I remember the evening of March 31st, 2008, rather well. My aunt, who lives in Atlanta, was out to visit and had brought with her, under my instruction, a new Apple iPhone. At the time, just called iPhone (3G wasn’t even around yet), I was one of a few people in South Africa who wanted to be first to try this new product. As much as it was about an incredible phone, it was also, realising in years to come, part of my personality to buy and experiment with new and technologically advanced products, before they work their way onto main street. A week later, I bought Apple shares at $20. They’re now at $124, largely because of the earnings made on iPhone that’s now prolific the world over.
In the way iPhone revolutionised the smartphone, BMW is doing for electric cars. Their long awaited BMW i3 and i8 models are now available for purchase in South Africa, and last week I was given one to use for the week and try out. Before driving out of the parkade, I was given an interior and exterior tour of the highlights of the vehicle. Being a design engineer, the technology, materials and science that’s gone into producing the vehicle are quite amazing. Bio-materials from plants are used in the interior finishing, together with a full carbon-fibre chassis. Connected Drive synced without hassle to my phone, bringing through my contacts, music, messages and phone functionality. I learnt that even the source of electricity used in manufacturing the car in Liepzig comes from wind and solar power.
Understanding whether the car is on or off took a bit of learning – it’s strange to not have the idling vibration post ignition sequence. But once the car is on the road, it’s incredibly quick. Standstill to 60km/h in four seconds, without a noticeable changing of gears is quite a feat. And as soon as your foot comes off the accelerator, the regenerative braking system kicks in and starts charging the batteries. The engineers have got the deceleration just right that it doesn’t coast, nor does it jerk to a halt. Once mastered, you rarely use your brake at all.
At home, it’s very easy to put the car on charge via its charging kit that plugs into a regular three pin wall socket. It takes about 8 hours to charge fully. The thought of never having to go to a fuel station again is not only a massive cost saving, but also very convenient. I haven’t done the maths yet on the cost of the energy to recharge the BMW i3 versus cost of fuel and services, but am sure that in time this will prove very efficient.
In all – I really am impressed with BMW. Ive’ never been a BMW fan, and never owned on, but that might change. If you’d like to book a test drive, click here. To visit the microsite, click here. If you can’t afford one, perhaps just buy the shares in the meanwhile – they’re already up 37% YTD..