My Year with an All-Electric MINI


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.

Uh-oh, rain and charging at work?

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 18, 2009

Well, as some of you know, it’s been raining forever in the New York City area (it feels like we’ve seen the sun for about a half day every week or so for the past two months).  But did I think about that when I arranged yesterday to get a free “fill-up” today?   Nope!   So this morning I realized, with an outside outlet at the self-storage business, I couldn’t risk charging it there with the rain coming down.  I assume it’s a no-no, though I have to admit I have not checked the manual.  (Speaking of which, I sure don’t understand why there isn’t  a PDF version of the MINI E manual on MINI USA’s web site—it would sure be helpful.)

Actually, as I went out to check the battery this morning, to see how it had done even though I knew I could not take the car—I found that the GFI had tripped again, but apparently after about 9 hours, as it had added 28% charge since I plugged it in last night.  But at only 83% full, I probably would not have driven it to work for the first time even if it were sunny.  If my backup plan with the self-storage business doesn’t work out, I want to have some chance to make it home at night.  But maybe I should take Robert’s advice and relax and enjoy writing a blog entry about the first towing due to battery drain.

Still cannot drive to work

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 16, 2009

Well, I have not been able to drive #486 to work yet, since I needed the assurance that I could charge it, somewhere, for a few hours in case it is below 50% when I get to work (44.5 miles).  I was able to get that today courtesy of a very pleasant manager of a self-storage business right next to my place of work (which, as a Federal government installation, seems to need a very high level person to make the decision to allow me to charge it a little during the day).  So I will be trying it on Thursday after it spends all day tomorrow charging.  My wife has driven it for 2 days and enjoys it a lot.

I am getting some erratic GFI problems: the GFI outlet has tripped a few times now, and I don’t notice it till the next day.  Sometimes it’s charged for an hour, sometimes for 8 or 9.  Don’t understand this.

I don’t have current “mileage” numbers in a format to post yet, but they don’t look good.  Some cycles I am using 1.3% charge for each mile, which would leave me stranded on the way home from work.  But maybe sustained driving on the highway will work better, as it did for Robert.

I am going to print up information cards to put in the car to hand out when people ask questions.  One link will be to Peder’s wonderful post on The High Cost of Cheap Oil.  Really nice.

#486…

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 12, 2009

I got mine today, a day early—took a day off, I just couldn’t wait.  Dean and Mags at Morristown MINI were happy to accommodate me and so now I have a car.  It’s fun, of course.  I have impressions not only of the MINI E but of the MINI in general, since this is my first.  But not for tonight.  Well, except to say that the steering torque is strange; I’ve never felt that in a car (not that I’m much of a car person).  And the regen braking is even stronger than I expected, even after reading all the blogs!

I was kind of wondering what my car’s # would be, and I like it being #486.  I was working on the Unix product a long time ago (1990) when it was being put on the 486 chip, and I can’t believe they still use it…  :-\}

Best thing is my wife is actually excited too.  And she couldn’t even give it a test tonight as a French engineering student here for a week exchange program arrived for dinner.

Car is in my garage, seemingly charging OK back from 73%.

Oh, and I have had the same strange problem everytime I start it up:  I put in key, push Start, release brake, and put in gear—and nothing happens.  The car won’t move.  I repeat several times, and by 3rd or 4th time it moves.  No warning lights or anything.  I read manual some tonight, but I don’t think I was doing anything wrong…

Almost there!

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 11, 2009

Today I spoke to Dean at Morristown MINI and he has a car ready for me.  I will get it Saturday.  I’m psyched.   I’ve had my doubts, but the wait has taken a toll on me.

I loved reading #19’s post today about having more power after his drive than when he started, when driving down Topanga Canyon Road in LA.  I remember driving that road when I lived in California, and it would be a blast in a MINI.

My contract got mailed back on Monday, but I don’t expect the wall charger install till next week or later; with the late cables, not a big deal.  My rental garage is working out, though they installed an AC unit on Monday and ran out of slots on their panel…  luckily for me, they added a small subpanel today, as they need it too for some lights.

I’ve had a little anxiety reading about the problems some people have had—but, hey, this is a field trial—and am especially worried about Robert #304’s problems with the GFI outlet in his garage.  I and many others have GFI in a garage, since it is required by code.  We’ll soon find out.

I have the additional problem that with an 89-mile commute, I will only be able to drive to work 3 days/week in the car until the 240v cable comes, since 13 hours of 110v charging won’t bring it to 100% charge.  And I’m already concerned about the 89-mile commute vs. the real range.  But MINI wouldn’t have let me in the program if they wouldn’t ensure I had a car that would make it for that commute… right?

Next Page »