Our First Electric Car

Five years ago I put a $1000 deposit on a Tesla Model 3. I was super excited that an affordable electric car was within reach of a middle class family: $35,000 was the promised sticker price, and I only had to wait a year or so…

A year or so later I asked for my deposit back. The long awaited vehicle arrived, with questionable quality assurance, and a price tag that was $10,000 more than forecast. I was disappointed, and frequently checked back to see if time would improve the quality and lower the price. Arguably, the quality improved. And the price did go down… a little. Today, you can get a base Model 3 for about $42k — but if you want enough battery range to replace a gas vehicle, you’re looking at $47k before tax. Maybe we could swing it, but it wouldn’t be a wise use of money. Not even with the gas savings.

A couple other things have happened since I got that deposit back,though. I got a job where I work from home most of the time, and occasional business travel hasn’t been a thing for almost two years. In fact, most of our driving is the 25 minute round trip run between home and the nearest town for school or sports or church activities. Turns out a Tesla probably would have been overkill. So after researching and hunting for a few weeks, we got one of these instead…

This is the BMW i3 REX. They retail for around $50k new, with a nice feature set. But if you hold out for one that’s 5 years old, turns out you can get one for about $17k — including tax. That’s a price tag that makes a little more sense.

Now, I’ll grant you, its a kinda funny looking. And the range and performance are not in the neighborhood of a Tesla. But 155 miles combined range is not nothing: that’s more than 7 round trips into town — 4 without the range extender.

That’s the “REX” in the name. Battery range is about 85 miles, on the most economical settings. The range extender is a little gasoline engine that kicks in if your battery starts getting low, and buys you another ~70 miles. We’ll likely never use it. A busy day might be 3 round trips, and while we don’t currently have a fast charger, we can almost recharge to that range overnight. The gas engine is just for backup, and makes for an anxiety-free way to learn about having an electric vehicle.

Right now we have more cars than drivers — although we’ll have a new driver as early as next summer. There’s a Saab resting in Ontario, and mine still has pride of place in the garage as the rarest (and sexiest!) hunk of metal I’ve ever owned. Likely one of them will have to go at some point, but since we have only a few payments left on the Volvo, and own the other three outright, we have some time to decide which setup will be best for our two teenagers to start learning on. After checking it out today, the BMW is the kids’ current favorite…

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