More to the BMW i3s than just battery size

When the subject of electric cars comes up, it’s not a case of addressing the elephant in the room because this ellie is way bigger than the room and pretty much fills up the whole house.

An electric car’s range is about the only thing any onlooker seems to be interested in, which leads them to their most popular question: “What do you do during load shedding?”

That was the theme surrounding our week with a BMW i3s recently. This range-topping model was last year added to BMW’s first fully electric offering the i3. Both are equipped with the 120Ah battery, but the i3s produces 135kW/270Nm as suppose to the i3’s 125kW/250Nm.

Both are available with a range extender, which is a generator kicking in to charge to the battery once it’s flat and adds over R80k to the price. The range and charging questions are fair taken into account South Africa is still virgin electric car territory with much to learn about the subject. By the way, the first answer is simple, as both models have a claimed range of 260km. But like is the case in any car with a combustible engine, in real life the actual numbers are never as good as they are claimed to be.

Addressing load shedding is tricky, but the mind-set around electric cars is to top up your battery instead of running it empty before you fill up like in the case of a fuel-driven vehicle. And if you have the BMW i Wallsocket installed at your home chances are slim you won’t be able to charge your car somewhere in the time from when you come home until you leave for work the next morning even if load shedding does affect you during the night.

If you do travel a lot during the day, you also have the option to fast charge in 45 minutes at designated charging stations throughout Gauteng and on national roads. But the nitty gritty aside, the i3s is very nippy as the 0 to 100km/h sprint time of under seven seconds will indicate.

It’s overall a great ride requiring minimum braking from the driver as once you take your foot off the accelerator the car stores the kinetic energy to the battery. And the fresh interior look-and-feel available in endless colour schemes feels like something from the future. And with very little wear on brake pads, few moving parts to service and with charging costs weighing in at around a fifth of the petrol price – not to mention being kind to trees – the i3s makes a lot of sense Just a pity the price tag of R716 900 puts it out of many people’s reach.

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