My Year with an All-Electric MINI


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.

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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?

Recent progress…

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on June 9, 2009

Bits of progress this past week:

  • As other blogs have noted, NJ participants got calls during the weekend to say that trucks with the MINI E’s were arriving this week in NJ, and the Morristown NJ dealer has 60 of them to get out to lessees.  So it’s happening.  My MA said I might get mine this coming weekend, and Robert (also in  NJ) got his yesterday.
  • I finally got my CFCI contract revised properly to reflect the fact that I am using a neighbor’s garage, and send back the signed copy yesterday.  So I expect to hear from the electrician this week.
  • And I am working on getting permission to charge at work… it’s a huge government bureaucracy, but with an 89-mile commute, I need to try.

No news yet… waiting for revised contract

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on May 27, 2009

My contract with CFCI has to be modified slightly since I am renting a neighbor’s garage, and MINI reasonably wants them to be on the contract for the charging box.  I am told it is in the works, but still no word.

But it was nice to read on other blogs about the first MINI E delivered to a participant in California, an article in USA today about that, and a Consumer Reports article.

OK, ready to go!

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on May 23, 2009

I got my contract this week, and the upgrade price of $612, though higher than I expected, is (barely) within the acceptable range for me.  And I just met with my neighbor, and things look like a go there as well—they are English and one of them has always wanted a Mini Cooper, so maybe that made them more amenable to lending me space in their garage for a year.  It’s only 4 houses away, so pretty convenient.  We think it will work.  They gave me a remote for the garage door, so I have part of the equipment I need for the trial—just missing the car, the charger, the cable…

I guess I am ready.  I just hope I have no problems with the 90-mile commute vs. the range of the car…  And if someone at work decides to be helpful, I might be able to charge there too, though I doubt it.  We’ll see.

Getting my contract and quote tomorrow?

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on May 18, 2009

I got a message from Green Power Technology today that leads me to believe I will be getting my contract tomorrow or within a few days.  With it comes the price for doing the upgrade to the electric lines (in my case, at a neighbor who is kindly renting me space).  Given some of the reports on the web forums, I do hope there is not a big surprise in the price for the upgrade.  My own sense, and the inspecting electrician seemed to confirm this, is that it is a fairly simple install, as the panel has room for the circuit and is in the basement right under the garage.

We’ll see.  I’d hate to have to drop out due to more unanticipated expense.  I really thought MINI was going to pick up all reasonable charges for electrical upgrades (to me, reasonable would probably be anything under $500-600).  But I guess that changed, or I never really read that.  I don’t know…

I am really eager to try this, and soon, so I hope it works out.

NYC Event

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on May 18, 2009

So, last Wednesday I went to the MINI E event in Manhattan.  It was good to meet some MINI staff, including a few engineers, and other participants.  I got a lot of questions answered, but I sure had a lot fewer questions than some guys!  I am so not a car geek.   One participants from Long Island has a totally solar house and was quite interesting to talk to.

The presentation by Marc Alt was short and somewhat interesting, and I agree with him that we will all be representatives of MINI and the electric car “movement” if you can call it that.  I had already thought about getting some cheap business cards printed—with what, I really don’t know—and he recommended it.  Stu had already done so!

The food and drink was nice, of course… typically trendy Manhattan.  Loved the fish Wellington.

I do wish that MINI would have had an official Q&A, just like I wish they had a Q&A web site or e-mail hotline for participants.  There have been too many questions, and not enough answers.

Waiting for results of inspection, and for NYC event

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Gill on May 12, 2009

I had my inspection, of 2 possible rental garage spaces, 10 days ago, and still have heard nothing from Green Power Tech, CFCI, or MINI about how they will do or what the cost will be to make them ready for the charging box.  Hope to hear soon, as too high a price to make them ready will be a downer for me, and may kill it.

In the mean time, I am looking forward to the event in NYC tomorrow night, to see what I can learn about all my questions and to meet other field trial participants.

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