW!

Here’s the long version of the story.

The year was 2008, a couple of years prior,  Julie and I had built our home in Carlsbad California, as a net zero energy home powered by solar energy.

In 2008, BMW announced that they were going to be entering the electric car world with a hand built prototype and were seeking a few hundred private individuals to become Pioneers, to become divers of the BMW Mini-E.

Our minds raced with the possibility of partnering our home and existing Solar PV system on our roof, with an electric car such as the BMW Mini-E, being charged by sunshine in the garage.  Can it work for us?   Can it work for others? I wanted to push the envelope of this new frontier, to explore what was possible in sunshine powered transportation.

Can sunshine become a viable transportation fuel? 

Today, just 6 years later, the progress has been nothing short of amazing, from a few hundred cars and just two models by two companies (Tesla Roadster and  BMW Mini-E) in 2009, to nearly 300,000 cars with plugs representing most of the major automotive brands.  Today BMWi , not yet conceived in 2009, is a worldwide recognizable brand.  Today our home with two BMW i3s is  powered 100% by sunshine.

My advocacy remains largely the same as 6 years ago.  The vast majority of Americans only know of Solar PV as a way to offset and save on home utility cost.  I know that Solar PV has its greatest value both environmentally and economically, when used as a transportation fuel.

Kind of weird that we both dressed in the colors of our car. We did not plan that!
BMW should most justifiably, be very proud of their efforts and risk taking (who else has asked several hundred everyday drivers to help drive their hand built prototypes?) culminating in their first two retail offerings, the 2014 BMW i3 and the 2014 BMW i8.   The marketplace is greatly rewarding BMWi with wonderful reviews and robust sales.  It’s a historic pivot point towards electric mobility for this 100 year old company. 

It has also been a very personal journey for the drivers, the Pioneers and Electronaut’s that preceded the launching of the BMWi retail offerings.

It’s easy to be dismissive or derisive of BMW for putting these few hundred drivers, who paid via a lease payment, to be in the driver’s seat of the prototypes.  Some called it a PR stunt, a marketing effort or a CARB compliance ploy.  Some called the drivers fanboys, cheerleaders, dupes, shills, or worse.  History now records that it wasn’t a CARB compliance ploy, but rather, it was BMW charting a logical path towards its global future and the future of transportation.

What we drivers were was pioneers and pilots, we played a crucial central role in the development of electric mobility for BMW.  I have no doubt that it was our collective positive experience as drivers that helped convince BMW to push the green button on billions of dollars of investments launching BMWi, and that we helped shape the trajectory of the company.

I have no doubt that if we as drivers had a poor experience in the Field Trial, if we had come to the realization that these cars did not work for us in our daily lives, that BMW would have ended the experiment right there and “parked it on the shelf” for another decade or so, thus a tragic repeat of the GM EV1 program.

We weren’t cannon fodder, unknowing helpless lab rats… we were pilots.   We Pioneer’s and Electronaut’s drove these incredible machines, the BMW Mini-E and the BMW ActiveE. We lived with them 7/24 for almost 5 years and out of all the individuals working in various ways to bring these cars to the marketplace, it was the pilots of these cars who had the most intimate and knowledgeable understanding of electric mobility. We were poked, prodded, researched and studied to see how these cars integrated into our households and daily life.

We followed the rules, we broke the rules, we made new rules, we went fast, slow, far, short, high and long, we stuffed our cars, we pampered, we abused, we used them in both intended and unintended ways, we broke them, they broke, we competed East Coast against West Coast, we put millions of miles on these machines collectively. We suffered, we celebrated and we bonded in this common experience that we undertook.  We partied and we met up….a lot, still do.

Like any real and healthy relationship, It was not all peaches and cream. We had fan, PCU, Darth Maul, neutral, spline, KLE, CEL, and software failures.  We even had a magical locked box with a padlock, a golden box that was to remain unopened. If opened and the genie escaped, the driver was barred from the program and teleported to a life in exile on Gilligan’s Island.

Don't even think about it!

For many of the drivers, myself included, the experienced altered our own trajectory through life. We knew of something great and we wanted to bring it forward. We became involved in legislation, politics, we demonstrated, we advocated, we held rallies and meet ups.  We EVangelized.

So our individual history as pilots of these great cars that preceded BMWi, is equally as important to us as BMW’s corporate history.

It’s not the time to fly the “Mission Accomplished” banner across the flat top of our Interstate Highways.  It is time to say “Mission Started”  We’re just at the beginning, peering out the front windshield towards an electric future. Sunny & clear days ahead.

Bravo BMW, Pioneers & Electronauts

Thank you to all who drive with a plug
Respect and admiration to those that came before.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Month 10, Back to the Future, Back Below Zero

The day in our collective technological evolution is here when you can live in a home and drive two cars typical mileage with no utility cost and no gasoline cost.  All powered by the sunshine harvested on the roof of the home.

More importantly you can do so at 15% the overall cost as compared to utility supplied electricity, and gasoline purchased at the gas station.  With this emission free combination, you can reduce your overall GHG emissions from 40 tons per year per household to two or three tons per year.

The info chart that the Koch Brothers don't want you to see.

It’s clear to us after month 10 and once again going below the zero line (we are producing more than we are using for our home and cars) that we will end the year with credits for 9 months and cost for 3 months resulting in an annual energy credit of $650 - $700.  Our overall net usage will be around 600 kwh. 

You can see when we took a 4 day vacation away from home

It's also clear that in in the near future, batteries will hold higher densities of energy and will be less expensive, electric cars will become less expensive and go farther, and Solar PV will become less expensive and produce more electricity. 

So this is not mission accomplished and as good as it gets... but rather mission started and it will become even better in the future.

As the year unfolded it became clear that we would be driving 23,000 miles not 20,000 miles as planned, and we had a French exchange student living with us for several months. A few other anomalies in the year led to higher usage than anticipated.  These extra miles and extra persons will in all likelihood push us just slightly in the plus category for overall energy usage for the year.  Life is a grand adventure and unpredictable.

Still two months to go so we will see :)  Feeling awesome!


For the last several years we have been a two EV family and we have not used any gasoline in our day-to-day lives.  However, the rest of our transportation system is not at the same place we are, so when we vacation three or four weeks a year, we are using gas. 

Planes, trains, boats, buses and car rentals we take when on vacation and when we do we are burning fossil fuels.   During the past several years we have taken one or two road trips a year renting or swapping cars with a family member.

BMW i8 in the house!

It’s rather like a dream, but this month we took delivery of our third car, the BMW i8.  Yes it uses gas and yes we have taken it on an epic road trip across the Southwest during a vacation. This is no different than any previous years road trip except for the i8 is a plug in hybrid with better gas milage.

For the remainder of the year the i8 will be a weekend car with the i3 as my daily driver.  In a few weeks I’ll post about why we bought a BMW i8.

Sunshine is a transportation fuel.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Trippin' in the BMW i8

Road trippin' in a BMW i8.

rolling updates throughout the trip. 

Pardon the spelling and pardon the grammar, but we're going fast!

Every year, Julie and I try to take a week long road trip connecting with great places and great people across the country.

Typically the past five years driving all electric cars,  we would trade our electric car with a family member and drive their gas car for a long trip or, we would rent a car for these long vacations.

This year, we drive our new BMW i8 on an epic road trip to some of the most picturesque scenery in the American Southwest.

Friday March 6th,

Packing.  Two "i" bags, a camera, a tech case with two laptops and an ipad plus assorted cords and one small carry on. The two "i" bags fit perfectly in the rear storage area under the parcel hatch.  The rest of the gear, on the passenger side rear behind the front seat.

Day one, 7.5 hours in the i8 driving 450 miles from Carlsbad Ca, to Sedona Arizona.   Average speed 80 mph,  32mpg, significantly above the EPA rating of 28.   The i8 is a super comfortable grand touring car with very agreeable seats, soft and comfortable riding in comfort mode across the desert.

Funny Story,  Pull up to the border patrol check point, the office ask if I could launch it off the line so he could see what it could do.   This is a law enforcement officer asking me to be a hooligan and drive fast.  It's not going to be a normal road trip.  I left the line in silent electric mode with Julie laughing! I had his permission to be Michael Schumacher and I choose to be an electronaut.  Julie says I should of punched it in sport mode.

On the way to Yuma, Julie leans over and snaps a pic of the HUD.  Speed, cruise control and navigation pictured.

When you open the gull wing doors of the BMW i8,  it's like opening an invitation to conversations about the future. Gas stations and Starbucks, empty out to come see the car.

A sweet little 5 year old girl ask "Are you from the future"  we respond by saying the future is here and you are looking at it.  Big smile and love from the little girl.

Dang, that really sucks big time...  Huge dried dirt clods come off of the SUV in front of us, bounce on the road...splatters across the front of our car and windshield.    A couple of very small pits in the windshield and a small nick in the drivers side mirror. Should buff out.

Pit stop at BMW dealership in Phoenix to wash the car (lots of bugs) Julie and I have lunch at the nearby irish pub while dozens at the dealership come out to look at a dirty car.  

It finally gets hand-washed, thanks BMW of Phoenix!  


Sedona.  Amazingly beautiful place.  We stop for a photo of the BMW i8 and the Red Rocks.  We're not alone as there are about two dozen other photog's getting pictures of the red rocks at sunset. You guessed it, soon they are all taking pictures of the BMW i8 with the rocks in the background as well.  It was like a super model arrived on the catwalk and they were all potogs for a glamour magazine. Julie says we need to leave as we are meeting our daughter and her boyfriend in Sedona :) 

The BMW i8 is safely put to bed at the Los Abrigados Resort.
Shopping and dinner at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts
Rest for tomorrows adventures.....

Saturday March 7th,

Special vehicles for special uses.

8:00 am and we take the i8 to downtown Sedona for a two hour Red Rock Jeep tour.
Even though the i8 is all wheel drive, probably best to use the Jeep off road!

Now on to driving up through picturesque Oak Creek Canyon on the way to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. Will be driving that stretch in sport mode :) 

Everywhere you go the i8 draws a crowd and you need to plan for time to talk to folks.

I had worked up a full complement of EV range by driving up Oak Creek Canyon in sport mode, carving up 15 miles of twistie's in the most epic of  driving experiences.  The snow was melting so the road was a combination of wet and dry. The i8 in all wheel drive sport mode just ate it up absolutely planted ...ear to ear grin.

On the 50 mile drive drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, the drive was desolate and super quiet.   I put it in EV mode for about 20 miles and the experience was one of soaring.  The only noise was from the wind passing over the cockpit.  The road was asphalt and in exceptional condition, no road noise at all.

Gliding, 20+ miles with no noise or music, only the sound of the wind.

On this drive, at one of our stops, we met a very famous automotive designer with one of his collectable cars :) Loved the 20 inch rims!

The gull wing doors of the BMW i8 make beautiful picture frames.

She is admiring the curves :)

620 miles, 31mpg.  Loving the i8 and appreciating the all wheel drive and 370 horses driving up Oak Creek Canyon as well as the silence of electric drive in desolate spaces.

A glider or a jet fighter, your choice.

Car is put away for the night at the El Tovar Hotel.  Tomorrow we drive the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Sunday March 8th,

The heated seats and preconditioning were put to great use this morning as we left the El Tovar to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon.
Temperature was 24 degrees.  Walking to the car in below freezing weather and then getting in a prewarmed car is a special treat :)

Awe inspiring morning, just wonderful cruising the south rim in the BMW i8 stopping at several spots for viewing. Breakfast at the El Tovar following the mornings outing.

The rear seats  (where we are storing half our gear) are surprisingly, very easy to get to.  Much easier than in the ActiveE.   In the ActiveE, the seats would not stay in the folded forward position so you always had to use a hand or other body part to keep the seats forward while at the same time unloading.  In the BMW i8, the doors are longer thus more access to the back, and the seats stay folded forward.

It's been a nice surprise, the ease of use of the back seat area.

We're hitting the road again on a 5 hour drive east to the Acoma Pueblo.   The i8 is doing great and is just a wonderful road-trip car. Plenty of space with gear for two.

What a great day road tripping in the BMW i8, Julie took the wheel for most of the drive.  We left the Grand Canyon at 11am and decided to take a more leisurely pace filled with historic places between the Grand Canyon and the Acoma Pueblo.  What a magical and blessed 8 hours on one of the greatest roads in the world.

"Standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine site to see, it's a girl oh my in a BMW i, slowing down to take a look at me"  Cmon Baby, take it easy"

Do you think Jackson Brown would mind the changed lyrics?

Hwy 40 through Arizona and New Mexico replaced Route 66 known as "The Mother Road."  

Historic Route 66 meets the BMW i8, a drivers paradise.

Gallup New Mexico,

We forgot Winona,

And so did Kodak... poor Kodak...Technology moves on for both cameras and cars.

The Painted Desert,  something wonderful about the combination of nature and the BMW i8.

The Petrified Forrest and TeePee formations.

After a great day beginning before sunset on the rim of the Grand Canyon, we arrived at the Sky City Hotel and Casino in Acoma New Mexico at 8pm.  We're at 1024 miles for the trip and averaging 31mpg.   There is a surprising amount of electricity being generated by braking and coasting as well as our occasional flick to the left, sport mode driving, more on that later.

The i8 is tucked away for the night.

Tomorrow, we look for a car wash and then we visit the oldest city in America, the Acoma Pueblo.  After that we begin the two day trek home.

During the two day drive, I'll have lots of time to reflect on driving notes, likes and dislikes (the seatbelts are beautiful but watch out for seatbelt burns on the neck if you are a tall guy.) This and other BMW i related thoughts. far, the trip of a lifetime!

Monday March 10th,

Monday's itinerary began with a morning trip to the Acoma Pueblo, America's oldest continually inhabited city at over 1000 years old.

After the visit and lunch it was time to start heading home, and here is where the day got really interesting.

What was supposed to be a 6-10 hour drive to somewhere around Kingman Arizona turned into a "hey honey, lets go spend the night on the Vegas strip"  Next stop, Vegas please!

The complete flexibility of the BMW i8  to go anywhere at anytime, without a plan, on a whim,  allowed us go to Vegas.

What an amazing light show outside the car!  Inside the BMW i8 there is also an amazing light show going on. Inspired by the strip we begin playing with the cabin lights of the i8.   There are three color settings,  White, blue and orange, with the intensity and brightness selected by the user.  This light experience was also on the BMW Mini-E and the drivers loved it.   Just a beautiful and fun cabin to be driving around the Southwest.

About the trip stats to date.

1500 miles at 31.4 mpg.

Yes, a lot of cars can road trip America's great sights getting 31+mpg...that alone does not distinguish the BMW i8 over other cars.

Yes, a rare few cars can go 0-60 in 3.6 seconds...that alone does not set the i8 apart

Yes, a few cars can drive electric only for shorter daily commutes to work and back, as well as for around town and out for dinner...that alone does not set the i8 apart.

Yes, some cars are comfortable road touring cars refined in luxury, cradling their owners with an incredibly vibration and road noise free cabin at 85 mph... that does not set the i8 apart.

Yes, some cars are just so beautiful, they can draw from the observer and the driver alike, an emotional response of lust and desire... that does not set the i8 apart.

Yes, some cars can drive like a beast from hell,  hurling their occupants around the cabin, to the back of their seats with great force, in full throated roar with a voice that seams to challenge the asphalt in a "I'm gonna kick your butt" mentality, and do so lap after lap at the track...that does not set the i8 apart.

Yes, some cars are made out of carbon fiber and feature gull wing doors... that does not set the i8 apart.

Yes, some cars are both a machine to get from point A to point B, as well as a work of industrial artistry...that alone does not set the i8 apart.
Yes, some cars are all wheel drive, combining the horsepower and torque of a gasoline engine and electric motor...that alone does not set the i8 apart. 

What sets the BMW i8 apart....?

What sets the BMW i8 apart, what makes it in this owners opinion, one of the greatest values in the automotive world, is that is does all of the above in an amazing combination of qualities heretofore unseen.

Sometimes  Bocelli's on the Harmon Kardon, soothing when driving around the spiritual vortexes of Sedona in electric mode.  Sometimes it's Pink, swearing at you though the speakers as you flick the lever into beast mode and attack the twisty's.

Never have I seen a car with such a dynamic range of personalities as the BMW i8.  It has been described by many journalist as having twin personalities; being able to drive in stealth mode as well as being driven as a supercar.

I say it has dynamic wide ranging personalities and capabilities.

Truly an amazing car and worthy of it's premium price.

As a two EV owner the past five years with no gasoline cars in the family,  I guess you could say this trip is a little over the top with it's gasoline use.  Perhaps overcompensating for 5 years of range limitations!

It is, but it also is a reminder that driving and exploring this great country of ours, connecting with people from all walks of life is very enjoyable and a part of the driving experience.   We're getting close to being able to do that in an all electric fashion and I look forward to being able to do so in a package like the i8 in the future.

We are witnessing the early stages of most amazing transition in the history of transportation.

Julie and I are blessed, have worked very hard, and made the choices required to to be able to have BMW i3's as our daily drivers racking up over 20,000 miles a year with electricity provided by sunshine.

It is an indulgence and special treat to also own the BMW i8 for special trips such as this.

We realize our good fortune and we share it with our community robustly.

There is room in life for the indulgences, emotions and passions that when in balance with other life values, makes life so worth living.

The last 5 hour drive from Vegas to home begins in one hour.

Tuesday March 10th,

There are many unexpected and unscripted moments on a trip like ours.  Some of us are trip planners and plan every detail and every hour, some of us are adventurers and pioneers enjoying the spontaneous that emerges when in the moment wherever that might take you.

I ride with the latter :)

Our trip today was supposed to be anticlimactic, a mundane 5 hour jaunt to home from Las Vegas to Carlsbad.

Julie is Rockin' the BMW i3 jersey!

What it turned out to be in reality was the perfect "frame" for the meaning of the trip.  I'll try to explain.

Julie and I stopped half way at Calico ghost-town.  This abandon ghost-town brought into sharp focus how disruptive change can be.  In Calico,  a rare and valuable commodity, silver, was no longer profitable to mine and the town folded up.

Dozens of visitors to Calico posed with the i8. Plan for extra time!
This ghost-town, along with the Kodak billboard earlier in the post, brings truth to the fact that our world is forever in a state of change advancing ever forward. Old technology and commodities that were once the pinnacle of the world can crumble in the face of disruptive change.

BMW and other automakers are increasingly understanding that the world of transportation is changing.

What was one day a valuable commodity,  silver or oil,  could on some future day, be a relic and unprofitable to produce or extract.

Electric mobility is here. It is already present in great degree in our cities and dense population centers.  In the near future,  it will also be prevalent in all parts of this country.

When that day comes and come it will,  new ghost-towns  will emerge and stalwart companies similar to kodak but in the automotive space, will cease to exist.

In this near future, it's not all bleak for future ghost-towns similar to Calico.

Adaptation and flexibility for cities is key. In today's Calico, they have turned their past into a valuable tourist attraction and their vision for their present, towards solar energy.

It's as if the ghost-town expended of its resource and dead, has reemerged with a new resource and a new energy from the sun.

Calico proves, you can un-ghost a city.

What's the future for you and for the city you live in...

Ghost-town or adaptation towards the future?

Trip Summary, 

Four States in four days,  California, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.  1900 miles on the open road in the BMW i8 discovering the Great American Southwest, connecting with the places and people in this great corner of our country.

In large part, our trip was on what is a potion of Historic Route 66 known as Interstate 40 today.

Sedona, Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Flagstaff, (we did not forget) Winona, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Winslow Arizona, Gallup New Mexico, Acoma Pueblo, Las Vegas, Kingman, Barstow, Calico and San Bernardino...

Charles Kuralt of CBS fame, once said,

"Thanks to the great Interstate transportation system it is now possible to drive from one end of the country to the other, without seeing a thing"    Our goal was to get off the path of "Generica" and onto the path of "Authentic" communities, their history and people.

One day, and it's a bucket list dream, but I would love to be able to take a couple of months with Julie and drive the whole length to Chicago exploring all the treasures and towns along the way.

America is a great country with great people, and it's Mother Road is Historic Route 66.

The BMW i8 was a dream to drive, a beautiful Grand Touring sports car.  I could add several more paragraphs of platitudes for the i8, but suffice it to say, along with the previous comments of this post as prelude...

We had a trip of a lifetime in a truly great car. The i8 is safely back in it's garage in Carlsbad.

The future of the automobile as we transition to electric, is something to look forward to.

Que up Nat King Cole,  America is beautiful and we have a very bright future ahead.

Thanks for reading and riding shotgun on this epic adventure.