On a bit of a lark I test drove a BMW i3 electric vehicle yesterday and it gave me a strong sense of deja-vu: in the early 90’s, my daily driver BMW E21 318i had been totalled thanks to an inattentive driver in oncoming traffic and I needed a replacement quickly (and cheaply). I ended up in a six-cylinder E21 320 (no “i” — this was the downdraft carburetor 2 liter six, which was never sold in the US) for a while. It was old and slower than the 318i but still ran fine. The amazing thing, though, was its drivability at low speeds. You could crawl in a parking lot at basically engine idle speeds in first gear (no automatic gearboxes or torque converters around these parts!), control speed finely with small throttle inputs and it always was responsive — never jerky like in a fuel-injected car. It was quite a delight in the city. Every car I’ve owned since has been fuel-injected and, progressing from mechanical to electronic fuel injection, less and less drivable at low speeds.
Driving the i3 felt surprisingly like that old 320: the abilty to control speed with precision and a really linear response. It didn’t feel OMG fast on the open road (again, like the 320)... Just that I still managed to reach the speed limit way faster than I expected. I don’t know if/when EVs are going to gain mindshare with ordinary car-loving people in the US beyond the brand phenomenon of Tesla, but there are some definite benefits beyond plain economy that we’re collectively ignoring by just looking at specification sheets.