My Year with an All-Electric MINI


WHY GAS? double answers…

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on December 30, 2009

I was able to get a good personalized license plate back in the early fall, WHY GAS.  I actually get more noticed because of that than the car itself.  I enjoy finding combinations of short words and this one was best, for me.  And though some obvious cynical answers are because we love paying Arab countries for oil, etc, there are also answers like because I can drive 400 miles on a tank of gas! In any case, I just want people to pause and think for a moment.

It was very cold today, maybe a high of 22 (yesterday was maybe 28), but I didn’t use the car for my commute after all, since it didn’t get charged last night (silly mistake).   But I probably would not have made it—the car got 19 miles today on 48% reduction in charge.    Not only is range shrinking terribly in cold weather, but the equivalent cost of a gallon of gas is going up…  I need to compute this more the next week or so (after a New Years trip), as I am thinking gas would actually be cheaper lately.  Not a good omen.

cold weather again, and varying rates of % battery used per mile

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on December 29, 2009

The last 2 months have been a mixed bag with the MINI E.   After the really cold October day when I only got 87 miles and had to be towed a mile to my house, we had weeks and weeks of warmer weather and I did not have range problems.  As it has gotten sometimes colder again the past couple of weeks, I have come close again to running out of juice (going as much as 10 miles after reaching 0% on the battery meter), but have also been driving less because of working at home, holidays, time off, and my wife driving the car.  My logging of my drives is inconsistent, but I am now thinking that the day I was towed in October might have been a slight aberration, as it was only the 2nd day of driving after 3 weeks of being idle (the wall box would not charge it as it was causing the breaker to break and MINI replaced it).

The next couple days could be tricky, as it is going to be in the 20’s, so we’ll see how it goes.   And not looking forward to the poor heater in this car on these colder days (when I run it).

One aspect of the driving experience I want to write about more is the inconsistent percentage battery usage readouts that I get on my commute (about 4 miles on local streets, then 37 miles on the highway, then 2 miles local to the job site, and reversed going home).  There are days where in the 4 miles from home to the parkway, it drops from 100% to 95% [rate of 1.25%/mile]; when I exit the parkway after a total of 41 miles, I am down to 39% [rate of 1.52% per mile on the highway]; when I go the 2 miles on local roads to my work site, the percentage goes back up, say to 41% [rate of -1.0%/mile]; and in the parking lot, it gets up to say 47% during the day.  The rate of drop is inconsistent and confusing to me, though it may reflect actual charge; but as a user, it is confusing.  And on the way home, it is worse:  in the 2 miles back to the parkway, it drops to 38% [rate of 4.5%/mile] and when I’ve gone 70 or so miles total on the way home, I often go the next 10 miles on the parkway with the % battery meter dropping only from maybe 8% to 3% [rate of 0.50% per mile].

So the rate ranges from 4.5% per mile to -1.0% per mile, a factor of 5.5, which is indeed odd.  I should do some precise measuring and a graph to make this clearer.  Comments, anyone?

Towed! After only 87.8 miles… Sheesh!

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on October 16, 2009

So, today I again noticed the % charge going down more quickly, and when I got to work it was at 33% and not 39%, though today’s trip to work was 1.8 miles longer (after a few blocks, I realized I had forgotten my cell phone and had to go back home and get it, in case I ran out of juice today).  And on the way home, the 0% / 0 mls point was reached with about 22 miles left (more helpfully, I had gone 65.1 miles since leaving this morning with a 100% charge).   This seemed crazy, and consistent with yesterday.

So, I get into the right lane of the Garden State Parkway and reduce my speed to 60 and figure it will be closer tonight.  Indeed, at about 83 miles, when I was about 4 miles from home, a new warning light came  on and the car wouldn’t go more than about 30 mph.  When I was about 2 miles from home it started getting slower still, and it wouldn’t move when I was about 1 mile from my house.  So I pulled onto a side street and called the 800 number.

It took 20 minutes for the 800 agent to find a contract tower who knew how to handle the MINI E, and then about an hour for the tow truck to arrive.  He loaded it up on his flat bed, and I warned him about the narrowness and curviness of my street and he joked that he would carry the car into the garage for me.  Well, he was able to deposit it about 20 feet from the garage door, but he and I and a neighbor could not push the car over the 3-inch hump into the garage.  He said What the heck is that thing made out of? It was amazing to me as well that we couldn’t push it easily.  Luckily the cable was long so I charged it for 10 minutes sitting out in the driveway and then just as the rain picked up, backed it up into the garage spot.

I have not kept up with reading others’ blogs the last few months (same reason I had not updated mine) , so I don’t know if other participants have been towed for running out of gas juice.   I wanted to have it happen, and am glad I experienced it, but what’s going on with the car?  If I can’t  do a round-trip to work, it’s useless.

I do have my 3,000 maintenance scheduled for next Friday now, so maybe I will learn something.

Busy for 3 months, with little use of MINI E

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on October 15, 2009

So, I have been busy with other things and not able to drive the MINI E much, so I have not posted since June 29.  Will make this a short post tonight.

Basically, I didn’t get a working charger (240v and cable) for 2  months.  Then it worked fine for 3-4 weeks, but started having problems with the circuit breaking on the 240v and could not get a charge—the circuit would break after 5-10 minutes.  So the car was idle for 3 weeks.  And with a vacation thrown in and the 3-week cycle to get service on the Clipper Creek box (it was replaced late last week), I have not really driven it that much.  It is up around 2,000 miles now since I have that 87-mile commute.   I have made it home consistently, but with only 0% – 6% on the battery; and am only getting 87-95 miles or so per charge (I have not purposely run it empty yet).  Even the mpg-equivalent figure is turning out dismally low, closer to 45 mpg I think (I will calculate it accurately soon, using the $0.18/kwh I pay and the current $2.50/gal for gas).  This is a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT.

But yesterday, the first work day since the new Clipper Creek was installed, yet a new problem occurred: the % drain was much faster than ever before: the meter read %39 when I got to work (44 miles ).  I prepared (my wife, my cell phone) to have to call the 800 number on my way home as I was sure I was going to run out of charge and need to be towed.  But the meter got to 0% and 0 mls  when I had about 12 miles left to drive… and the car kept going, in the right lane.  I made it home, and it still read 0%.  Huh?

So instead of the battery draining more quickly than before, it looks like it might be a problem of the meter not reading all the batteries properly for their charge.  My wife took it today on her 18 mile (total) commute and it went to 66%, so the problem seem to still be there.  I will use it tomorrow and see how it goes.

charger install tomorrow

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 29, 2009

It looks like my charger will finally be installed in my neighbor’s garage tomorrow.  Looking forward to it, as my GFI charging in the garage has been pretty unreliable—it keeps tripping.  And the document they mailed us today, about how to deal with problems with the 110v charging cable, just kind of annoys me:

  • With a 18-foot cable and most people charging in their garages, how are you supposed to charge on a non-GFI outlet?  Code requires one in garages because of the wetness, doesn’t it?  They could have designed the 110v cable in 2 pieces: a GFI piece that is optional and a cord that can be used with or without the GFI.

The recent thread on NAM about more and more donations of MINI E’s to non-profits and other companies is raising some hackles, and rightly so.  MINI should address it somehow…  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.  Maybe one thing MINI could do is work hard to get their lobbyists to convince Congress and the IRS to ensure field trial participants get a portion of the $7500 tax credit.   That would ease some of the distress…

Driving to work today…

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 25, 2009

6:10 am:

OK, the forecast is reasonable, the charge is 100%, and enough people are getting 93-108 miles to give me confidence that I can make it to work and back today, 89 miles.  We’ll see!

8:00 am:

Got to work and had 55% left on the battery meter.  Having driven 44.2 miles, that’s 1%/mile, which is similar to what others are reporting.  My commute of 44 miles is about 39 miles on highway (the Garden State Parkway).  I decided to mentally monitor a value for driving range (maybe I should call it likely range?) as I drove: the sum of the display’s cruising range readout + miles driven so far).  When I left my house, the figure was (95+0); it went as low as 86 at one point on the Parkway.  I assume that this was because the car is known to get more mileage in city driving than highway, and the cruising range is based on the last 18 miles.  Anyway, with 55% percent, I decided not to charge it at the storage facility just off the federal complex where I am consulting, figuring the charge would also go up a few % during the day.

6:30 pm:

OK, the battery charge indicator said 58% as I got in the car to go home.  That seemed like reassurance and I felt confident.  But as I was approaching mile 35 of my 44 mile return, still on the highway, and my battery read 9% and my likely range figure had dropped as low as 83 miles, I was feeling a little nervous.  But within a mile of leaving the highway, my battery meter had gone to 12% and I had only 4 miles to go, so I knew I would make it.  When I got home, it read 10% with a cruising range of 5 miles. So, my commute is going to work, probably.  I did drive at 65 mph, which is hard to do (this is a Mini Cooper, no?) on the GSP (most people do about 75-80), and so next time I will try that higher speed (80 mph does risk getting pulled over the the baby-faced NJ state troopers).

I had a few other observations as I drove the car for a distance for the first time, but I will post these later.

progress at work?

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 23, 2009

Last week I made a short presentation to the Environmental Quality Committee of the federal work site I am doing consulting at (document management in support of software process improvement), to see if that would help get me permission to charge it some during the work day.  Today I heard from an environmental lawyer at the site, a really nice woman I spoke to after the meeting last week, and she said that my request had generated a lot of discussion among her lawyer colleagues and that she thought it might cause even higher levels in the government to look at policy ramifications for employee/contractor use of ZEVs (there will be more and more in the coming  year or two, right?).  Nice to think being a MINI E pioneer might have an effect like this!

Recognition?

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 23, 2009

I have been wondering, along with many other participants, if people would recognize the car or not.  I have not driven it much so far (200 miles) because of rain, GFI, commute distance issues, but except for the first day, no one has noticed.  Five minutes after I left the dealer, I pulled into a Staples to buy a notebook to do my logging of miles and charging, and as I got out, a guy getting into his Honda asked “Is that a plug-in hybrid?”.  I said “No, all electric” at which point he asked “How do you like it?”.  I said I loved it but 5 minutes was probably not long enough to make a reasonable judgment…

When I got home, a neighbor whose 2nd floor office overlooks my house came out and said “Is that an electric car?”  He could clearly see the roof symbol.  But other than that, I have had no comments.

Some range data for my first 200 miles: not great

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 21, 2009

I have been logging our driving and charging to get data for both mileage and charging, and I just reached 200 miles this evening.  I know that some participants have already reached 1000 miles, but I have reasons for my low mileage:

  • cannot drive it to work yet
  • 110 v charging only
  • GFI in garage keeps tripping during the night
  • rain, rain, rain in the NYC area
    But here is the log of our drives for 8 days:

Date

Nature of Drive
or
Charge

Odometer

start – end: total

driving style

START
% battery

END
% battery

% charge used per mile

imputed “range”

06-12

home from dealer

26-42: 16

cautious

100%

81%

1.2%

84 mi

06-13

test drives

42-72: 30

demo, some zip

84%

51%

1.1%

91 mi

06-14

test drives

72-118: 46

demo

81%

31%

1.1%

92 mi

06-15

wife to school, work

118-131: 13

48%

32%

1.2%

81 mi

06-15

wife from work, school

131-143: 12

45%

31%

1.2%

86 mi

06-16

wife to/from work, errands

143-164: 21

65%

37%

1.3%

75 mi

06-18

wife work, errands

164-184:20

83%

62%

1.1%

95 mi

06-20

errands in town

184-201: 17

gentle

100%

71%

1.7%

59 mi

I am NOT pleased with these results so far.  I have an 89-mile commute that I have not been able to do yet, because I need:

  1. a sunny day so I can get a top-off charge near work
  2. a way to top off my charge at or near work
  3. a 100% charge when I leave in the morning

But with our recent month of rainy weather (my neighbor has almost finished his ark :-} ), my hassles getting my place of work to allow charging, and the GFI problems in my 110v garage, none of these conditions have been possible to coordinate.  So I am left to tracking the mileage we get during errands and my wife’s short commute to get a sense of how the car will do when I am able to drive it on my commute—and it does not look good.  The fact that I have not heard from CFCI or the electrician about the install of the wall charger in my neighbor’s garage does not add to my sense of peace.

From reading other blogs, it seems that people are getting no more than 100 miles range.  So why did MINI  put a 156 mile range figure in the specs,  even for under ideal conditions?  Is that downhill only?  Yes, it says 109/96/104 estimate under normal
driving conditions
and I hope to get that, which would let me commute without (much) anxiety.  But there was even a press release in October, 2008 (which I cannot find on the MINI USA web site) that only mentioned the 150-mile range figure…   I will link to it if I find it.

It is strange to get the kind of variability that I see in the data for the first week.  I hope it settles down soon!

It’s the software…

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 19, 2009

Very nice post today on EV Nation’s blog about the The Good and The Bad he sees with the MINI.  I agree with everything he says, and find it interesting that 3 of the 5 items on the BAD list are due to how the software controls the driving experience.

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