Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting Cold

So it seems summer is struggling to hang around. It is 55 degrees right now and I know when the battery temp gets to 40 the MINI E will not recharge. I took a look at the batteries and they are at a cool 70 and recharging fine, in fact, since the weather is cooler and less humid I'm back to easy 110 charging.

This AM the weather was low 60s and the batteries never went above 71 while driving nor did they go below 70. I'm guessing the MINI E will try not to let the battery pack get below 70. I see it maintaining that minimum temp when I'm plugged in, charging or not. I wonder if unplugged and dormant will the batteries maintain that temp?

Anyone else notice lower temps on their MINI E battery pack?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gas vs. EV Terminology

Just a we go

Gassing the accelerator vs. juicing it

Slamming on the brakes vs. full regeneration

Fill up vs. plug in

Starting up my car vs. turning it on

Full tank vs. full capacity

Idle the motor vs. rest the battery

Filling my gas car in a forest fire vs. charging my EV in the rain

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Charge Anxiety - The Return

So last night was a pretty good night for charging my MINI E, it was a cool and once the battery got down to 80 degrees I was good to go, no breakers popping. There is definitly a charge wall I have to break through while being on the 110 cable, here is what I've learned with #402.

> It does not like humidity, no doubt about it

> In the mornings when the battery temp is in the 70s I get my best range, did 18 miles and still had 108 showing on the dash this AM

> If the battery temp is above 80 when charging I am likely to get a breaker pop on the cable unless I open the windows all the way

> The cable pops the most when I'm just below 80%, once I get past that hump it is smoother sailing

> If the battery fan is going strong charging takes much longer

> Even with the 110 I can to the top off technique

> OBSERVATION: while sitting in the car, having charge anxiety, checking the %, LED blinking, I heard the breaker pop again, LED goes off and suddenly the battery fan goes into turbo mode for a split second and all is quiet, was that a surge, a cough or a gag...who knows

> OBSERVATION 2: sometimes the key will not roll down the windows when the car is having charging problems and the interior light will not go on when I open the door - related, maybe

So what is the return I refer to? Right, tonight, its popping again and it is a bit warmer, battery is at 82 degrees and I'm just below 80%. Charge anxiety is my companion.

The picture above was taken at Morristown MINI the other day, I was there to get a catch up charge. When I pulled up I saw Tom's #250 plugged in getting a charge after his service, well, all's fair in love and war and I needed some juice. Off to the side with ya #250!

MINI E awesomeness - still there

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Charge Anxiety

The other 'Pioneers' all know what range anxiety is, but charge anxiety? Well I've got it. I'm still on the 110 and my routine is to get plugged in before 7pm and I'll be at 100% by the time I need to leave for work in the AM. A nightly ritual that has worked pretty well....until now.

Ever since the muggy weather set into NJ it has been effecting the charging of my MINI E. The 110 cables yellow breaker box often pops, that means it sits for 10 or so minutes then tries again. It then pops a bit later, cycles to try again until it just gives up. Meanwhile I am getting very little to no charging. Sometimes this happens in the middle of the night and I wake up to just a 5% increase.

So while the MINI E is charging I look for that blinking LED on the MINI E battery indicator to make sure its blinking, if not I then check the yellow box on the cable to see what it is doing. Then I do my little dance of re-plugging the cable in if it does not cycle, then I run out to the car to see how much I got or didn't get. Then my brain starts spinning, wondering what is the most efficient route to take tomorrow since I'm low on juice and once I get to work then what, where can I plug in to keep my MINI E on the road? You get the picture.

I find myself constantly checking that MINI E LED, just like we glance at the range or % indicator when we drive. My Wife has pointed out I'm obsessed, so now I strategically clear the dirty dishes on the table because I know the walk to the kitchen will offer me a view of the LED. I clear a few at a time so I get multiple opportunities to glance at the LED....I find myself rechecking about every 15 to 30 mins....I call this CHARGE ANXIETY.

Fortunately the MINI E community is charitable. The dealer, Morristown MINI, has always let me come in and get back up to 100% whenever I needed to and other 'Pioneers' like Tom (#250) and John have offered their wall chargers when I need them. I've got a good cushion there, but I still feel the pull of that LED.

So got to run, time to check the LED.......CHARGE ANXIETY. Anyone else got it?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Busy MINI E Weekend And I'm Finally Noticed

(Private exotic car show in Far Hills, NJ)

This was one busy MINI E weekend. Saturday we had the Northeast gathering at Tom's restaurant and then today on Sunday I get an email from an old friend to join a rally beginning in Chatham NJ. Unfortunately I could not make the rally but I was able to meet everyone at the end point in Far of the members homes, a gorgeous home.

(The car to the right is an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, only 500 made. Dork pic I know, did not know what the car was until I looked it up later)

(A valets dream)

(Nothing like the sound of the old classics starting up)

(Getting #402 ready for a showing - would anyone notice?)

(A Closer look at my friends classic MINI - right hand drive)

This was no ordinary rally, this was a collection of car enthusiasts who own some very expensive exotics. Lamborghini's, Ferrari's, Porsche's, Aston Martins, Lotus, Jaguars, Alfa Romeos and Bentley's all there. These were cars I've seen driving around town on occasion but not all of them in one place at one time.

(It did not take long for #402 to draw a crowd - real auto enthusiasts that knew what #402 was)

I pulled #402 up next to my friends 60s MINI with right hand drive - talk about a contrast of the past and future. I popped the bonnet, plugged the cable into the charge socket to help show what this puppy is and a crowd grew. Mind you I was in the company of some truly amazing cars and the MINI E was a magnet - very cool. The crowd knew it was a MINI E, I guess being around auto enthusiasts helps, and they were quite knowledgeable of the car and we had some great conversation.

(Do you think the DMV gave this guy a hard time for applying for that plate?)

A lot of these exotics had some customization done to them, you would never know it until they start up. The Lambo with the '207 MPH' plate shook the ground and had some massive headers tucked underneath. But all good things do come to an end as it was time to go, I paid my respects to the hosts and began to pack up. As I was driving away I looked back for a quick glance of the cars left and noticed a group of 20 or so gathering in the main courtyard to say goodbye to the hosts. They all paused their conversations and looked up to see me quietly drive away, listening to the sound of silence - fantastic feeling.

Next time I'll be sure to make the driving part of the rally.

MINI E Northeast Gathering

(Looks like a MINI E dealer....hmmmmmm)

On August 22nd Tom, #250, was kind enough to arrange a gathering of MINI Es at his restaurant Nauna's Bella Casa in Montclair NJ. Good food, good talk and good fun!

(Paul (left) and myself, Paul is Mr. EV and V2G - Paul, that's a lot of MINI Es, what if we all plugged in at once ...)

It was a great turn out with about 9 drivers and a representative from MINI USA joining us. It was so good to see the faces of the drivers I've been chatting with via blogs and Facebook, for example, I got to meet the 'drag racer' in person ;) . You can find more info on the gathering at Tom's blog

I think all attended would agree that this is a program we are happy to be a part of, we love driving the MINI E and look forward to what BMW/MINI creates out of this field test. Thanks again Tom.

After the event I met up with some old friends that live in town. It was the first time they've seen a MINI E and of course I had to give some demo rides. This time I warned each one that the car is faster then they might think so be prepared....after the drive all 3 of them gathered among themselves to talk about how fast it really was and I was NOT kidding....I love that!

I also tried to charge up a bit at my friends house and as soon as I plugged in I got a Power Fault error on the yellow cable box, we tested the outlet with a vacuum cleaner and it worked, just not the cable for the MINI E. I guess that line did not have enough, it was an old house. No worries, I headed home around 10pm with no issues. I did 58 miles that day, with 3 aggressive demo drives and still had 54 left, use of headlights and rear defroster but no AC, acceptable range.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Charging Challenges

This is a follow up to my earlier post where I mentioned I was experiencing shorter range, due to heat and humidity, and real problems charging my car with the 110.

Well the humidity has relaxed a bit. It is still hot but my MINI E seems happier. My range is back, in fact, I should get around 123 miles according to the computer. I have not gone all the way to zero as I'm still on the 110 and I need the car daily.

As for my charging challenges this still goes on, however, I've been able to make it less painful. What was happening was the breaker on the 110 cable was popping every 15 or so minutes, especially if the batts were hot, 85 or higher. That batt fan would really blow and I'm sure #402 was asking for the full 12amps, 12amps the cable or my house was not willing to give up. I've also noticed charging does take longer, I'm sure due to the fan needing juice. As the night cooled with the batts I was usually able to leave the MINI E alone to charge, breaker free, but unfortunately it was not long enough to get a full charge by morning.....frustrating.

I tried another cable from the other cars we had, no difference, finally I just decided to open both windows all the way not just a crack, bugs were happy and there was improvement. The cable breaker popped but not as much and once the batts got to around 82 degrees I could close the windows and let the car continue sipping on the 110. Oh by the way - do remember to turn your vents to the open position, helps with cooling.

So what does this all mean, is my MINI E sick, no, am I having grid infrastructure issues, I think so. I'm guessing on these hot nights people in town still have home AC on which is creating increased demand on the grid, a time of normal quiet and when less power is produced. Probably there is 'dirty' power entering my house, uneven flow. It is just enough to cause the MINI E to gag a bit...theory yes, but not off base. I'm in a small historic town and like most of the small historic towns in North Jersey on a hot night the lights look a bit dimmer or flicker whether I have AC on or not. I have a 200amp line to the house but if there is not enough juice available it would not matter if I had double that. Imagine what could happen when the wall box is connected.

So this brings up a very good point. I've read statements from 'groups' about how there is plenty of energy around to power all the EVs the world can produce....really? What a pathetic and half ass statement. I agree there is enough energy, but, there is NOT an efficient way to deliver it to these cars yet. Think of the electric grid as our road system, or worse, our bridge infrastructure, load it up get the point.

If you have a number of EVs pulling 40amps or more simultaneously and continuously for hours while in close proximity to each other you have a real problem - the gird was not designed for it. EV manufactures will need to be aware of this and work with utilities to upgrade or implement techniques to manage that can be done...demand response is one of the technologies which requires little infrastructure upgrade, but that is for another post.

I love seeing bold statements from NISSAN on the LEAF and other future EV manufacturers about all the cars they will bring to our roads, that will be interesting.

BMW has a good head start, yes there have been some challenges with the wall boxes, but now BMW/MINI has a better idea of just how much it takes to set up a surface infrastructure, the other guys think they do. I look forward to more EVs on the road, I want an EV to drive after this field test, but I also look forward to keeping my lights on.

EV Thursday

Got a few cool EV related news links

Autobloggreen: Germany Setting Sights on One Million Electric Cars by 2020?

Autobloggreen: Second Edition Emart Ed Will go into Series Production in November

NY Times Wheels Blog: Electric Mini Zips Along After Early Speed Bumps

Saturday, August 15, 2009

MINI E Pizza Meet & Greet

Hey all NJers and NYers (any PAers?) with MINI Es

#250 Tom Moloughney is arranging a gathering at his restaurant in Montclair NJ August 22nd at 1pm. All MINI Ers are invited. There will be food.

1pm to 3pm August 22nd
Nauna's Bella Casa Restaurant
148 Valley Road
Montclair, NJ 07042


RSVP to Tom at -- tom dot moloughney at gmail dot com

Hope to see you there

Friday, August 14, 2009

Heat And Humidity - Not Just Icky For Us

The past few days we have had some hot and humid days in NJ. This is pretty typical for a NJ summer but it has been unusually cool and I have not yet seen how the MINI E handles uncomfortable days. I am not referring to rainy days, we have had plenty of those and the MINI E did fine.

I'm happy to report the AC works great - nice and cool. However, what I am noticing is a big decrease in my range, yes the AC takes some extra juice but not this much. I have used the AC before and not seen as much of a drain as I am on these days. So I tried to turn the AC off and sweat it out to see if my range would tick back up to what I was accustomed to. Besides the idea that MINI USA may not want the car back after my sweat it out AC experiment (bad thing - naaah) my range increased only slightly, I was still below the norm and it was definitely during these two hot and humid days, AC or not.

To make matters more challenging I am having extreme difficulty charging the MINI E with the 110 cable (I'm still on the 110). Whatever is going on it is effecting the charging. What is happening is the cable breaker pops every 15 minutes - maybe I get a little longer but not much. This has never happened before and it is definitely happening on these hot and humid nights - the time I do charge the MINI E. Could it be related to the humidity - maybe. Is the gold box water proof - I don't know, are the batteries water tight - I don't know.

FYI - I stopped by Openroad Morristown MINI for a catch up charge - they were happy to accommodate me and their coffee was pretty good too.

They are having a heat wave in the LA area but that is a dry heat and us New Englanders know humidity gets into everything.

So to wrap it up what about today - it was hot but not so humid. Guess what, my range was pretty good today, when I got home I plugged in to recharge, no problem. At around 8:30pm it began to get pretty muggy again and guess what else, yup you nailed it, the breaker on the cable began to pop. I don't think it is the cable.

I would like very much to now if any other Pioneers are seeing anything odd with their car during these humid days.

UPDATE: Observation, noticed a slight layer of moisture around the plug, both cable and car side, when it happened again during a muggy night. Today during the day I have no problems, yes it is hot, but not muggy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

MINI ME Clubman EV - Not By BMW

Just came across Jack Rickard's work - he is converting an 09 MINI Clubman to full electric.

Apparently it has a back seat ;) Anyway do check it out, it is pretty cool and way to go Jack!

By the way - Jack also converted a 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster replica to full electric

Links below:
MINI ME Clubman
Porsche 356 Speedster

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ice Cream Sundae With MINI E Topping

Today the property management company of the building my company is in organized an ice cream social. They requested we bring our MINI Es to display. We were happy to do so.

(We drove #402 onto the entrance walk and struck a pose)

(This was followed by #484 and putting the Comverge sign on the #402 door)

(We soon moved them to under the overhang as a storm was rolling in. Paul, #484, had already gone through one hail storm and did not want to chance it - you could see the fear in his eyes)

(The people began to funnel out once they had their Sundaes - about 100 came. A good MINI E sighting day)

About 100 people came and were very interested in the MINI Es. We had some very good questions like, what is the range, life of batteries, what happens if you need to go further then 120 miles, how much does it cost to run, are they reliable, etc.

Everyone knew they were EVs, the announcement that they would be on sight did not hurt, it was nice to have good questions. Only one person asked "How many gallons does the tank hold?" We let that one slide ;) What was really surprising is people did not seem to know what kind of car this was - first time for me that they did not know it was a MINI Cooper right off the bat. One guy asked me if it was from China.

After the event I gave one demo ride to one of the organizers, and while we were heading down the other side of the parking lot I gave it a little juice. My passengers casual chat turned into a worried voice "OK, OK, that is fast!" Good way to end the day.

Chevy Volt Chargers

Autoblog just posted some info about the Chevy Volt chargers. Honestly I thought they would look a little less industrial and more user friendly. The MINI E chargers are certainly not for mainstream use but being a test program that is understandable, GM surprised me.

Click HERE to see the article

Monday, August 10, 2009

Phantom AC

Today is probably the hottest we have gotten this summer in NJ, and not so much heat hot but humid heat hot - that really bites. It seems the MINI E feels it too and I saw my battery temp go over 100 for the first time and it stayed there on my drive home - it hovered around 104 and dropped to 103 by the time I finished my 20 mile commute.

I used the driving lights, AC and radio on the way home and noticed a bit of a drain overall, maybe 10% more then usual, all in all not terrible, but when you are this in tune with a car you notice everything.

Now I'm trying to get the MINI E to charge - still have just the 110 remember - as soon as I plug it in the fan comes right on and loud. So I opened the windows a crack to see if that helped, nope. I closed up the car and a few seconds later I heard a hum from the engine bay, it sounded like the AC. I opened the car (hum stopped), got in, closed the door and did not insert the key. In a split second I heard that faint hum and felt cool air coming from the the MINI E cooling itself and how much recharge power is it taking to do that? Opened the door or rolled down window, hum stopped as did the cool air. First time I've noticed this.

Anyone else run across this?

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


Saturday, August 8, 2009

MINI E Has Shown Me The Miles

Before getting the MINI E I just drove around, not giving much thought to how much distance I actually traveled in a week or even a day. With the MINI E range is constantly on ones mind, you find yourself scanning the % left or miles left indicator at all times and then at the end of your trip you mentally record how far you went and how much further you can go on that charge. We all do it.

One item that has come to my attention is just how far I travel in NJ. For example, today I did 74 miles. Where in the heck did I do 74 miles I thought. Well, work is 40 round trip, then I often do some errands or visits and any town from my town is 10 miles away - that's 20 round trip in the blink of an eye. Just me going to Kings is 6 miles round trip, 6 miles!! Insanity if you think about it. Before you know it you are nearing the end of your comfort MINI E range....but it brings up an interesting point....we travel a lot and I'm sure North NJ is not unique. Once in suburbia you are going to put on the miles. Imagine if we had real public transportation like other countries, that would cut down on the CO2, but that's for another field test.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oh Deer - EV Road Kill

I love the silence of the MINI E, just one serious drawback and it is because of where I live, deer! They don't recognize the hum of me coming. Deer do what they want most of the time but they hear and recognize car engines and at times will pause until you pass, but with this MINI E, I'm sure they hear it, but they have no idea what it is and sounds like no they just walk on out.

I find this with birds and other animals as well....people, especially on bicycles, wander out in front of you even if you are driving a Mack truck so I don't include them on my list.

Monday, August 3, 2009

MINI E Sighting And A Flood!

So over the weekend I had the opportunity to meet a fellow Pioneer Tom who has MINI E #250. We talked about the program and offered tips and driving styles, I also was able to see how the wall charger works. I'm still dreaming of mine which IS coming soon I'm happy to report.

Of course we were able to get some photos of the reunited pair of MINI Es and as luck would have it both of the cars, when starting after the pictures were taken, experienced the hour glass. Could the two cars be telling us it the swine? So we chuckled, sat a minute, and then we were both off to our respected destinations.

To add to the fun it happened to be another typical rainy day in NJ, except this one had torrential rains and you can see by the following pictures it was serious. As I approached the water a MINI voice went off inside my head reminding me to avoid puddles, this was a tad larger, so I backed off. After two attempts with side roads I finally found a clear route and made it home safely. By the way, just like everyone else the Pig paid no attention to my MINI E #402