Wednesday, September 16, 2015

100+ MPG In Our BMW i8

As a long time EV only family, I had to “squint and surrender” my EV only purity ethic a little bit when I indulged my passion for the breathtaking aesthetics, technology and performance of the BMW i8.  A truly once in a lifetime car.

Yes it's possible to get 100 MPG driving in the BMW i8, easy in fact for mostly local drives, but you have got to plug in.  

A month of typical driving in the BMW i8,  The MPG pegs at 99.9
If I were to guess the true MPG,  It would be around 150mpg.

This past month driving around our semi-urban, suburban home turf of Carlsbad California, our BMW i8 returned a fuel efficiency of somewhere north of 100 mpg.   I expect this will be the normal life of our i8 in the years to come with the exception of a long road trip or two annually around America in which we average around 30mpg. 

It’s an amazing world when a rocket ship from the future like the BMW i8, can return 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x the mpg of its competitive class. Trust me, almost every drive in my i8 involves a moment of two in sport mode. Sometimes as short as 3.6 seconds.  

Urban, Semi-Urban and Suburban towns and cities are where PHEV's
are a very good choice.  Driving Hwy 101 in Carlsbad Ca.

But that’s not why this drivetrain is so newsworthy.

It’s newsworthy Because BMW is populating it’s entire lineup with derivatives of this BMW i8 drivetrain.  This year, the BMW  3, 5 & 7 series along with the X5 will all be available as Plug In Hybrids using similar  drivetrains as the flagship BMW i8. In the coming years, every series and type of car produced by BMW will have a PHEV option.

Will these PHEV's work well? Will they sell well? Will they offer a substantive improvement?

Bank on it.

My experience as a BMW i8 driver, can shed some light on the practicality or lack thereof of BMW’s push to PHEV’s.

If I thought the drivetrain was a joke and the electric bits of the car was just a marketing ploy, I'd be the first to write about it.

EV drivers and EV journalist can be harsh in their response to a PHEV with a 15 -20 electric only range as something less than pure. That's wrongheaded and unfair.

As an EV driver by first choice, my experience with the BMW i8  these past nine months has demonstrated to me the great value of the PHEV architecture. I strongly believe there is a big market segment for plug in hybrids,  especially if they share the garage with a full EV. 

An EV and a PHEV make for a great garage

Make no mistake I’ll always strongly prefer an EV but having driven both, I see the value and transformational role that PHEV’s will play.  There never has been just one type of car that works for all.  EV and PHEV’s should play nice in the sandbox together, as they both transition people, some more hesitant and slow to change than others, to electric driving.

Here is what I have learned about 15-20 mile electric range PHEV’s and how this will translate to the wide range of BMW models soon to come.

  • The PHEV architecture from BMW can give all wheel drive and lots of torque off the line.  These both represent improvements to the performance DNA of BMW.
  • The PHEV architecture give broader choices to suit driving conditions and preferences. Nothing beats rolling up to a nice restaurant in stealth mode.
  • If you don't plug in, you won't get the higher MPG. 
  • You can use the supplied 110 volt charger and a normal wall plug with a PHEV. A 220 volt charger is a luxury but not a necessity.
  • There is no one MPG that can be stated, only a range.  If a BMW i8 driver keeps it in sport or comfort mode all the time and never plugs the car in to an electrical outlet, (some BMW i8 drivers are surely like this) they will get around 25-30mpg.  If the same car is plugged in every night and the majority of trips are local, the car will get over 100+mpg.   EPA average for the car is 76mpg.   But there really is no average, it all depends on how each driver uses the car.
  • As a thumb rule, take the EPA average on the Monroney label (76mpg in the BMW i8) of a 15-20 mile PHEV and divide by two as a worst case expectation and multiply by two for a best case expectation.   Weigh this against your driving needs and habits, and be honest.  The more the battery only range, the higher you can multiply the upside.
  • In urban, semi-urban, suburban neighborhoods and cities, trips tend to be on the shorter side in length.  Simply put, within a 20 mile distance, the amount of options and amenities available to a person is almost limitless and the need for long distance driving is lessened.  Our shopping, banking, work, the beach, meeting rooms for service clubs, church, theaters, trails, lagoons, and 100's of restaurants are all within 20 miles.  In these areas,  a person can expect a doubling or tripling of the MPG as compared to their gas only counterpart.   In rural or semi rural areas with longer trips this advantage is far less. 
  • It’s not only about gas mileage.  Think about this, when my BMW i8 hits 50,000 miles one day,  the gasoline engine will only have around 20,000 miles on it.  For the other 30,000 miles the engine was just cargo in an electric car.    So when a future BMW 330E is sold with 100,000 miles on the ODO, the gasoline engine may only have 40,000 miles on it, thus a far longer lifespan for that car.
  • It’s not only about gas mileage, it’s also about emissions and cleaner air in our congested cities.
You must plug in to get the higher MPG. You can use a normal plug
and the supplied 110 volt charger, 220 volt is a luxury for a PHEV.

Cruising around San Diego in a BMW i8, experiencing the performance with a left click to sport mode every now and then, enjoying the driving dynamics of a lightweight carbon fiber 2+2 sports car / touring car and doing all of this plugged into sunshine and at 100mpg is nothing short of amazing. 

PHEV’s and EV’s both have a bright future, the marketplace is split roughly 50% to 50% between the two.  Pick the right one for you and begin driving with a plug.

Of course, Chevy Volt drivers have been telling us this for years J

Robust charging infrastructure make it very easy to plug in wherever you go. 

It’s my hope that BMW in addition to PHEV's, keeps pushing the envelop of full EV’s as they have with the BMW i3, the highest efficiency rating of any car sold in the USA. 

The future of transportation is not a fork in the road where carmakers choose one path only.  It’s a future where there are more options, more types, and more ways to get to where you want to go.

Push the go pedal down hard on both EV’s and PHEV’s.

Loving our BMW i3's and the BMW i8.