Shawnee Man Commutes in Style in All-Electric BMW

Bruce Meacham and his converted BMW 3-Series

People traditionally don’t put “ultimate driving machine” and “smaller carbon footprint” in the same sentence, but in the case of Bruce Meacham’s all-electric 1986 BMW 3-series, German engineering, American ingenuity and zero emissions coexist quite nicely.

Meacham, the car’s third owner, purchased the car two years ago for $5,000 and then invested another $5,000 in a new electric battery that he installed himself. Although Meacham could be considered a bit of a shade tree mechanic (his hobbies include building airplanes), his decision to go with the electrified BMW was merely economic.

“I figure I have a net savings of $1,000 in the two years I’ve owned the car,” said Meacham, “and that includes the money I spent on the new batteries.” Meacham adds that now that he’s recouped his battery investment, he’ll save upwards of $3,000 each year on gas.

Meacham uses the BMW to commute from his home in Shawnee, Kan., to his job in the Armourdale district in Kansas City, Kan., a round trip of roughly 30 miles. Occasionally, Meacham will charge the car during the day at a charging station near his job but mostly charges overnight in his garage, which has a 30-amp/240-volt outlet capable of re-charging the car’s batteries in as little as three hours. “I typically charge at a rate of about 15 miles per hour,” he said.

When asked if an electric vehicle is a good choice for commuters, Meacham said it’s important for a car owner to consider how far he or she is likely to drive in a given day before weighing the options of investing in a new or converted electric vehicle.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, I know I am going to be driving less than 50 miles, so an electric vehicle made sense for my style of driving,” said Meacham.

Meacham and his wife also own a Toyota Prius that they converted from to a plug-in hybrid, which can get up to 100 miles per gallon and also offers the ability to drive longer distances on gasoline power when they’re making a road trip.

Meacham reports that the batteries in his BMW have shown no significant degradation in the two years he’s owned the car, despite more than 15,000 miles of driving and roughly 1,000 partial cycles.

Although Meacham’s converted BMW doesn’t feature the latest technologies such as regenerative breaking, that are standard in production models, such as the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, Meacham’s BMW is a perfect fit for his commuting needs.

“It was really a matter of cost for me, and the electrified car was a better option than a traditional gasoline vehicle,” reports Meacham, who used to spend upwards of $3,000 each year on gas but now plugs in instead. “The best part is that the increase in our household’s electric bill has been negligible.”