Sunday, August 9, 2009

1,500 Mile Wrap Up

Tomorrow I hit 1,500 miles. #402 is my daily commuter car and I drive it just like any other car, sometimes harder. Below is sort of a wrap up of how I got into this program, what I do and if my experience is going well…so while you are reading don't forget to take advantage of the recharge time and plug in your MINI E if not already.

Here we go……

Why did I apply to lease this car?

Ø I’m in the energy business and I’ve been around some pretty cool EVs such as a modified eBox which is a true (V2G) Vehicle to Grid EV. After a ride in that car I was hooked. When I heard that MINI USA was leasing 500 electric MINIs to consumers I jumped at the chance. I applied on behalf of my company and we ended up getting 4, 3 for personal use and 1 for employees to share. #402, #438 and #484 are leased by employees, #365 is used by the company. June 15 these cars had a home.

What industry am I in?

Ø Energy management and demand response

Ø I’m in charge of corporate marketing

What other cars do I have or drove before the MINI E?

Ø 2006 Mercedes CLK – returned at lease end last month, #402 replaces it

Ø 2007 Mercedes ML320 CDI diesel – all mid size SUVs should be diesels, drive one of the new ones and you will agree, they are quiet, powerfull, efficient and they are clean

Ø 1990 Porsche 944s2 Cabriolet

How has adjusting to the MINI E been?

Ø Other then the lack of storage space and range it has not been as bad as I thought. Yes, I miss the CLK, it is a wonderful car, but I’m totally smitten with this MINI E. I look for excuses to run errands for my Wife just so I can drive it somewhere.

Have I had any unexpected surprises?

Ø Yes
o The day after taking delivery I was headed to a car show in Jersey City. While waiting at a traffic light the car just turned off, I don’t mean going into neutral, it turned off. The battery indicator swung to zero and the warning beep sounded – no power, dead. I tried to restart by pressing the start/stop, no luck. Finally did a Windows and pulled the key out for a full shut down then went through the process of starting again, success. A real mystery and has not happened since.

o That same day the 110 cable died, which was a bit of a problem since I was hoping to recharge at the car show as I was low on juice and had miles to go. I called MINI E roadside, they offered to tow me, but I declined and said I was going for it. Well, I was returning from the show I could see clearly I was not going to make it, my first experience of severe range anxiety, to make it worse I had a co-worker with me, so two of us would be stranded. I called ahead to the dealer and said clear the 50amp I’m coming in. They took me, recharged me, made a few calls to MINI USA and gave me another cars cable. I was off and all is good in EV land again.

o I still do not have the wall box, I’ve been 110ing it. Fortunately my round trip commute is just short enough so that if I plug in by 7pm I’ll have a full charge when I leave by 8am the next day. Currently I’m in discussions with the installation company as I needed an upgrade and during the inspection I received a verbal estimate. When I finally got the actual estimate it was way more….this is not holding up the wall box install as all our cars are still waiting for wall box install dates. But as I mentioned earlier, right now, I’m surviving with the 110.

o I thought I’d be getting better range right away, it has taken a lot of practice to get where I am today which is around 120, but that is a real stretch. Not sure how the EPA pegged this car at 150 but that is in a dimension I have not had the pleasure of visiting.

So what do I like about the MINI E?

Ø Where do I start, I love it. The silky delivery of power is intoxicating and the standard great handling of a MINI Cooper does not hurt either. The car accelerates like no combustion engine can, if you are cruising along at 30 or so and some dork comes along side or tailgates to play you simply punch it. There is no delay, no revving of the motor, no downshifting, no loud roar or straining sounds coming from the engine bay, you just go and any car nut knows that is simply amazing.

Ø I actually like the sound of the electric motor, I don’t miss the throaty exhaust of my old car. Today, when I hop into what is considered an ultra smooth gas car it feels rough to me.

Do I have any suggestions for improvement on the MINI E or EVs in general?

Ø Sure do but not for the MINI E as this is a ‘mule’ so to speak

o Put a battery charge indicator on the car that can be seen, would be nice to see the % of battery power without having to start it up. Nissan has the right idea by sending a signal to an iPhone. However, not everyone has one of those, no really its true, better bet is to integrate with the home/utility using ZigBee so you can see % of charge and cost to you in real time on your network.

o Give us a choice if we want to use regen braking or not. The eBox has a lever on the dash that adjusts the regen intensity, full regen to no regen. I live in the ‘snow belt’ and I for one am not looking forward to training myself on how to drive a car that wants to brake no matter what in snow.

o Make the connector for the charging cable more user friendly. It should be a cartridge type slot system with an LED that tells you a good connection is made.

o Liquid cool the batteries, our planet is getting hotter so EVs will need to keep pace so as not to overheat.

o Please be more realistic with the range. I’m sure it is up to the EPA to produce a better formula, just like the recent change for combustion engines, with more logged real miles they will have to.

o Bring the price down, these are still too expensive, even the ones coming. The Nissan LEAF sounds reasonable until you realize that batteries are not included…that’s right, you lease the batteries separately. I want to be green but I also want green in the bank and I do not feel comfortable spending $40k or more for what is basically a commuter car as cool as it is.

What do I think about EVs for the future?

Ø The technology is here to stay, I really believe that. I have the luxury of working with utilities so I hear all the talk about these cars which is finally being taken seriously. Without the support of the utilities to support an infastructure, these cars won’t make it.

Ø These cars are perfect for commuters, 100 miles is more then enough, as long as you can recharge in under a few hours it is a non issue. With current battery technology I can’t see these cars being a families only car…but that will change…later.

Ø Besides the fact that these cars produce no emissions (coal fired power plants are far more efficient overall then cars burning gasoline or diesel) they also reduce noise pollution and another wonderful byproduct, heat pollution. Yes, the batteries get hot but nothing like an engine or the heat from the exhaust…anyone who has been in a traffic jam knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Ø As a driver we will certainly need to make adjustments, but it is for the good of our planet, not a big deal and well worth the effort. Just like anything else it will soon become a habit.


Ø It has been 1,500 miles of fun and I look forward to the rest of the year whirring around knowing I really am doing my part.

Thanks for reading


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