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Erich UberDork
4/23/21 7:11 a.m.

A while back I decided on a BMW i3 as my next used purchase. I rarely drive more than 100 miles in a day so I could make it work without the Range Extender, as long as it was a 2017 or 2018 model with the bigger battery. Unfortunately I'm in Michigan, where battery-only i3 are nearly nonexistent - according to my dealership in Ann Arbor, they never sold a single one. 

I stalked the three main online dealers I'm aware of - CarM*x, Carvahna, and Vroom. I found that Vroom adds a $600 delivery fee to every car they sell, and their warranty and reviews aren't great. Carveena seems good, but any 2017+ i3 there sells nearly instantaneously, and prices are pretty high too - usually ~ $3000 more than competitors:

typical Carvana choices

For example while writing this post, there are five 2017+ available i3s on Carvaha - and 4 are already purchased. You can supposedly set an alert to notify you when new search results appear but I've never once gotten a notification from Carvohno. 

Carm*x had a few in stock at good prices, so I just kept checking until I found one that had the options I wanted - Giga World interior, battery only, White or Blue, and Tech package - and pounced when I found it. It was in Texas, and the nearest Carm*x to me were either Grand Rapids or Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne was a less expensive transfer (still $500) so I had it moved there, starting this process March 30th.

I got two updates over the next few weeks that my car was either being shipped or preparing to be shipped but communication was quite sparse, saying only the estimated date was the 24th of April. I had read online that patience was needed because even once it came in to the dealer, sometimes out of state transfers took time to be purchase-ready, due to paperwork and repairs.

But on the afternoon of April 21st I got a surprise call saying "Hey, your car is inspected and ready to be picked up, want to come tonight?" Fort Wayne is 2 hours away from me, and I have kids, soooo no. They said I typically would have 3 days from notification to pick it up, which seems unbelievably short considering I paid a transfer fee. Maybe you could put a deposit or something to hold it longer, but I didn't ask.

Luckily I had the 22nd off and my kids were already covered for childcare - these two things are an incredibly rare event in my life. I wasn't sure how I would get to Fort Wayne from Ann Arbor and back but I was determined to do it. 

to be continued...

calteg Dork
4/23/21 7:58 a.m.

I worked at Snarlax for quite a long time. The long distance transport was farmed out based on a bid system. We put it out on a wire  "Car Z needs to be moved from X to Y for $$$$"  Then we upped the dollar amount as the deadline approached until a transporter bit on the contract. Even then, they were very prone to delays, trucks breaking down, blowing out a tire, etc. We barely had any more information than the customer did.

Erich UberDork
4/23/21 12:35 p.m.

I had some trouble figuring out how I was going to get to Fort Wayne from Ann Arbor. It's a two hour drive. Normally I'd bribe my brother to come along with me but he's out of state at the moment, and my sister is 9 months pregnant. My friends are all at work or have kids that can't handle a 5+ hour road trip at the drop of a hat.

I considered taking an Uber actually - at $200 it was not absolutely horrid - but I didn't want to hang out with someone in a small enclosed car for 2 hours in a pandemic. Then I checked one-way rentals: Eureka! A one-way Corolla was less than $100, and the dropoff location was less than a mile to from the CarM*x. I booked it, and texted the sales guy to make sure the little Bimmer was charged for tomorrow.

The morning went off pretty well -I had arranged financing through the Credit Union so I swung by to grab a check for some of the purchase, and I was going to put $4000 down to keep monthly payments low. Man, interest rates are still pretty low! The dealer wasn't explicit about what payments they accepted, so I brought a credit card, debit card, and a personal check just in case. I texted the sales guy again "Make sure it's charged I have to be home on time to pick up the kids!" He replied that the BMW was charged overnight and it would definitely be ready to drive back (this is called foreshadowing).

The Corolla was fine, I left my Accord in the parking lot, and started the long drive through Ohio to Fort Wayne. 

What a boring drive! The freeways have all these intersections - many of the "onramps" are just a stop sign and a 90 degree turn. I'm not used to that from Michigan but Ohio does things different I guess. Probably the most excitement was seeing US-23 closed (in the opposite direction thank God) for a tractor trailer that was loaded with hay that had somehow caught fire. I managed to elude all of Ohio's finest and made it to Fort Wayne in good time, dropped off the Corolla and opened Google Maps to find my way to the dealership.

It was a 15 minute walk or a $15 15 minute Uber ride. A mile isn't far, and I'm really cheap, so I opted to walk. I set out as the snow began to lightly fall. 

Karacticus Dork
4/23/21 12:57 p.m.

Based on your foreshadowing and some of my prior experiences, I'm betting the list of (safe for work) big lies runs something like---

  • The check is in the mail
  • This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you
  • I'm from the government and I'm hear to help you
  • Your newly purchased/serviced electric car has been charged
californiamilleghia SuperDork
4/23/21 1:48 p.m.
  • Your newly purchased/serviced electric car has been charged

I bet they do not have a high speed EV charger there and had to plug it into a 110v outlet

tuna55 MegaDork
4/23/21 2:30 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:
  • Your newly purchased/serviced electric car has been charged

I bet they do not have a high speed EV charger there and had to plug it into a 110v outlet

I think an i3 would charge overnight even on 110V, depending on when "overnight" started.

GCrites80s HalfDork
4/23/21 2:40 p.m.

Let's hope the fake names for the businesses keep the sockpuppets away.

californiamilleghia SuperDork
4/23/21 2:41 p.m.

I think an i3 would charge overnight even on 110V, depending on when "overnight" started.

Overnight started in the morning because they "forgot" to plug it in ....OUCH

That is why I would own a hybrid not a full EV , because I am THAT guy that will forget to plug it in when I got home......

tuna55 MegaDork
4/23/21 3:03 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:

I think an i3 would charge overnight even on 110V, depending on when "overnight" started.

Overnight started in the morning because they "forgot" to plug it in ....OUCH

That is why I would own a hybrid not a full EV , because I am THAT guy that will forget to plug it in when I got home......

I have an 80 mile round trip, and I could theoretically forget two nights in a row and still get to work and back.

Karacticus Dork
4/23/21 3:34 p.m.
tuna55 said:
californiamilleghia said:
  • Your newly purchased/serviced electric car has been charged

I bet they do not have a high speed EV charger there and had to plug it into a 110v outlet

I think an i3 would charge overnight even on 110V, depending on when "overnight" started.

110 V plug provides less than 1500 W  (12 A at 120V) of charging.  One overnight won't get a 33kWh battery charged.   

To figure range/hr of charging, in round figures and i3 will do a nominal about 3 miles/kWh,  or just over 50 miles in 12 hours on your 12 A charger.

Erich UberDork
4/23/21 6:43 p.m.

I called up Google maps to make sure I didn't get lost walking to the dealership. As you can see from the image below, there was only one road to cross, and the giant yellow area is an indoor shopping mall. "Not bad!" I thought, working my way across the dealership next to Hurtz...

As mentioned, I live in Ann Arbor, and that's a pretty walkable town (for the Midwest, anyways).  Fort Wayne, at least this section of it, is NOT a walkable sort of town. There were sidewalks along the row of dealerships that lined this "boulevard" but they were pretty broken up and had big gaps between them.  The two roads that intersect there? About 10 lanes of traffic each, no indicated crosswalk, and of course there was no pedestrian signal either. Should I bail and call an Oober?

No, I had made my choice, so I confronted the intersection of Coliseum Blvd and Lima Road, or "the Beast" as local coroners surely call it.

I recently finished Angie Schmitt's book "Right of Way" - a very good read - and so I know that this is an unmarked (but legal!) crosswalk. I also know that this is exactly the kind of crossing where far too many poor folks with no access to a car are mowed down every year by poor roadway design and pedestrian infrastructure. Obviously you're reading this, so you know I was able to dash across while the light was red, arriving at a grassy spot that heralded the relative safety of a Buy-Here Pay-Here lot. I would very much recommend against this crossing, and I'm sure some other foolhardy souls have died in the attempt.

Catching my breath as I walked, taking a southeasterly tack towards my eventual destination, I was confronted by a mall. I couldn't help but wonder; are malls the works that Ozymandias wrote of? I certainly despair when looking upon them. The American mall is a terrible place to be if you're a pedestrian. Acres of asphalt, traversed by drivers whose only aim seems to be finding that perfect spot so they can burn as few calories as possible walking to their destination. 

You don't realize how long it takes to walk around a mall until you actually do it. (I wasn't going to go through it - I'm not THAT crazy) I've read somewhere that serendipity favors those who keep an open mind and open eyes, but there was no flora or fauna to be found in this wasteland of pavement outside of the stray dandelion or seagull. 

No, on this day I was only destined to find the Pharaoh's Fury.

Oh, and Carm*x!

Tune in for our next installment, when Erich finds out whether the Pharaoh's Fury is an ill omen or just a group of Carnies who can't read the weather forecast...

chandler UltimaDork
4/23/21 7:14 p.m.

That corner can be a beast in a car with traffic lights.

Erich UberDork
4/24/21 7:17 a.m.

As I walked into Carm*x, my salesman Johnny approached and said "oh you must be Erich!" - either it was a slow day, or I look like the kind of dope that would drive two hours to buy a used short-range electric car. We dispensed with the requisite small talk, about the snow (how 'bout that weather huh?), about the drive (how 'bout them cows huh?), and of course about the Pharaoh's Fury (how 'bout that curse of Tutankhamun huh?). Once the ritualized formalities of salesman/client had been performed (sans handshake), Johnny grabbed the fobs and went to retrieve the li'l BMW, while I waited in the lobby. I sent a quick selfie to my wife to show her I'd made it on schedule and things were going smoothly.

He pulled it into the service bay and like countless GRMers before me, I immediately settled into the habit of a detailed once-over. Focused as I was on the car, I missed one important detail - the crestfallen look on my salesman's face. The little i3 looked pretty good! The paint shined well, the tires were in decent shape, and the carbon roof was unscratched and not peeling (look for this if you ever are shopping the i3 - a peeling roof needs replacement). Beyond signs of structural damage, and looking through the suspension, there aren't too many other things to look for in an i3. 

Before handing over the fobs, Johnny cleared his throat to get my attention. My next step was to battery health next through a debug menu. This requires a full state of charge. I think you know where I'm going with this.

"Erm, well, ya know about that snow"


"Well, erm, uh. We don't get too many of these eelectric cars round here."

Uh huh?

"So uh what had happened was, the snow tripped a breaker, you know how these things are, finicky stuff. And when we plugged it in overnight, well, I guess it didn't charge up."

Oh jeez. How full is it?

"About half?" Johnny says with a wince.

Half wasn't too bad, I could probably make it to the charging station halfway home on that if I drived conservatively. I grabbed the fob and booted it up. The BMW's signature "Happy startup chimes of the Future" sounded, and a couple seconds later the dash showed me the state of charge.


"Berkeley!" I shouted.

"Now don't worry, I talked to another guy here about charging it up, and we found a Supercharger nearby and while you're signing we can take it over there and juice it up real good."

That was a good enough plan, but I warned Johnny that the i3 doesn't accept a Tesla Supercharger as far as I knew. Tesla uses a proprietary DC connection that is different from the standard that BMW and almost everyone else adopted. The Guess-O-Meter on the dash said I had about 37 miles until I absolutely had to plug in. Not enough to get to the next charger in Napoleon, Ohio. 

"It's actually at a Subway," he said. "It'll work, we checked."

Well, it would probably take longer to sign all the paperwork and pay for the car than it would to top it up. So, with a plan in place, a fob in my pocket, and the wide open arterials of Fort Wayne in front of me, I set off on my abbreviated test drive to get to know this funky little Pod. Things were looking up, and despite the setback, I should still be able to get home in plenty of time to grab the kids from daycare (or would I?)

wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L)
wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) UberDork
4/24/21 7:31 a.m.

Excellent write-up! may the electrons be in your favor,

Loweguy5 (Forum Supporter)
Loweguy5 (Forum Supporter) Reader
4/24/21 8:02 a.m.

Are you attempting to gain employment writing for GRM?  If you aren't, you should.

dyintorace PowerDork
4/24/21 8:36 a.m.

Having owned a 2015 i3 REX, definitely following along!

Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/24/21 8:53 a.m.

This is the most entertaining thing in my life right now. Please keep going!

minivan_racer UberDork
4/24/21 9:33 a.m.

Apparently there is an i3 somewhere on the side of the road in BFE Ohio and now his laptop/phone battery is also dead.  RIP Erich.

californiamilleghia SuperDork
4/24/21 9:44 a.m.

note to self :

if buying an EV long distance , have seller text me a photo of how much charge it has BEFORE  I  road trip down to get it !

How many Subway sandwiches do you get per mile of charge :)


Erich UberDork
4/24/21 10:01 a.m.

Now, I had already driven an i3 before this trip, so I knew what to expect. They're surprisingly roomy inside, quiet, and the ride is better than you'd expect given the 4" wide 19" tall tires. But this one felt... livelier somehow? Not in a bad way. It felt grounded to the ground through onramps, and although I was trying to conserve electrons for the ride home, it responded with more kick when I gave it the beans - more than I had previously experienced. I could almost hear my young salesperson Johnny yelling "Send it!" as I approached each intersection.

That's when I remembered, the previous i3 I had driven was the range-extender (REx) model, which adds a 2-cylinder internal combustion Kymco motor crammed somewhere in the bowels of the little BMW. The generator giveth about 50 extra miles of range but it also taketh away the sprightliness I was now experiencing with this battery-only (BEV) i3. In all, the REx adds a good 300 lbs of heft to the 2800 lb BEV.

After horsing around, finding no errant clunks, squeaks, or groans, I was beginning to enjoy myself in this little bean-shaped-object. A quick 15 minute drive was all it took to convince me to sign on the dotted line.

I headed back through the intersection I had previously traversed by foot, waved goodbye to the Carnies, who had now moved on to setting up the Witches' Wheel, and pulled into Carm*x where Johnny was standing outside, ready to close the deal. We handed the fobs and the i3 to his minion who would go top up the i3 at Subway while we began the complicated dance that is used car purchasing. While signing the millions of state-regulated forms and disclosures, our mutual safety was assured by our medical-grade disposable masks, a thin transparent 3 foot square of Plexiglas, and most importantly my full immunization about 3 months ago. 

Papers signed and copied, I then had to pay for my new i3. My credit union had given me a check for the loan amount and I intended to pay a few thousand down to keep monthly payments low. How to pay this was left unclear from our previous communications, but as I first mentioned, I came prepared. First attempt: a credit card (with cash back of course).

"Naw, we don't take credit cards for down payments."

Ohkayyyyy, we'll do the debit card. 

DECLINED, because my credit union has a max transaction limit of some unknown amount.

"This is like the Keystone Cops!" I remarked, prompting a vague quizzical reaction of my young salesman. "Harry, Moe, Curly, and Shemp?" I tried again. He imitated the shrugging emoticon so popular among today's youth. "The Vlog Squad?" I asked, which finally got a nod of understanding. 

Well thankfully I had thought about all this, and whipped out a checkbook. As I blew the dust off this relic of payments past (and no they don't take Dogecoin, I asked), I tried to remember exactly how to fill out a check. Youtube instructional videos are indispensable for this sort of thing. After accepting my hand-scrawled bank-issed IOU, he spent a few minutes on hold with the Credit Union, hanging up on accident a few times, attempting to get confirmation that I indeed had the funds to cover this sort of purchase. The Credit Union staff confirmed that yes, the check was good, and I was now the proud owner of a Protonic Blue 2017 BMW i3. 

The sales staff asked what time I wanted to be home by - offering to buy lunch since I had expected the car to be charged up. I declined, as it was getting near my must-leave time for the trip home; I had to pick up the kids by 6pm, and it was already almost 2. Johnny went to pull the car around, curiously with his sales manager in tow. 

I smiled with satisfaction, knowing that all I had to do now was to get in the car and head Eastward, to my halfway point in Napoleon Ohio, where I had staked out a DC fast charger. Nothing could stand in my way now, and I could finally leave this accursed Fortress of Wayne behind me. 

GCrites80s HalfDork
4/24/21 10:14 a.m.

As someone from Ohio, Napoleon is kind of town where something like a EV charger at a Subway might be broken

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
4/24/21 10:29 a.m.

In reply to Erich :

I was paying for my tranny rebuild and the tranny guy comments I hope extended your debit card limit.....what, denied?

I  call Chase Bank and they see the denial and extend it for that day.  I guess I've never debited $3500 for a single purchase.  You might've been able to call. 

grover Dork
4/24/21 10:57 a.m.

Oh boy...that puppy is coming back empty and you're in a hotel room. 

DennisDoesEverything New Reader
4/24/21 11:13 a.m.

The one and only time I ever bought a car from a dealership, they couldn't even handle delivering it with a promised-full tank of gas.  I would be so nervous/cynical if my return trip depended on a dealership charging an electric car for me.

Erich UberDork
4/24/21 11:49 a.m.

While I sat waiting in Carm*x for Johnny to put the temp tags on the BMW, I looked at my watch and wondered how long it would take to get home. Time was getting tight if I wanted to get a bite to eat on the way home. I had originally planned a few spots to check out in Fort Wayne on the advice of a friend, but obviously that was no longer on the table.

The thought occurred to me, that putting plates on a car shouldn't take more than a couple minutes, and it certainly didn't seem like the job that Johnny needed to get his manager involved in. Some of you have already guessed what's going on.

I got up and walked out to the back lot, where I found Johnny, the manager, and another guy at the i3 and notice that it's plugged into their defective level 2 charge station. 

"What's it at?" Johnny asked them.

"Uh, 'bout 30%"

Obviously somewhere in the space of time that Johnny and I were completing the sale, the plan of hooking up with the supposed Subway-adjacent "Supercharger" went clear out the window and they decided instead to try doing the exact same thing that didn't work the night before, only this time somehow hoping that the 25 amp current would be sufficient to charge this 33kwh battery up enough to drive the 70 miles to Napoleon. It would have been, had I another 8 hours or so to spare. 

"Erm, like I said we don't see many of these eelectric cars here," Johnny explained as they noticed me walking up. 

Now up to this point in the story I've been sandbagging a bit, perhaps giving the impression that I had faith in these folks to get me on my way in a prompt fashion with a full bank of electrons. I assure you, I was under no such delusions, but I do like to be open to being pleasantly surprised by competence in my fellow man from time to time. I had given Johnny and company the benefit of the doubt up until this moment, when it was finally made abundantly clear they didn't have the wherewithal to accomplish this most trivial of tasks. Suffice to say, my faith in humanity would not be restored on this day. 

As I had expected, I would have to use my own wits and determination to get home in time to pick up the kids. One choice was leaving the BMW here - I owned it after all - and have them charge it, returning on the weekend and have them foot the bill for a rental car.

But what were the odds that I wouldn't find myself in this situation once again, in Fort Wayne twice in a week dealing with an electric car without enough juice.

"Well can we buy ya lunch? Or you can send a receipt from any charge fees on yer way home?" the manager asked me. 

"Just give me the keys," I said. I don't think my medical-grade mask effectively hid my anger at this point.

I had checked the area around Fort Wayne for Level 3 DC charge stations the night before, and found two. The Chargepoint app I still had on my phone from years ago when I drove a Leaf showed that there was one available, about 5 miles away, at the local Harley-Davidson dealership. 

This time, pulling out of the Carm*x for the last blessed time, I did send it. Onwards to the Harley dealership.

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