It’s field-trip time. We held this month’s meeting at Passport BMW in Marlow Heights, MD. Unfortunately, the dealership only had a corporate-owned display model of the new i3, and headquarters says it can’t be test-driven. Test-drive i3s with the range-extender engine (“REx”) were due the next day, held up at port by final stickering of the hybrid variant. (Full-BEV i3s are already in customer hands.) Still, the club checked out the elegant interior and surprising back seat.
We were met by Sean, Passport’s i3 point man. After plenty of tire-kicking, we kicked off the meeting proper at 7:12. General Manager Joe welcomed us and gave a quick brief… we then gave him an earful that was anything but brief. Passport, like other dealers branching out from gassers, is willing to learn, and admitted “everything’s going to have to evolve.” Even their body shop is onboard. Club members shared their war stories of clueless or simply inexperienced dealers, and some outright haters. This is why Tesla starts their own showrooms. We also offered our suggestions for talking to both the current, educated EV base, and the coming buyers who haven’t done their own research. Passport was quite receptive to all this, in addition to their hospitality.
Phan from BMW Corporate then gave a fuller presentation. Although the i3 can out-handle a MINI and beat every other BMW, 0-30 (yes, EVERY other), it’s not some design exercise or track-day ringer. It’s a fully-fleshed-out system for the future, with the materials and factories also engineered for sustainability. The Leipzig factory is powered by wind; the cloth fiber is harvested from what was considered a weed. That it’s a blast on track day is then an added bonus; yes, it’s a real BMW. Phan has been to BMW track events around the country, and shared the “EV grin” with folks accustomed to ICE lag, backlash, and windup, not instant EV torque. And this is all before the i8.
There were also numerous questions and issues answered, such as 75 mph capability on REx gneration, giving effectively infinite range as long as you keep filling the little tank. Owners will get varying access to BMW’s ChargeNow, DriveNow, and ParkNow networks. (The claim’s that the i3 is designed not to need charging every day; I suspect that’s a typical German day, not an Interstate day.) Plus, loaner access for road trips- because filling the little tank repeatedly is not the point. A partner company will also take old batteries, considered EV-degraded at 70% capacity, and integrate them with solar farms. There’s also a new “lease” offer- really, I couldn’t possibly include all the interesting tidbits in this post. This includes some really wonky engineering topics covered, like Euro-spec versus the US. You truly had to be there.
Finally, 90 minutes later, we dealt with other club business. The EV Grand Prix was a success this year, and in general. After demonstrating two such productions, plus a trip to the Nationals, we believe it is sustainable long-term. We’ve now got lessons learned, and some long-term capital. The same is true for the Junior Solar Sprints. Entrants are growing, and possibly going to Nationals. Friendship School is starting a solar club.
The Science and Engineering Festival/SDX also went well; they actually filled more of the DC Convention Center than the Auto Shows- even hallway space got taken. The large crowds showed good responses; our Tesla and a nearby college’s table were good draws, plus a Walmart hybrid freight truck.
The Olney Day parade went well, with representation consisting of a Vectrix scooter, Think, Tesla Roadster and S, and Volt. The upcoming Crystal City Fathers’ Day Show was a great draw last year; the organizers actually sought us to come back with as much as we can show. It needs volunteers this year, and yes has access to charging.
Near Crystal City, Scott mentioned the Patent and Trademark Office is planning employee charging, not unlike the NIH’s pilot program.
Bob noted slow progress on legislation for Federal workplace charging in general, and an interesting non-work place. Rehoboth’s city council wanted two charging spots for tourists, before the mayor had nixed it. Bob countered all his arguments, and proposed slightly higher parking meter rates in those two spots to actually make it profitable (not that electricity is expensive anyway).
In other EVents, our president Charlie is throwing a birthday party, while Chip’s son needs leukemia treatments. The club discussed donations and Red Cross blood accounts, to offset his withdrawals. Doug from Goddard Space Flight Center mentioned their Earth Day event, with a Tesla, 2 Leafs, a Smart ED, and a conversion; the Center is starting an EV club for its employees.
The meeting finally broke at 9:25- phew!