Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Easing Into Winter

The other day I decided to drive with the heat on for my entire commute to work. It was in the 50s so I set the fan to 1 and turned on the heat to 2 clicks. I also had the head lights on as it was foggy. Yes my range dropped, about 10%, after the 20 miles I had 90 left, I'm usually around 100 left. My % was at 83% while I'm normally at 88% to 90%.

On my return I had the wipers and lights on as it was raining, no heat, plus drove a little harder. The MINI E is fun in the rain. When all was said and done I did around 41 miles that day and had 63 miles left on the range indicator and 62% on the capacity, about 1% for 1 mile. Since I'm on the 110 I will fall behind during the week, with the wall box installed it won't be an issue for my commute, now if I want to take a 100 mile biz trip again that might be a real challenge.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

110 Shuffle With No Highways

Yesterday I had to take a longer trip than I was used to in the MINI E. 100 miles round trip and near the end I knew I would need lights and heater. I was heading to a business meeting in Englewood Cliffs NJ, start point was Mendham NJ.

The day before my trip I could feel the anxiety setting in, I need a plan. I'd stay off the main highways, stick to 46 and stay off of 80 to extend range and while at my series of meetings I'd plug in the car where I could, to get a little extra boost.

On my first leg of the trip, about 48 miles I was doing pretty well, the computer said I had 70 left to go. I was feeling pretty confident at that point and one of the buildings where my meetings where held was kind enough to let me plug in for about an hr and I got a 4% boost. This was 4% after the 3 to 4 times I plugged in as the buildings I was meeting in were separated so I had to drive back and forth between them interrupting my charging - I left the cable at the one building and plugged in there when I could.

So now I am reading to head back home, the distance meter on the MINI E said 77 miles....of course I had to give one "thank you" ride to the building maintenance guy who let me plug in...that ride took the 4% he gave me ;)

On my way back I figured I'd jump on the highway to see how it goes, after 3 miles I could see I was going to eat up a lot of juice and I wanted have plenty left for heat and lights and anything else that comes my way...being in NJ a lot of things can come your way unpredictably on the roads.

I jumped off 80 and got onto 46, range ticked up a bit and I was moving along. Thanks to phantom NJ road signs I ended up on some other branch of 46, that cost me 10 miles and 15 mins before I got back on track. Now it was getting dark, I switched on the lights, range said 34 miles and I had about 25 to go...hmmmmmm. I will say it is interesting how adjusting speed and resting the battery at lights can play with the range indicator, in your favor I might add, but having a 10 mile buffer in Joisey is not the most appealing.

So I decided to pull off 46 and hit smaller roads, that did increase my range. Now I'm getting close to home, about 12 miles to go, range says 21 and I'm starting to crave heat as it was 58 degrees outside plus I was heading to a section of road that eats EV battery capacity for lunch. No EV soldier hold off until you are close enough to coast home, I thought to myself. Well, when I got to with in 10 miles I put the heat on, settings were 1 for fan and heat...by the way, very toasting. I think the heat index of setting 1 is pretty good, seems stronger than a gas car. Of course in the blink of an eye my range went from 19 to 16 but it then held for the next 8 miles and I actually pulled into my driveway with around 17 mile left and 17% at 99.3 miles total, there is long slow section followed by a good downhill before my house that usually gets me 3 to 4 miles back.

In conclusion, I probably would have made it without the boost on the 110, but it would have been close, I have not gone past 0% as others have so I do not know if I could have gone farther. Granted I really don't want to be down to crumbs becasue if I run out of juice on the roads where I live I could be there a very very long time before I'm found. ;) In the heart of winter I expect range to really drop as I will be forced to keep the heat going all the time and I will be taking this business trip again.....stay tuned.

PS - I'm still on the 110, so over half a day later I'm just at 70%, 110 does take awhile to get back to 100% when near 0%. Added, just got my electric bill with an actual read, wow, as in high. I think the 110 is not efficient as it is a long continuous 12 amps. I'll have details on this later after I speak with the utility.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You Want My EV To Sound Like WHAT??

Ok people, this may come off as a rant or the beginning of a flame war, so be it....flame on!! But I will not accept this garbage about putting audio systems on EVs so they sound like gas cars. I'm sure you have all read the articles about how EVs are too quiet and a danger to the public....baloney. I'm sure more pedestrians will be taken out by bicyclists or rad skateboarders then EV hits. Didn't parents tell these pedestrians to look both ways before crossing the street? People still cross the street even if they hear a car....maybe pedestrians would be more cautious if they weren't sure if they heard a car or not...hmmm, there's a thought.

I for one enjoy the quietness of the MINI E. It is really soothing and there is something to be said for noise pollution, we have way too much of it. Wouldn't it be something if all cars were as quiet as EVs, don't you think that people would notice and hear a 3000lb EV coming down the road then?? It is amazing what you hear when it is quiet.

So where is the logic in making an EV sound like it has straight pipes or the engine is revving or what NISSAN says it will do with the LEAF, make it sound like the flying machine from Blade Runner.

Maybe I'll have my EV sound like the Good Humor Truck or Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55" or better yet "The Flight of the Valkyries".

Monday, September 21, 2009

Easy Bake

So today was another cold one, low 50s. I had to use the heater so I set the dial to blow on my feet as my tootsies felt cold plus heat rises, right, so it will be more effective. Boy did I feel smart.....that sort of worked. I set the fan to mid level and heat to high. Warmed up nicely and capacity also lowered nicely. At one point in my commute, where I would be around 106 miles left, I was at 100. I was feeling a bit anxious (yes all in the head) and switched off the heat. After all #402 is still suckling from the 110, if I went below 60% capacity when I got home I would not have a full charge in the morning.

About half way through my commute I switched it back on as it was getting cold again, keep in mind the battery fans are sucking out that nice warm air and that recirculation button only stays on a few minutes, pain in the booty that one. I set the fan to minimum and the heat to one click for an easy bake while keeping it blowing on my feet. I was happy to discover I was comfortable and the drain on the battery was about the same as the AC which was acceptable.

On the next cold day I'll keep it on longer at minimal levels and see if that works out.

By the way.....finally getting a wall box....look forward to driving beyond shouting range because I love this car.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Heating Things Up

Today is the first day I used the heater in #402. It was a nice 55 degrees outside, rainy and foggy, perfect EV weather...not. I've been reluctant to try the heater as I've heard it would suck the life juice out of the pack at record speed, after all it is an electric heater and we all know how much energy they can use.

After a few miles of driving I was getting cold enough to cave and turn that puppy on. I set the dial to max heat and put the fan on about half speed. First thing I noticed was cold air, different from a gas engine that has been running awhile which produces instant heat. Not in the MINI E, it was cold for about 30 secs and after the heating coils heated up it blew warm. Once going it works really well in fact, the cabin warmed up fast and all was nice and toasty, things were good...mostly. I looked down at my range indicator and right before my eyes I lost 3 miles and this was while I was regenning down a hill. Wow!! That heater takes some power...I dialed back the fan speed to 1 and reduced the heat temp by half, that helped but I was still using more power then I was accustomed to, I would say more then even the AC. Of course I had driving lights and wipers on but still.

I eventually turned off the heater all together, gained some distance back but overall my range dropped by nearly 20% just in my 20 mile drive and I only used the heater for 10 minutes of my 40 min run. This is a lot of drain and we have not even touched on the freezing days where I will need to keep the heater on.

Have any pioneers driven with the heater on for extended periods of time and what have you observed?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Almost T-Boned - Missed Me By That Much...

As luck would have it I was almost t-boned by a Ford Explorer today, and in my own town no less.

I had just left my bank's drive up window. I had a nice conversation with the drive up teller, she was commenting on how cute the car was and I informed her it was all electric. She thanked me for being a loyal customer and being green. Anyway, let me get back to the near carnage....I was heading west on Rt 24 and was about to make a left onto Tempe Wick (for those who know the area). I saw the Ford on Tempe Wick at the stop sign waiting to make his left onto West bound 24....yes, I have the right if way. So as I approached my left I kept my eye on that Ford, as this is a pretty hairy intersection, he did not move. I did not need to stop to make my left as the oncoming traffic was well away so I began to cut left....as soon as I did the Ford shot out.

Now let me tell you, all I saw in my peripheral vision was that huge gaudy chrome grill, I had the window open and it was like that grill was about to comb my hair. My brain went into action, I cut a hard right back into the oncoming lane and then cut hard left back into Tempe Wick. All of this allowed the MINI to keep that grill out of my hair and slide its rear left butt cheek out of imminent danger of being trampled by that SUV. All happened in a split second but I recall waiting for that awful sound and jarring motion that comes from a bad hit. I did a hard stop and looked back to see what kind of fool was behind the wheel of that SUV. A pretty big one since he stopped in the middle of the intersection to digest what he just did. I yelled "are you crazy", he said something stupid like "you are ok" and then drove off into traffic not even looking - again!

Now I'm in a small town and I will see this guy again, maybe he is reading my post. Either way it was a 2007/2008 dark blue Ford Explorer, gaudy chrome package with a dark haired dork behind the wheel. MINI E #402 will have retribution.

Regardless of whether the MINI E is a MINI Cooper or EV it did save my booty. It reacted when I did and a more casual car would have been kissed by that Ford. The fact that this EV can handle makes zero emission driving that much more enjoyable and survivable. In addition electric motors have instant response, no downshift or engine rev. You press the accelerator and they go NOW....that also helped me out of a bad situation.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cool Is Good - 120 Plus Miles

My MINI E loves the cool weather. When driving in the morning I am consistently at a range of over 120 miles according to the computer. My commute, one way, ranges from 17 to 21 miles depending on the route and the range computer usually lists 106 miles left. Today I did 17.4 and the range computer listed 108 left...pretty good considering I am driving it like a normal car, I actually accerlate.

I've also noticed my start range is increasing, this is what the computer displays after a full charge and the first drive of the day. This morning it said 117 miles and stayed at 117/116 for a good 5 miles.

Yes, cool is good, but what will freezing bring? I've noticed my battery has been as low as 59 degrees even when the MINI E was plugged in, though not charging, and it did not get above 63 after an 18 mile drive. Keep in mind our MINI Es are not supposed to recharge if the battery temp drops below 40 and we certainly won't be able to do any regen. Us Easterners get weather in the negatives so winter might not be the MINI Es best friend. It does not look like the battery pack tries to warm itself up, maybe it will in extreme cold but we will see.

Some tips I'd like to offer to MINI/BMW elite and other EV manufacturers out there.
> these batteries produce some decent heat when really used, such as highway driving, find a way to recycle that heat by pumping the warm air into the cabin. This will extend range during winter months as the driver will not have to use the electric heater as much.
> during winter months if the car is plugged in there should be a way to keep the battery pack at a good operating temperature (though this may be in there already I have not witnessed it yet)
> is there any air being pulled from outside the cabin to cool the batteries? I know the MINI E is not purpose built but it may help cool the batteries better if the cabin is still really hot which in the sun is common. Or add small solar panels to power a fan to vent the cabin.

Either way, EVs are the way to go. For commuting with smaller cars, perfect! As technology improves so will these cars.

Happy EVing

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting Cooler

Well I was off about thinking the MINI E won't let the batteries drop below 70 degrees when plugged in, charging or not. This morning they were 63 and on my drive to work did not get above 67. It did not cause any problems, in fact, I got the best range ever on my way into work today - 19 miles with 106 left.

I've also notice the car is charging faster on the 110 in the cool weather, I'm sure because the battery fan is not going as strongly.

So far cool is good...freezing is still a ways off, I hope.