My Year with an All-Electric MINI

MINI E vs. Better Place

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on April 27, 2009

I have been reading about the electric car charging network utility startup called Better Place for a few months now.  And today I heard a good interview with Shai Agassi on the NPR program On Point , and given the radical-yet-obvious approach he is taking, I am beginning to wonder if the MINI E approach is going to be a non-starter.  On first impressions, Better Place makes a lot of sense with the cell phone subscription model and the swap-out-the-battery model.  And the goal of making the cars affordable.

So, why am I pursuing this MINI E trial at great expense?  Hmmm…  well, it is going to be fun, I am sure.


Finally, my electrical inspection

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on April 27, 2009

I finally have my electrical inspection scheduled for this Friday.  My MINI dealer will wants the inspecting electrician to do a quote for my garage—the one that I had two quotes about $4,800 for—and I have 2 neighbors who might work out, so the inspector will have to do 3 quick visits for me.  But after all this prep, that is OK.  I do hope one of them works out.

rental garage space & metering usage

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on April 21, 2009

So, I have found a neighbor a few houses away, and someone else 2 blocks away, who are both willing to rent me space in their 2-car garage for my MINI E.  They have 240V power either in the garage or close to it, so I am hoping this will work out.   I was called last Wednesday by the folks at Green Power Technologies, who are arranging the inspections here in NJ, and was hoping to have one scheduled by now, but not yet…  not sure what the delay is.

In the meantime, I have been trying to learn about the possibilities of getting a meter of some sort to measure just my usage, so I can pay an accurate amount of their bill.  I know nothing about electricity, but using Stefano Paris’s comment on another blog, I did some web searching, learned about submetering, and am wondering if the Milbank CL200 he talks about will do the trick—some other submetering solutions sure seem expensive.  I will have to ask the inspection electrician.

In the meantime, today I received the invitation to the MINI E event in NYC on May 13.  It came wrapped around a Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottle…

NYC Auto Show

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on April 14, 2009

I took my son to the NYC Auto Show last night, mostly for me to see the MINI E but also because he likes cars and wanted to see a Ferrari up close (but it was roped off, so he couldn’t sit in it).  It was at the Javits Convention Center, where I went to computer industry trade shows for years—wow, is a car show a whole different kind of show:  very little information, lots of beautiful booth people, hardly anything to play with (unless getting in a car and pretending you are driving is a kind of play…  I guess it is, just not for me).

The MINI E was there.  It’s real.  I learned it does have an MP3 jack so I can connect an iPod.  The back storage is definitely small… not big enough for a bag of groceries!  The colors are nice.  I wonder how it will drive?

My son took a photo of me next to it.   In case my garage/power issues do not get resolved, I’ll have that…  and (4 weeks later) I have downloaded it from my camera:

Tim with a MINI E at the NY Auto Show


Discouraging news from the utility

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on April 9, 2009

The managers inside PSE&G who I got in contact with say they can do nothing to lower or eliminate the $2,600 fee that the engineering department wants to charge me to drop a line to my garage for a 2nd meter.  So I will try to rent a garage space this weekend.  But if that does not succeed, I will probably have to drop out.

Renting a garage space

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on April 7, 2009

I think I will try to rent a garage space this week, one that already has 240V.  It will be hard, since I live in a neighborhood of homes that are mostly 70-100 years old, and few of them have attached garages.  Of the ones that do, I have no sense of who might have such an electrical setup.  On the other hand, my town is trying to be a little more green, and so people might be more interested in helping out than average.  I have not talked to CFCI folks yet, but hopefully rented space is not a problem for MINI.

Today I will probably also hear from my contact inside PSE&G, and he may have some information about getting the drop of a line done for less than the $2,600 quote I got Friday.  We’ll see.

Aaarrgghhhh!!! My utility wants an arm and a leg…

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on April 5, 2009

I learned Friday that my electric utility, PSE&G, wants to charge me $2600 to drop a line from a utility pole about 30 feet from my garage—and whatever else is required to allow that (the fellow who called me with the $ figure did not have the details).  This will kill my participation in the trial unless I find an alternative, as that comes on top of the $1800 quote from my electrician for the sub-panel and related installation.

Anticipating this, I had searched online for someone within PSE&G (the Google site:  advanced search query modifier is really useful sometimes) who might be involved with ZEVs and PHEVs, and I wrote him a letter, to see if there might be some programs/mandates/authorizations to make things easier (cheaper) for customers wanting to do alternative energy things.  He called me Thursday, and passed me to another person…  we’ll see.  He was very nice, but did not think there would be any recourse.  We’ll see next week.  I’m also thinking about approaching a next door neighbor who is very close to my garage (6′), or renting a garage a few hundred yards away from friends who only use it on weekends, with 1 car.

In the meantime, I got my e-mail from CFCI on Friday as well, and so I need to set up that appointment as well.  I have not given up!  (though I am losing hope).  I really want to take part in this trial.