BMW i8 Roadster: a Hybrid Roadster Review

BMW i8 Hybrid electric review by Fred Lambert:

The BMW i8 has been some kind of a black sheep in the German automaker ‘i’ brand. When BMW launched the i3, we thought that they would make ‘BMW i’ an all-electric brand, but they instead followed up with the BMW i8 as a plug-in hybrid.

It was disappointing, but to be fair to BMW, it is still the “most electric” roadster/coupé on the market years later and they give it an upgrade this year with a little more battery capacity and a convertible version.

So we decided to give it a shot. Here’s our review:BMW i8 Roadster Design

I’m told it’s a polarizing design. Some hate it and some love it.

I certainly fall under the second category.

The car looks stunning to me. I wasn’t completely on board with the original BMW i8 as I thought that it featured too many “electric design accents”, like the BMW i3, but I think they have smoothed some of those out over the last few small design updates and it’s much easier to get on board with the design.

BMW have also made some improvements specific to the i8 roadster version, which I think looks even better than the coupé.

BMW loaned us one in ‘e copper’ for our review and I don’t remember ever seeing a vehicle with that specific color. I don’t hate it.

Here’s our video review of the BMW i8 Roadster with some great shots by our videographer Scott Buscemi for you to get a good idea of the design:

BMW i8 Roadster Driving Experience

I had a ton of fun driving the BMW i8 Roadster. It’s a perfect car for a relaxing weekend drive or to have some fun on winding roads.

And speaking of winding roads, we took full advantage of the canyon roads around Malibu, where it was a blast to drive.

The car handles well and feels comfortable even with some aggressive steering, but it also feels a little underpowered for a sports car.

In my opinion, BMW wasn’t able to take advantage of the benefits of an electric powertrain – especially when it comes to the instant torque.

You can feel the lag of the gas engine when pressing on the accelerator for any kind of relatively aggressive acceleration. That’s understandable with only a 105 kW/143 hp electric motor and a small 3-cylinder engine, but it’s not what you’d expect from a car that looks like that.

Performance aside, it’s just great to pull the top down a drive around in the BMW i8 Roadster.

BMW i8 Roadster Range, Efficiency, and Charging

At 69 MPGe, the BMW i8 is certainly efficient for a sports car – but not very efficient for an electric car.

With the release of the new Roadster version, BMW updated the i8’s powertrain with a larger battery (11.6 kWh, up from 7 kWh).

It makes a decent difference.

At the launch, they were claiming a range of 33 miles (53 km) with this new battery pack, which feeds a 105 kW/143 hp electric motor driving the front wheels while a three-cylinder petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo powers the rear wheels for an all-wheel-drive system.

The actual EPA range is only 17 miles and the system of the car that we tested was showing 22 miles on a full charge.

That’s not bad on paper.

Technically, many people could do their commute only on electric power, especially if they have a charger at work (the BMW i8 only has a 7 kW onboard charger but’s enough when you have a ~12 kWh battery pack). However, the problem is that the gas engine often kicks in during hard acceleration.

Therefore, it’s really hard to drive the BMW i8 on electric power only, unless you want to drive like your grandma.

Nonetheless, we are only talking about going into “electric assist” mode for short periods of time.

If you drive the car mostly in bursts of ~20 miles, which believe it or not is how most people drive on a day-to-day basis, and charge in between drives, you can potentially go months on a single tank of gas.

That said, I can’t help but to think: why not go all-electric?

BMW i8 Roadster Conclusion

And that’s the main takeaway I had from driving the BMW i8: make it all-electric. It would be a perfect car to be all-electric.

To be fair to BMW, it’s the most electric sports car you can buy right now. You have to give them that.

There are several EVs available today that have sports car performance, but they don’t really look like sports cars. The BMW i8 certainly looks the part.

Some are coming, but BMW has had the lead here for years.

My main problem here is that it seems that making the i8 all-electric would only make it better. The car was only showing a range of around 200 miles with a full tank of gas. EPA actually says a full range of 320 miles.

If range was the concern for them when deciding to make the i8 a plug-in hybrid, it makes no sense because you would have been able to get a longer range with something like an 80 kWh battery pack.

On top of the range, it would have supplied more power to the front electric motor and you could replace the gas engine with a second electric motor.

I don’t want to take anything away from the BMW engineers because it’s truly an impressive powertrain that they built, but look at how complex it is:

I can’t help but to think that it would have been better to make a more dual motor platform with a larger battery pack.

Cost shouldn’t be too much of an issue either. The vehicle starts at around $150,000 – with the Roadster version coming at a $15,000 premium.

I think that the price would be more justifiable if it came with an all-electric powertrain, which would undoubtedly result in higher performance.

There have been talks about BMW possibly killing the i3 and i8 programs ahead of their new generation of EVs.

I really don’t want them to kill the BMW i8. It’s too cool of a car for that. I just want them to make it all-electric.

This article was originally posted on by Fred Lambert

Porsche All Electric Vehicles Very Sexy!

Porsche today announced a deal with Electrify America, VW’s EV charging network born out of the Deiselgate settlement with the U.S. government, to provide upcoming Taycan owners with “three years of charging at Electrify America public stations across the country.”

It’s an interesting development because Porsche was talking about addressing the charging problem by building its own network of charging stations ahead of the launch of the Taycan.

Last year, the company announced plans to deploy hundreds of stations capable of delivering high charge rates. That includes a recently announced network of 500 EV charging stations in the US and Canada.

It was supposed to be a mix of high-powered stations to support the Taycan’s 350 kW charge rate installed at both dealerships and strategic locations along highways to enable long-distance travel.

Later, they even ramped up the effort to 700 stations across North America.

But now, following this deal with Electrify America, Porsche is only talking about installing 191 charging stations at its dealerships:

“To further expand power options, all 191 U.S. Porsche dealerships will install DC fast charging. More than 120 of these dealerships will feature Porsche Turbo Charging, which is the automaker’s own DC system that delivers up to 320 kW and also uses the CCS plug. The remaining dealerships will install 50 kW fast chargers.”

We asked Porsche if they abandoned their plan to have their own charging network outside of dealerships following this deal with Electrify America and we will update if we get an answer.

Update: Porsche confirmed that their own network will only be at dealerships.

Klaus Zellmer, President and CEO of Porsche North America, commented on the Electrify America deal:

“Every Porsche is a sports car with soul, and the Taycan is soul electrified. Together, Electrify America and our Porsche dealer network will provide a national infrastructure for DC fast charging that frees future Taycan owners from range anxiety. And Porsche home charging technology will turn the customer’s garage into the equivalent of a personal gas station.”

By the time the Taycan hits the market, Electrify America claims that it will have 484 locations with more than 2,000 chargers.

Electrek’s Take

That’s actually disappointing. It feels like a step back from having their own network.

Porsche’s previous plans felt like the most significant effort in fast-charging from an automaker since Tesla’s Supercharger network.

Instead, they are going to rely on a third-party network.

Though it happens that the third-party network is owned by their parent company.

What it shows really is that CARB and the EPA forcing Volkswagen to spend their settlement money on Electrify America is not really a “punishment” for Dieselgate. They are just using it for their own charging network.

Airbus Zephyr Solar High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite flies for longer than any other aircraft during its successful maiden flight

  • Touch down after 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes
  • System capabilities demonstrated
  • Maiden Flight objectives achieved

Farnborough, 8 August 2018 – Airbus Defence and Space announced the successful landing of its first production aircraft of the Zephyr programme, the new Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite). After taking off on 11th July in Arizona, USA, Zephyr S logged a maiden flight of over 25 days, the longest duration flight ever made. An application has been made to establish this as a new world record. This maiden flight of the solar-powered Zephyr S proves the system capabilities and achieved all the flight’s engineering objectives.

The previous longest flight duration record was also logged by a Zephyr prototype aircraft a few years ago, achieving then more than 14 days continuous flight, which already was ten times longer than any other aircraft in the world.

This new record flight was supported by the UK government and reflects the UK Ministry of Defence’s position as the first customer for this innovative and potentially game-changing capability.

General Sir Chris Deverell, Commander UK’s Joint Forces Command, said:

“This is a great example of how JFC is at the heart of innovation for UK Defence. We are demonstrating new technology that puts our Armed forces at the cutting edge of communication and surveillance”

Zephyr is the world’s leading, solar–electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It harnesses the sun’s rays, running exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic; filling a capability gap complimentary to satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services.

“This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr programme, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalised very shortly. We will in the coming days check all engineering data and outputs and start the preparation of additional flights planned for the second half of this year from our new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus.

Zephyr will bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both commercial and military customers. Zephyr will provide the potential to revolutionize disaster management, including monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills. It provides persistent surveillance, tracing the world’s changing environmental landscape and will be able to provide communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.

This article was originally published Aug 9 on

A Greener Green Part 2: Water Consumption And Innovation

As legalization is on the rise in the US, water consumption has become a concern for the cannabis industry, especially in Western states.

In the first part of this series, we explored the looming environmental issues of energy consumption that surround the cannabis industry.  More recently, however, the ecological impact of water consumption and sustainability has also arisen for the cannabis industry.  Due, in part, to the recent and expeditious westward expansion of the industry, the question of water consumption is on many minds, as both legislators and cultivators proactively seek out sustainable water consumption practices.


Water Usage Red Flags

As previously covered in this series,  some believe the answer to reducing the environmental impact of the cannabis industry is through legalization.  Full legalization would allow for more government agricultural regulations as well as legally incentivize producers to become more sustainable in their practices. Legalization would allow grant money for research and improvements, which are currently available to other agricultural departments, to be offered to the cannabis industry.

Due to the lack of research, an ongoing issue throughout the industry, no one knows the exact impact that the industry will have on the environment.  However, in the case of water, especially in California, legalization has become key in protecting the environment.  California’s north coast region,  known as the  “Emerald Triangle,” has been plagued with outdoor illegal grows for decades, which have proved detrimental to the local environment.  These illegal grows are most often on public land, where water is typically irrigated from surrounding bodies of water, such as streams.  Runoff water is also an ecological issue, as the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers are harmful to the environment.

In 2015, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife published a study stating that cannabis grows in the Emerald Triangle average as much as 6 gallons of water per plant, per day.  Multiply that by the massive scale of California’s grows, and it becomes easy to see how in a state plagued by drought, water consumption has become a headline issue.  These numbers, however, could also be a gross overestimate, as NORML has cited that the average water consumption is closer to 2.6 gallons per plant per day, however, due to the lack of research in this area, the actual water consumption and usage has yet to be determined.


Water Regulations And Proactivity

With the recreational legalization of cannabis in California came strict regulations and expectations for growers.  Growers that pull from water sources such as rivers and streams will be responsible for having their own stored water supply.  By enforcing growers to have a water supply, water collected throughout the year will alleviate consumption during the winter months, when water is scarcest in California.  Although some growers may only implement the regulations for initial inspections and licensure, the majority of growers are meeting, and exceeding regulatory demands.

Outdoor cultivators, not just in California, are motivated to implement sustainable practices.  Whether it be to meet regulations, lessen their environmental impact, or marketability, cultivators are invested in their crops and seek to make it a cutting-edge industry that exceeds the practices of other agricultural practices.

Indoor grows make water consumption and waste significantly easier to control, and many cultivators are already leading the way in reducing water usage.  Creative irrigation practices are eliminating the ability to over-water and reducing evaporation; there are also ways to recycle and reuse runoff water.  Cultivators are also starting to collect the condensation from the humidity produced by plants and store it for use.  Brandy Keen, co-founder and senior technical advisor at Surna, a company that creates and distributes water-efficient indoor cultivation equipment, boasts that indoor water use could be a net-zero consumption.  As water-efficient practices are becoming more common, and consumers in specific markets, such as California, are starting to become more educated on environmental issues surrounding cannabis, cultivators are proactively seeking out new and improved watering methods.

Endless Opportunities For Improvement

While the primary purpose of this series is to highlight the environmental footprint of the cannabis industry in the US, one other take away should be that in the cannabis industry, there is an overwhelming necessity for improvement, and that is not a bad thing.  With the need for improvement comes endless opportunities, for businesses as well as the entire industry.  Development and advancements of environmentally sustainable practices in the cannabis industry have the potential to put cannabis on a par with other agricultural and showcase how the industry’s technological advancements can drastically lessen the environmental impact and gain industry support and acceptance.

This article was originally published on by 

Lowering Electricity Bills Without Sacrificing Crop Yields

Electricity consumption is typically the second-biggest cost incurred by indoor cultivation facilities (and often greenhouses), behind labor. According to cultivation company data analyzed by the nonprofit Resource Innovation Institute, grow facilities on average expend about 275,000 kilowatt hours per square foot of canopy. Some grows spend much more, while outdoor grows spend little or nothing on electricity, according to Derek Smith, executive director of the Portland, Oregon-based research organization.

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The high cost of electricity for indoor growing shouldn’t come as a shock, so to speak, given a grow facility’s need for lighting, air conditioning, dehumidifying and other demands. “ The more competitive the market gets, the more people are going to have to pay attention to resource management,” said Casey Rivero, head grower at Yerba Buena in Hillsboro, Oregon. “Power is one of your biggest costs, and being able to efficiently maximize your power is key.”

While reducing your cultivation site’s electric bill without making major sacrifices on yield and quality may sound like a tall order, there are ways to do it. The two biggest consumers of electricity, according to a 2014 study performed by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, are lighting, which accounts for about 38% of energy consumption, and dehumidification and ventilation, at 30%. Cooling takes up 21% of power demands, while the remaining 11% of power use can be attributed to heating, water management, CO2 and curing. That said, the easiest place to seek energy savings is through lighting – in addition to heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC. Here are three ways to cut your electricity bill.

1) Determine How Much Juice You’re Consuming

To save on power, you first must know how much electricity you’re consuming and what it is being used for, such as lighting and HVAC. The simplest way to measure how much you’re using is to calculate your kilowatts per day.  Next, estimate how many hours per day your lighting and HVAC equipment are running and at what power level to understand how much juice is going to each. Growers should know that the amount of lighting and HVAC being used will depend where plants are in the growth cycle. Outside conditions play a role, too, because air conditioners and dehumidifiers must work harder on hot and/or humid days, respectively.

“It’s kind of a guestimate, but it’s better than nothing,” Rivero said. To get more accurate data, Rivero suggests using power monitors that can be placed on breaker boxes to track electricity consumption based on a particular power source, such as a specific wall of air conditioning units or lighting panels. How many breaker boxes a cultivation facility has varies on the size and design of the facility as well as what kind of power service systems (single phase or three phase) and voltage power the site. Yerba Buena, for example, has individual subpanels for lighting in every room as well as a panel for each of the facility’s 10 HVAC units. There are also panels for less power intensive equipment, like water pumps. Basic power monitors cost between $600 and $1,000, while the most expensive models can hit $10,000, Rivero estimated.

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A cultivation site doesn’t need to buy a power monitor for every breaker. But having several makes it easier to run comparisons, say between different grow rooms, different days or between lighting and HVAC units within a room. In addition, energy-management companies can install data equipment to make it easier to track and manage power consumption.

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2 ) Get the Lowdown on LEDs

While lighting uses the most electricity at indoor grow sites, most cultivators still use high-pressure sodium lights, typically 1,000 watts. Not only is the wattage a major energy drain, but HPS lights produce high heat, forcing air conditioners and dehumidifiers to work harder adding to utility bills. More efficient and environmentally friendly LED lights have been around for several years, but only a small number of growers have adopted them. Many growers acknowledge that LED lights are more efficient but argue that they don’t produce the yields that HPS lights do and, therefore, reject them. For example, Massachusetts marijuana industry executives were up in arms in March after regulators imposed a cap on electricity use amounting to 36 watts per square foot of cultivation space. The move, in effect, forced growers to adopt LED lights a move some executives hope to overturn.

When Allison Justice arrived at San Diego County, California-based OutCo in late 2016, she also was told that LED lights couldn’t perform like HPS lights, and that whatever the cost savings, they would be lost to the lower yields that were expected. Justice, OutCo’s director of cultivation, wanted to see for herself, so last year she started running trials comparing 1,000- watt HPS lights with LED lights from Fluence, a commercial LED firm whose wattages were 330, 560, 660 and 1,000. More wattage equals more light intensity. Testing on two strains, Justice and her colleagues found the LED 1,000-watt lights produced 21% higher yield than 1,000-watt HPS lights, while 660-watt LEDs resulted in 13% more yield and a 37% drop in energy use. At 37% decrease, Justice noted, didn’t account for savings from the air conditioners, which ran less because LEDs give off less heat. Justice acknowledges that LEDs are more expensive – a Fluence 660 is about $1,280, while a standard HPS light is around $400 but the cost is more than outweighed by the energy savings and increased yield.

Another advantage of LED’s: They allow growers to “double stack” a layer of plants on top of another one, effectively doubling the cultivation space. How? Because HPS lights are so hot, they must be farther from the plants than LED lights, which are cooler. “It’s like getting another facility for free. The ROI on that is a no-brainer,” Justice said, referring to return on investment.

Following the successful tests, OutCo started retrofitting its facility for LED lights late last year, essentially interrupting production for six weeks to tear out old benches and lights and install new rolling benches, irrigation, drainage, HVAC and other equipment. Since then, Justice and her team have harvested two crops each of several strains, including Mendo Breath, Cookie Pucker, Grape Pie, Strawberry Banana and Black Jack. “Yield and quality is phenomenal,” Justice said. “ There’s always tweaking to do when you start something like this. Overall we’re very happy.” Other cultivators are also gaining confidence in LEDs. “I was a holdout because I never saw the production that I could get out of an HID (high-intensity discharge) with an LED. They are now rapidly catching up,” said Eli McLean, a cultivation consultant and commercial grower in Salem, Oregon. “Once you run the numbers, you realize that you get good yield of top-shelf cannabis that cost me a third less to produce.”

McLean is now researching LED lights with quantum dot technology that he said operate at about 91-92 degrees Fahrenheit. The lights are manufactured by a company called QD Grow. “ is means you’ll need far less latent cooling because you have far less latent heat,” McLean said. “I think you can see savings on your cooling costs of up to 65% for LED versus what’s being used today.”

3) Make Your HVAC Less Power Hungry

Finding ways to reduce HVAC power use is good for the environment and your company’s finances. Yerba Buena was able to get rid of its dehumidifiers, for example, which significantly reduced the company’s utility bills. How did the Oregon grower do it? It adapted sensors that measure leaf moisture and air humidity and wired them to activate air conditioners (which also perform dehumidification) when the leaf surfaces reach a certain moisture level. Remember that leaf surfaces can transpire moisture because of heat from grow lights. By activating air conditioners when leaves start to transpire – versus waiting for a preset interval Rivero can both absorb air humidity and lower temperatures that had risen because of light heat. That, in turn, reduces leaf transpiration even more.

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By reducing overall plant transpiration, and more efficiently timing air conditioning use, Yerba Buena was able to regulate and reduce humidity, so it could be handled by air conditioning alone. e company ditched its last dehumidifier in February. “Our goal is to stabilize that humidity and heat. You need to pay attention to the leaf surface, because the leaf surface temperature is what’s going to allow that water to come out of the plant,” Rivero said. “ The more sensing and control equipment you have that talks with HVAC and lighting together rather than separately, the easier it is to achieve that balance, as opposed to having those things separate and hope they line up.”

This article was originally published in Marijuana Business Magazine • July 2018