A couple of years ago we came to a point when having a car had become more of a necessity than a luxury. Having spent about a year to get norwegian driving license, we entered a leasing contract for a new BMW i3.

BMW i3

Here I’ll be talking about the leasing process and in general about the experience of owning an electric car in Norway.

Getting norwegian driving license

First thing you need to get before buying/leasing a car in Norway is obviously a norwegian driving license. We had russian driving license, but that was valid only for 3 months(?) after entering Norway, and after that we needed to get a norwegian license.

What you’ll discover right away is that it doesn’t matter how many years of driving experience you had back in Russia - you will need to do all the required courses and pass two exams: theory and actual driving. However, already knowing how to drive will of course let you not to learn (and pay for) that again.

Here’s a list of things you’ll need to do, pass and pay for (prices are from 2020):

Course/exercise Cost, NOK
1 First exercise to evaluate your driving skills 1300
2 Night driving exercise 1800
3 Slippery driving exercise 5590
4 Preparation exercise before long distance driving 1300
5 Long distance driving, part 1 3500
6 Long distance driving, part 2 3500
7 First-aid exercise 800
8 Theoretical exam 740
9 Preparation exercise before driving exam 650
10 Driving exam 2500
11 State fee for the driving exam 1100
12 Issuing the driving license 310
Total 23 090

That’s fucking a lot of money to pay and stuff to do, especially for a person with lots of years of driving experience.

But wait for it, you might fail the driving exam, and so you will need to pass it again, and pay for all these 3 things again:

Course/exercise Cost, NOK
9 Preparation exercise before driving exam 650
10 Driving exam 2500
11 State fee for the driving exam 1100
Total 4250

That is partly because the driving exam (as well as preceding exercises, by the way) needs to be done on a special car (with two sets of pedals) from driving school, and you are paying for taking it.

And you guessed it right, in our case we passed the exam only from second attempt, so total cost of getting the driving license turned out to be 27 340 NOK.

Passing the driving exam pretty much depends on examinator and his beliefs in what kind of driving is a correct one, and so if you are unlucky enough to get “strange” kind of examinator more than once, then passing the exam will end up to be bloody expensive.

And looking on how people drive on the roads (take turns, exit roundabouts and so on), you’ll be sometimes amazed by the fact that all of them actually did pass that very same exam too.

Overall, everything (all the courses, exercises and exams) took us about a year. Sure, that was the year of 2020 - COVID restrictions and whatnot - but I reckon that half a year would still be a fair estimate on any other time.

Leasing a car

Why leasing

At first we wanted to buy a used car, but having considered a couple of available offers on FINN.no, we realized that it’s not a very bright idea to buy a used electric car, as quite likely its battery will have a reduced capacity already.

We could consider getting a “regular” petrol/gasoline car, but who in a sane state of mind would buy a non-electric car in Norway (more on that later), so we ended up deciding to take a lease for a new electric car (BMW i3, that is).

Leasing might look like a stupid idea in the beginning, because you will be paying for the car that won’t ever belong to you, isn’t that crazy! But if you think about buying a new car for its full price and then selling it some years later - it might (it will) turn out that the car has lost from its original price so much that it would be the same as leasing it, except that now you need to go through the hassle of selling it. So, leasing a car for 3 years and be free from it after (or switch to a newer model) might be just easier and more convenient. At least that was our reasoning for choosing the leasing option.

Price and conditions

Before signing a contract with a dealer, I would recommend to go and talk with more than one dealer in your area.

In Oslo there is Bavaria and Bilia (and there are probably more), who lease BMW i3. We went to both and got an offer from each, and the one from Bavaria was better, so we made a deal with them. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that Bavaria always has better offers, you can actually get a better deal from either, it all depends on how desperate the sales manager is to close that deal (and/or perhaps on how good your are in negotiating).

Here’s an offer that we’ve got:

Bavaria offer Bavaria offer

As you can see, it’s quite a lot of additional options and features. Not a very humble set for the people who were considering buying a used car just a couple of days ago. But oi wei, you live only once. If anything, replacing stock audio with Harman Kardon is but an essential thing to do.

If you ask me what is the final price of the car - I am actually not sure, all this looks rather confusing. Apparently, the base price was 322 000 NOK, then options and features bumped it up to 433 820 NOK, and finally discounts, ongoing campaign and my brilliant negotiation skills brought it down to 318 630 NOK, which is the amount stated in the contract.

When it comes to the actual practical costs, here’s what I need to pay:

  1. Some mysterious “starting fee”, payed once with the first invoice: 4190 NOK;
  2. Leasing price per month: 5020 NOK.

So, the first month invoice was 4190 NOK + 5020 NOK, and starting with the second invoice it is 5020 NOK per month. Doesn’t sound too bad, I guess. It very well might be that we got up-sold some stuff that we don’t even need (such as parallel parking assistance, concierge service and other fancy things), but as we are not very experienced in this, that was inevitable.

The leasing term is 3 years (so it’s 5020 * 36 + 4190 = 184 910 NOK in total for 36 months) and 30 000 km range (exceeding the range will cost some more money). If we’d like to stop the lease earlier than 3 years, then we’ll need to pay a kind of penalty for about 6 months of lease (30 000 NOK).

At the end of the leasing term we’ll obviously need to return the car, and dealer will check it up for damages, and we’ll need to cover those, if there will be any.

There is also an option to buy out the car from dealer when the leasing term ends, so it becomes fully yours. It will be interesting to see what kind of offer that will be, but so far starting a new lease with a newer model looks more attractive.

One month after signing the leasing contract I got a promotional e-mail from BMW, where they suggested me to lease BMW i3 again:

BMW leasing offers

First of all, it’s nice to see that at least in one company departments actually talk to each other; and secondly, this 2509 NOK per month doesn’t look quite like 5020 NOK we ended up with, does it.

Waiting for the car and picking it up

At the moment of signing the leasing contract the car did not even exist. After the contract was signed, the order for the car went to the factory in Germany, and only then (after some waiting in the queue) the car was assembled out of nothing into a fine automobile and shipped to Oslo.

On the day of picking up the car we just went to the dealer and there is was, standing in the front showroom, ready to be driven out. The only thing we were asked about was my name - they didn’t check the driving license, passport or anything else, just the name. Then we got the keys, a short getting started demonstration and that was it, we drove straight home.

I’d say, extremely lightweight and unusual experience.

Paying for the lease

How does one pay for the lease? It’s nothing special, just regular eFaktura’s.

As usual, the first one came in paper. If you, like me, will try to start with eFaktura from the very beginning, you’ll find out that there was no way to do so. As our sales manager at Bavaria told me: “They always send out the first one in paper. That’s how it works”. Huh.

Okay, I got the first paper invoice, immediately went to my Nordea web-bank to register eFaktura and here’s what I got there:

Nordea, looking for BMW eFaktura

Which the fuck one is the right one? There is no option to search by some identificator, just by the name. Okay, you might say, obviously(?) the “BMW Financial Services Norge NUF” is the right one, but here’s what it has in its details:

Nordea, BMW issuer details

It still might be the right issuer, but some Linda with an e-mail on accounting.se domain and swedish phone number does not look correct at all, won’t you agree.

So I went to DNB web-bank, just in case, and look at this:

DNB, looking for BMW eFaktura

So it is possible to display some actually useful information! The account number was the same as the one on the paper invoice, so “BMW FINANCIAL SERVICES NORGE NUF” is indeed the right issuer.

Nordea, have it ever occurred to you that identifying an issuer by an account number is a much more (or rather the most) reliable way than by a name substring?

BMW Financial Services website

Once you have the leasing contract, you can login to your profile on the BMW Financial Services website with your BankID.

First thing I can tell you about this website is that it looks (and functions) like crap:

BMW Financial Services website

The footer states the year of 2015 (now is 2021) and it’s hard to say what it symbolizes. I wrote to them asking about that, but they never fixed this nor did they explain the meaning of this value.

And then there go the problems.

If you click on the “Neste faktura Se PDF” link (https://minesider.bmw.no/LastInvoice/?id=HERE-GOES-CAR-REGISTRATION-NUMBER), you will get a 404 error:

BMW Financial Services, neste faktura 404

If you open the “Mer faktura” link, you’ll get a list of all fakturas:

BMW Financial Services, all fakturas

But at first I didn’t have all the fakturas there, and some of those that I did have were actually duplicates of other fakturas. How awesome is that. Fortunately, after I reported this, they fixed it (after about a couple of months), so now I do have all the fakturas in that list.

One more: if you click on the “Vilkår (pdf)” link (https://minesider.bmw.no/kontraktinfo/TermsAndConditions/?productType=Leasing&brand=BMW), that will resolve into yet another 404 error page (https://minesider.bmw.no/kontraktinfo/pdf-error/):

BMW Financial Services, vikar 404

Needless to say, I reported both the “Neste faktura” link problem and the “Vikar” one. Here’s a simplified history of my correspondence with BMW’s support specialists on bmwfinans@bmw.no:

  1. November 2020: I sent the initial bugreport;
    • couple of days later they wrote back and said that they had an update on their website, so I should try again. I did try again, but the issues were still there;
  2. February 2021: they sent me an e-mail asking if the issues are resolved. They were not. How could they, if nothing changed on their side. I listed all the issues again and also attached screenshots as Imgur links. There was no reply from them;
  3. March 2021: a new issue occurred - I was missing two latest fakturas in the list. I sent them an e-mail about that too
    • some days later they replied, saying that I can go to my online bank and find fakturas there. No shit, can I? What is the point of your website then?
    • some time later the issue with missing fakturas was fixed, without any announcement from them. So now we are back to the original two issues;
  4. April 2021: they sent an e-mail saying that they cannot open my screenshots links that I sent back in February. It took them two months to discover that? I checked all the links and they were still working fine, but okay, this time I’ve attached screenshots right in the e-mail. I also described all the issues again;
    • just two weeks later they wrote back, saying that there were no attachments in my e-mail. Well, that was just a goddamn lie, because in this very same reply from them I could see all of my attachments still being there! I wrote back saying exactly that and re-attached everything again;
  5. May 2021: they wrote back, saying that they double checked and still couldn’t see any attachments in my e-mail. In reply I told them to ask some of their IT specialists for help and also suggested that I can send them screenshots in iMessage, WhatsApp or with a mail pigeon. They did not reply to that;
  6. July 2021: they sent an e-mail asking if I still get the errors. I was still getting the errors, why wouldn’t I, if nothing changed on their side. I told them that and asked why are they asking, has anything changed on their side? They ignored that question;
    • couple of days later they told me to try to reproduce the errors again and tell them the exact times of each error. I got the errors again and sent them times. There was no reply from them since then;
  7. December 2021: more than a year has passed since I first reported these issues, and they are still not fixed. I wrote to them asking whether providing the times of the errors helped after all or not;
    • couple of days later they wrote back saying that they “fixed this in September” (what exactly was fixed? Both problems are still present) and that Vikar link “do not work for any Norwegian customers at the moment” (at the moment? It hasn’t been working for at least a year!). They also asked to provide new error times and screenshots, and I’ve sent all that once again. Still waiting for the response.

A motherfucking year to fix 404 errors! And they are still not fixed, mind you. Просто хер тебе в рыло, сраный клиент, чинить ещё наш говносайт для тебя.

About BMW i3

The car is just great. I am not an expert in cars, so I won’t even attempt going into any details. There are a lot of videos an articles about BMW i3 on the internet, you’d be much better off watching and reading those. I can only say that I like this car a lot.

There are of course certain problems/issues, but all of them come from the infotainment system (IVI). So I would say, the hardware is great, but the software sucks quite some ass.

Infotainment system

I never used anything aside maps and navigation, so I can’t say much about the whole infotainment system. Radio works, playing my music from iPhone works, GUI is not horrible (but isn’t too nice either).

One issue I noticed is that from time to time the quick launch bar appears on top of the screen, like I’m saving something to it, but I am not. Sometimes it also says that it couldn’t save new quick launch item, but yet again, I am not saving anything. This is annoying.

Probably related to that, when I actually do want to save something, it even suggests me to do so:

Description

but then it just fails:

Description

Motherfuck! No indication about what went wrong (what can go wrong in such simple operation?) and how to do it right.

So yeah, the IVI is definitely not perfectly splendid.

Maps and navigation

The maps GUI is rather ugly and inconsistent. UI controls (in the same view!) have different styles, the overall picture is not nice and it’s just no joy in using it:

BMW Connected Drive, ugly maps GUI

But don’t mind the ugliness, quite often it’s just hard to see where your car is and which road you are driving on, especially considering that you don’t have much time for looking at the map while driving:

BMW Connected Drive, confusing maps

Seriously, the fuck is this mess, which direction am I driving to, where is my route, why so many roads are colored/highlighted in the same way?

Let’s now see how it could’ve/should’ve been done. Here’s a route in BMW Maps

Route in BMW Maps

and here’s the same route in Apple Maps:

Route in Apple Maps

I can’t believe my eyes, so it is possible to draw both the map and the route in a clear non-confusing way?

Here’s another comparison, BMW Maps:

Route in BMW Maps

and Apple Maps:

Route in Apple Maps

It’s truly unbelievable that the first one comes from an automotive manufacturer whos main focus is cars, and the second one is made by a fruit company whos production is computers, phones, tablets, watches and so on.

Why BMW Maps are in fullscreen and Apple Maps only gets 2/3 of the screen? Oh, we’re getting there.

However, when it comes to the actual navigation and calculating the routes, I must admit that in Norway BMW Maps does a better job than Apple Maps. In addition to making better routes, BMW Maps can also provide convenient guidance on the right 1/3 of the screen, such as zoomed-in turns and roundabouts, pointers for the lanes and other useful assistance:

BMW Maps guidance BMW Maps guidance BMW Maps guidance

If the state of Apple Maps in Norway was the same as in USA, then I would never even touched BMW Maps. But it’s not there yet, and so even though Apple Maps is superior in terms of GUI/UX, unfortunately I have to resort to BMW Maps. Oh, and by the way, BMW Maps is a paid service which you need to renew from time to time.

Apple CarPlay

Yes, BMW i3 has Apple CarPlay. But it is a paid option (3100 NOK) too! Can you fucking believe this shit, you need to pay for the ability to use Apple CarPlay!

This is one of the most retarded kind of a paid service I’ve ever encountered. I wonder how many other car manufactures charge for the ability to use Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto). So Apple did all the job, and BMW twats are shamelessly draining money from you for being able to use that functionality.

But that’s not all. Once you pay for the CarPlay option and get it enabled, you’ll discover that… it cannot run in fullscreen:

Apple CarPlay on BMW i3

Sweet suffering Jesus, how mad I was when I found out about this. To make things more exciting, BMW was advertising (still is!) Apple CarPlay on their website, and there on pictures it is running in fullscreen:

BMW Apple CarPlay false advertisement

The old link to that page has died, but here’s a new one.

BMW, are you fucking serious? Is this a false advertisement then?

I wrote to support (no.kundesupport@bmwgroup.com) about that, and at first they just said: “It is not possible for your car to get Apple Car play in full screen”. And only after I sent them the link to that page and a screenshot where CarPlay is running in fullscreen, they replied: “This function only works for ID7 cars which has the latest generation display. If you want to refund the service please get back to us regarding this”. Sons of bitches, how about mentioning this on that page then? Or anywhere at all, for that matter?

But that’s not all, as one can find unofficial “unlockers” on the internet that enable CarPlay to run in fullscreen. So apparently it is fucking possible? Huh, BMW?

One nice thing I can say about CarPlay in BMW i3 is that it connects wirelessly. This is the first car where I see this feature finally being implemented, all other cars I’ve been using CarPlay in required connecting the phone via cable. Wireless CarPlay is very convenient: you enter the car with your phone in the pocket and CarPlay is already connected, isn’t that nice.

In conclusion, I am not sure if it’s even worth paying for having Apple CarPlay option. If it was available without paying for it (as it fucking should be), it would be nice to have, but otherwise it looks like a waste of money, as Apple Maps navigation/routing isn’t that good in Norway comparing to BMW Maps, and other CarPlay features I simply do not need (I reckon, I’d still be able to play music from my iPhone via Bluetooth).

Mobile application

Of course, there is a mobile application. Not horrible, but not very useful either.

Registration

To start using the application you need to create a BMW ConnectedDrive account, but exactly the Norwegian variant. And then the application also needs to be installed from the Norwegian App Store, because accounts are not global (of course they are not).

Then you add your car VIN, and then server sends a code to your car - you’ll need to actually go to the car and check incoming messages (yes, the car can get messages) on it. Using the code you get in a message there you’ll be able to finish the registration.

Old and new version

There was an older version of the application, but now it is now removed from the store. I still have it installed on my phone, but it crashes on launch:

Exception Type:  EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGSEGV)
Exception Subtype: KERN_INVALID_ADDRESS at 0x0000000000000000
VM Region Info: 0 is not in any region.  Bytes before following region: 4328734720
      REGION TYPE                 START - END      [ VSIZE] PRT/MAX SHRMOD  REGION DETAIL
      UNUSED SPACE AT START
--->
      __TEXT                   102034000-102088000 [  336K] r-x/r-x SM=COW  .../ConnectedROW

Termination Signal: Segmentation fault: 11
Termination Reason: Namespace SIGNAL, Code 0xb
Terminating Process: exc handler [668]
Triggered by Thread:  0

There were no any updates installed, neither for the application nor for iOS, it just started to crash. Probably got something from the server and set some local flag, as it now crashes even without internet connection. Otherwise why would perfectly working application would suddenly start to crash in the same environment?

So you’re basically forced to install the new application, which, once again, is not an update of this one but a separate new application (of course it is).

But I don’t miss the old application much, as it wasn’t very useful. The new one isn’t much better either. It’s a considerably more fat one too - a whooping 290 MB. What could possibly take so much space, given such a poor set of features? What else but trackers and analytics:

BMW iOS application tracking

Features

Speaking about the set of features, the most important/useful ones (for me) are:

  • checking the battery charge percentage;
  • remotely turning on heating/cooling of the interior;
  • finding the car on a map (that comes in handy on a large parking).

The rest of the functionality I am not sure if I ever used. I can’t even say what else you can do with this application.

There are also notifications for when the charging starts. I have two things to say about this feature:

  1. What is the actual point of this? If I’ve just started charging the car myself with my own hands, I most certainly am in no need of being notified that the car has started charging;
  2. The notification arrives only some minutes after the the charging actually starts. You can be already in McDonalds making an order when you get a push notification about started charging process. Very useful, thank you, BMW.

As for getting the status of battery charge percentage, you’d be surprised to know (I definitely was) that it doesn’t get updated when the car isn’t charging. For example, here I’m checking the status at 20:25, and yet the latest I get is the value from 17:54:

BMW application charging level not updated

Sometimes you can’t even get the car location, though that happens not often. But speaking about location, how do you like a precision area size like this one:

BMW application, location precision

A bloody 10 (or even more) times bigger the entire Oslo city area! However, despite such a tremendous visual precision radius, the actual car location is shown correctly, so I reckon this is just a visualization bug (just a bug, heh).

REST API

Obviously, since you can query certain information from the car, such as battery charge level and its location, and also send commands like turning heating/cooling on, there is an API to handle all that (of course, that is an API of the server, not the car).

Some people tried to intercept the application network requests and seemingly they had succeeded. I haven’t tried yet, though, sorry for the misleading section header.

There is, however, a public endpoint available at https://myce-prod.api.bmw/myce-service/v1.0/kisu. You can find it in the browser console while running a software update check on this page.

Sending a GET request to this endpoint will give you something like:

$ curl "https://myce-prod.api.bmw/myce-service/v1.0/kisu?vin=YOUR-VIN-GOES-HERE"
{
    "context": {
        "vehicleInfo": {
            "vin": "YOUR-VIN-GOES-HERE",
            "countryVersion": "EUR",
            "brand": "BMWI",
            "derivative": "I01",
            "headUnit": "NBTEvo",
            "modelName": "I3 120",
            "integrationLevel": SOME-VALUE,
            "productionDate": EPOCH-TIME
        },
        "market": null,
        "locale": null,
        "brand": null,
        "seriesId": null,
        "firmwareId": null,
        "softwareId": null
    },
    "apiVersion": "1.0",
    "data": {
        "kisu": {
            "update": "SUPPORTED"
        }
    },
    "status": "SUCCESS"
}

So you can get some additional information such as head unit model and the production date of your car.

Right when I was writing this, the endpoint was returning error 500 though:

$ curl "https://myce-prod.api.bmw/myce-service/v1.0/kisu?vin=YOUR-VIN-GOES-HERE"
{
    "apiVersion": "1.0",
    "status": "INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR"
}

And of course that was what you would get by sending the request via the web-form too:

BMW software update check error 500

Is there a single fucking service of BMW’s that just works without problems?

I’ve reported this one to connecteddrive.no@bmw.no, and credits to them, this one they fixed within a couple of days. Tremendous success.

By the way, isn’t it adorable that the web-form is asking for “17 digits” of the VIN, while it actually consists of digits and letters.

Electric car in Norway

There are several benefits provided to electric car owners in Norway by the state/government:

  • no tax on purchasing/import, so no 25% VAT, and that includes leasing;
  • lower prices on toll roads, ferries, parking;
  • can drive in bus lanes;
  • other smaller but still nice benefits.

Charging

Usually electric car owners have a wall-mounted charging station in their houses, or, as far as I know, you can charge the car from a regular socket at home. The latter is a very slow method of charging, and it often takes the whole night to charge to 100%, plus it’s not really a regular socket - you’ll need to pay your electrician to make a special dedicated socket for this, and that can cost about 8000 NOK. The wall-mounted station costs about 15 000 NOK for the unit itself plus some cost for the setup, but that one should be charging the car faster.

Either way, you’ll need to spend money to equip your house to be able to charge your car at home. And obviously you need to be able to park your car somewhere near the house.

In our case the house electricity network doesn’t have enough capacity to handle a car charging, and also there is no space to park the car close enough to the house. So I was somewhat concerned about the whole charging situation, but it turned out to be no bother at all, as Oslo area has plenty of public/paid charging stations.

The public stations vary by power, which essentially means charging speed. The highest you can get with BMW i3 is 50 kW, an that one will charge it to 100% in about 50 minutes (takes longer in winter). But as you will be usually charging not from 0% but from 15-25%, then it will be taking about 35-40 minutes.

Here’s the fast-charging plug and the socket on BMW i3 - CCS Combo 2:

CCS Combo 2

The fast-charging stations look like this:

Fast charging station

or this:

Fast charging station

As you can see on the photos, each station has 2 charging cables (and sometimes also a separate socket). But it doesn’t mean that it can charge 2 cars with those cables simultaneously: in fact, every station has something like this written on its body: “Only one car can be charging on 50 kW at the same time”, so those cables are just different types: CCS Combo 2 and CHAdeMO. And if someone is already connected to the station, you will be able to use only that separate socket (with your own cable), which supplies only 22 kW (or even less?).

The cost of charging depends on the station power and the time you’ve been charging. We usually charge at 50 kW stations (so-called “fast charging”), and in average one such fast charging session costs about 130-150 NOK (190-210 NOK in winter).

The “slow” charging stations look like this:

Public charging station

They output 3.7 kW or something and are cheaper, sometimes even free to use (but there might be still a parking fee). Charging to 100% on these stations takes forever (10 hours?), so you won’t be using them too often, unless you have some near your house or your place of work. Another thing to know about these is that you’ll need to use your own charging cable and the upper part of your charging socket - IEC Type 2.

…So, bottom line is: you can do just fine without being able to charge your car at home. And given the price of a wall-mounted home charger, plus the cost of its installation, or the installation of a dedicated power socket - it will be in fact cheaper to use charging stations in the city for at least a couple of years. And if you are renting your place of living and might eventually move out to a different one, then there is even less point in spending money on a home charger.

Networks

There are several charging networks spread around the country. Some have a lot of stations with a good spread, and some have only few with a rather poor coverage (but still better than nothing):

Norway charging networks
  1. Fortum/Recharge;
  2. BKK;
  3. Kople (looks like they use the same base application as Fortum);
  4. Mer;
  5. IONITY;
  6. Circle K.

There are probably more, but that’s what we found so far. We mostly use Fortum/Recharge, as they have the most of the stations on our routes.

One time we also encountered Kempower charging stations, but they seem to also belong to Fortum/Recharge:

Kempower charging stations

These ones allow you to track the charging process via simple but nice website (every station seems to have its own route/endpoint):

Kempower station charging status

But the absolutely superior network is BKK. Their stations look like a piece of art:

BKK charging station

The control panel too:

BKK charging station GUI

No freaking touch-screen, proper physical buttons; anti-glare screen, everything is visible even under a bright sun; plus a nice GUI. That’s some effort to make such a masterpiece. By the way, as you can see on the screen, the car is charging from the 75 kW plug, so BMW i3 can connect to more powerful stations too (but of course the charging will be still capped at 50 kW).

The BKK’s mobile application is great too. It’s really a shame that their stations are rather far from us, but then again we are fine with Fortum too.

Mer is a piece of shit

There is one charging network which I’d like to mention separately and this is Mer - an absolutely total piece of shit.

We were driving on one of our trips, and the battery was running low, having about 10% left. We didn’t calculate our route well enough, and we had only one station nearby, which was exactly Mer, and the next Fortum station was further away, almost out of range for our current charge level.

We stopped by the Mer station and tried to start charging from their piece of shit of an application. We did create an account before the trip, so it should’ve just worked, but the charging did not start, and the application was seemingly failing to connect to the server.

On the station body there was an alternative method described, saying that we can also send an SMS to start charging. We tried that, alright, sent a message to the specified number, but nothing happened. We sent it again, and it said that we have already started charging, but the charging hasn’t actually started. We tried to stop it - nothing happened, and so on:

Mer charging fails to start with SMS

The motherfucking piece of shit never started charging, it just did not. And also these SMS turned out to be paid ones, as any other outgoing SMS (don’t know what we expected).

Fortunately, we did have enough charge left to drive to the next Fortum station, but it was a very nervous situation. Most certainly we won’t rely on Mer ever again.

…Actually a couple of weeks later we stopped by another Mer station - we didn’t need to charge, just wanted to test it again, and what would you know, this pile of garbage of a station failed to start charging once more. Yeah, never fucking again.

Long distance drive

Electric cars seem like a city transport. Early concepts of BMW i3 even had a foldable city bike:

BMW i3 foldable city bike

But you can just as well drive on long distances outside the city too.

It’s hard to say what is the maximum range that you can drive on a fully charged battery (42.2 kWh / 120 Ah in our model), because it heavily depends on using cooling/heating in the car, plus when you drive on higher speeds, such as above 80 km/h, the electricity consumption goes higher too.

I would say, as an average, if I’m being pessimistic, 150 km would be a safe range when using cooling/heating, but optimistically you should be able to drive for 180 km. If you’ll be driving with cooling/heating shut down and with Eco Pro+ mode on, then most likely you’ll get more than 200 km of range.

Either way, it’s difficult to predict when you’ll run out of battery while driving on a long distance, and charging stations outside the cities are far less common than regular fuel/petrol/gas stations. There are quite enough of them distributed around the country, but it’s still not that many.

Because of that, you really need to plan your trip if you are going somewhere far away from the city. You’ll need to make a route on a map and match that with the map of charging stations from every available network, as they have very different coverage. Check that you have enough charging stations following your route (and I would strongly recommend not to rely on the ones provided by Mer) and perhaps adjust your original route if there are not that many stations on it.

Aside from this somewhat scarce availability of charging stations, it is not rare that they can go out of order, and then you can find yourself in a situation when there was only one charging station on some long section of your route, and when you arrived to it, you discovered that it is suddenly out of order, even though it was showing up fine in the application just a couple of hours ago. So it is important that you plan the route for your long distance drive with at least a couple (or even more) of charging stations on every 100 km section of your route.

One other factor you need to keep in mind is that you are not the only electric car owner in the country, and there might be already someone occupying the station, so you’ll need to wait in the queue. And given that average charging time is about 40 minutes, you can spend quite some time in the queue plus then your own charging time. Here’s an example of a queue we once got in:

Charging queue

It wasn’t too bad for us, as we were #3 in the queue, but the guy #5 had to wait for at least an hour before he could finally start charging his car.

That’s another unfortunate factor of electric charging stations - mostly they can serve only 2 cars at a time, hence the queues.

By the way, Tesla owner don’t seem to have this problem - every Tesla charging area we saw had a lot of stations, so there were never queues. For example:

Tesla charging stations

One final note on the long distance driving: it is not recommend to go on electric car anywhere outside the city in winter with temperatures below zero and/or in a snowfall.

Costs

Total per month

We’ve been having our BMW i3 for 15 months now (1 year and 3 months), and the range we’ve driven so far is 6350 km - not that much. We mostly drive around the city and on rare occasions we go to remote places, such as fjords on the west.

For this period of 15 months the total amount of money that we’ve spent on the car-related things (mostly charging, but also tolls, parking, car accessory, etc, excluding the monthly leasing cost), is 7960 NOK. So in average the for us having an electric car costs 663 NOK per month (plus 5020 NOK for leasing, of course). I reckon, having a fuel car would’ve costed us significantly more.

Comparing with fuel cars

Electricity vs fuel

Charging an electric car is much cheaper than fueling a regular car with benzine. We did a measurement on one of the long drives (driving to Flam fjord and back):

  • drove 800 km;
  • needed to charge the car 5 times;
  • in total it costed 505 NOK.

Let’s now compare that with what it would cost to pay for fuel/benzine:

  • if we take 16 NOK for 1 liter;
  • and if the car consumes 10 liters per 100 km;
  • then in total that would be 1280 NOK for 800 км.

Quite a difference!

But then of course with regular car you can fill the tank in 5 minutes and continue your trip, whether charging an electric car takes much more time.

Toll roads and bridges

Toll roads cost less for electric cars. Driving from Oslo to Lillehammer or Kragero and back on fuel car will cost you about 200 NOK for the toll roads. On electric car that costed us about 50 NOK (if I remember correctly).

Same story with bridges, such as this one:

Hardanger bridge

Crossing it on a fuel car costs 116 NOK, but for electric cars it’s 47 NOK.

So, how is it

BMW i3 is an awesome car. It’s very sad that all the software components of it (from IVI in the head-unit to online BMW services) are not great and often are simply annoying to the point where you’re disgusted with using them. But once again, the car itself is great.

Owning an electric car in Norway is considerably cheaper than a fuel car at the moment, plus it comes with several nice benefits.

Deciding to lease a car instead of buying one seems to be the right call. Most likely we’ll jump into a new lease after the current one comes to an end.