Sunday, December 20, 2009

#304 gets towed

Friday night I began experiencing problems with MINI E #304, the battery temperature warning light came on and indicated that the batteries were too hot or cold and regenerative braking wouldnt work. We were already near our destination and I continued driving without the regenerative braking, the feeling of coasting in the MINI E was a little disconcerting, I've become so use to the regenerative braking it felt strange without it, the exact opposite feeling non-electric drivers have. Anyway we got home with about 27% charge, much less then it should have been for our 50 mile trip.
The next day we needed to do a few errands before the big snow storm hit, I wasnt planning on driving more then 20 miles. I unplugged and reset the trip odometer, something I do every time, I think I looked at the charge and it was at 100%, but I'm not completely sure I did this anymore, I was concerned about the battery temp, and quickly switched to that view. From the start I had the battery temp warming light, and regenerative breaking wasnt working even though the battery was at 56 degrees. After a short stop for lunch we were off again, after 5 miles the battery temp hadnt changed much was 57 degrees and the warning light was still on, I was curious what not having the regenerative braking was doing to my range so I switched to % range, where I normally keep the display, and was shocked to see 35% charge left.
I'd only driven 5 miles and had stopped for about 30 minutes during that time there was no way it should be at 35%. I had a few ideas about what might have been wrong, either the car was using energy at a very fast rate, I did have the heat on max (as I always do in the cold) and the regenerative braking wasnt working, but I wasnt driving more then 40 mph so this seemed unlikely, or The car hadnt charged overnight even though it was plugged in, which would happen if the computer was confused and thought the battery temperature was under 30 degrees, and might explain the battery temp warning light, even though it was reporting the temp as 57 degrees, or the percent charge indicator could be out of wack, I'd just read a facebook entry stating anouther drivers opinion that the Charge indicator got less and less accurate as the temperature dropped.
Anyway we didnt have far to go so I just kept going and kept my eye on the charge, after shopping for a couple hours we headed home. As we got close to home the yellow service warning light came on indicating we could continue driving but should bring the car in for service, about a mile later there was a audible click the car starting slowing down suddenly and I looked down and see a red battery symbol, meaning the high voltage system has been disengaged, ie we had no power.
At this point we were only a mile from my house, I called MINI for a tow and my girlfriend got a ride home, it was just starting to snow. I was near a busy light and people seemed to be having the hardest time realizing they needed to go around the car even though the hazard lights were on. a few people had camera phones out and were taking pictures, after all I had the brand new MINI E side decals just put on.
After a half hour the hazard lights stopped working, I needed to let people know to go around me and didnt have any flares, so I opened up the hood. I was a little worried about snow going in there, but I was more worried about being rear ended as visibility was getting worse. A little while latter a fire truck pulls up and offers to push me into a parking lot across the street, they block the light with the firetruck and four big firemen, and firewomen push me accross the street, Thank you Liberty Corners Fire department.
At this point I realized the red battery warning light hadnt come on. I tried to start the car and sure enough it worked I could drive around the parking lot, the battery temp warning light was gone too. I think opening and closing the hood must have reset things. The tow truck was due to be there soon, and my girlfriend was back with her car, so I figured it was best to just wait in the parking lot rather then risk it breaking down again. The tow truck arrived a little bit late, and #304 got towed to Morristown MINI, I have to wait till Monday to give them this story as the service department was closed by then.
We awoke Sunday to a foot of snow, guess Im going to have to wait to see how the MINI E preforms in the snow for myself, until then I'll be reading other peoples blogs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#304 back from service

I got MINI E #304 back from the service department on Friday after 2 days, They did a lot of work on it. Foremost of which was replacing the PCU thats the gold footlocker under the hood which is the brains of the MINI E, I know a number of people have had this replaced numerous times but this was the first time for #304. It sounds like if a MINI E has any problems at all the first thing they do is replace the PCU.
They also preformed the second scheduled maintenance, I'm at 7000 miles a little short of the 8000 mile point but it was over 3 months since the last scheduled maintenance.
The Tires were replaced with snow tires for the Winter, MINI is covering this for all MINI E drivers in NY NJ and will be storing our summer tires to put back on in the spring. They also put the Side decal on my MINI E, this the words MINI and the E plug symbol, I've been asking for this for six months, hopefully more people will recognize that its electric now.
I had also asked them to test the heater, as the heat output seems very low to me, but they couldnt find anything wrong with it.

Anyway its been running great since the service, but my range is down to 80 miles, due to running the heater all the the time, the batteries being cold in the morning, and I think the Winter Tires reduce my mileage too.

Had a little trouble this morning, I'd forgotten to plug it in the night before, this is only the second time I've forgotten to do this but its an annoying mistake. I was reading about the Chevy Volt and how they are going to have an iphone app to communicate with the car, it would be great if it could tell you at night, "hay you forgot to plug me in".

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

#304 limps into service

The last couple days, I've gotten a couple warning lights on my MINI E, the warning that the battery was too hot/cold for regenerative braking, and a yellow Motor light indicating that Motor power is reduced. both times this happened when I was almost at my destination and I didnt actually notice a problem the battery temp looked good in the 60-70 degree range, and I didnt notice a lack of power, though I wasnt going very fast. I was scheduled for a the 6 month service on Friday and to get the snow tires, so I figured this problem could wait until then.

Today the roads were covered with icy slush and it was raining hard, making for some nasty driving, heard from other people that the main roads were a mess, though I drove back roads. Anyway not long into my drive I get the temp and motor lights, but again dont notice anything wrong, a little while later the care switches from Drive to Neutral and I get a new error light indicating a Electric power system failure and/or Brake lamp control failed. I'd heard about others having the Drive change to Neutral but this was the first time it happened to me. So I pulled over and turned off the car then restarted it, then tried to switch back to Drive and instead it changed to Neutral, tried this a few times without luck and at one point saw a Red error light, that indicates Emergency transmission program active, after one more try I was able to get it in Drive. So I continued my drive, about 5 miles later I had the same problem. This time I decided if I got the car running I'd head to the dealer as I was pretty close at that point. and after about 5 minutes the emergency transmission program kicked in and I was able to drive, although I was definitely seeing very poor preformance from the motor, it was acting very sluggish. A few miles later it happened again, this time I was stopped on a hill, with lots of traffic, not a very good place to break down. but after about 5 minutes I got the car working, and drove the final mile or two to the MINI dealer

So now #304 is in the shop they arnt sure if anyone can work on it before Friday, I have a feeling I'm not going to get it back by then. They were out of loaner cars and the enterprise Rental car shop was also out of them, so it looks like I'll be using my Z3 for a while.

Well after 6 months of driving this was my first breakdown, and at least I avoided having to call the tow truck.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Had our first taste of snow in NJ and MINI E #304 handled the snow very well. There wasnt much accumulation but it was slushy and slippery, but even without snow tires I didnt feel any lose of grip.
One serious problem I did have is after cleaning off the wet heavy snoow from the windshield we started to drive home in the dark. At first I didnt notice anything was the matter, but when I turned off the main highway onto a unlite street, I realized my headlights werent lighting up the road it was almost all dark. I could see a little light off to the sides of the headlights but not in front. After some scary driving in the dark I was able to pull off and wipe the snow off the headlights. This solved the problem and the rest of the drive was problem free, I'm guessing snow accumulating on the headlights is a common problem with all MINI's.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Heater News article

I saw this article on the MINI E's Heater while browsing the web
http://www.just-auto.com/article.aspx?id=102273

They say that this new electric heater developed for just for the MINI E, produces more heat then a standard car heater

They have a heat output of 3,000 watts and weigh about 1.8 kilograms. In comparison: a Beru cabin heater for internal combustion engines weighs about 0.8kg and achieves a heat output of 500 to 2,000 watts depending on the product line.


There is just no way this is true, the MINI E's heater is barely luke warm even at Max after its had time to warm up, and uses a lot more energy then the AC does. Something about this article just isnt right.



Monday, November 16, 2009

Little changes make a big difference

Little changes make a big difference in range. A few weeks ago I posted a blog entry about my range anxiety over a recent trip back from my fiancee's house, during which my charge droped down to 3% and I froze myself the most of the way, afraid to use the heater. After last week's MINI E meet up I had a chance to talk to other MINI E drivers about their range extending strategies and overcoming the MINI E's poor range in the cold. Well this weekend I put what I'd learned to the test.
When I first got the MINI E, I took a tip from HyperMilers and filled the tires to pressure well above the recommended amount. Over the last five months I'd forgotten to keep this up and when I tested my tires they were down to 30 psi, so I brought them all up to 46.5 psi. We've known for some time that driving fast kills your range, so I looked at google maps, and found they have an option to avoid highways while planning a route. I used this to plan a new route to my fiancee's house, and came up with one that uses 30miles less highway driving and is 5 miles shorter.
On my trip there I started off with a full battery, and a warm one too at 70 degrees as I'd been using it all day. The weather was a little cold 55 degrees but I was able to make the trip without using the heater, I was very tempted too though and wouldnt want to do this on a ragular basis. The MINI E is always trying to bring fresh air in to cool the batteries, unfortunately no matter where I set the air select switch it always seems to be coming in on my legs, and the recirculate button will automatically deactivate after 5 minutes, I spent most of the trip hitting the recirculate button every 5 minutes and rubbing my legs to keep them warm.
I was very careful to keep my speed down rarely going above 55, my new route had a large section of 25mph roads and stop lights at which my batteries could rest and the range increase. I completed the trip driving 71.4 miles with 41% left on the battery.
Over the weekend I let the car charge on the 110v charger, I'd planned to run the heater on Sunday to increase the battery temperature and drain the batteries a little so it would be charging overnight (while charging, the batteries generate heat) but it was fairly warm an I didnt feel like going out after dinner so I'll save that test for anouther day. I hope BMW's next electric car has a way of pre-heating the car and the battery either from a remote or on a timer.
On Monday morning the batteries were at 61 degrees, which is a little low but not bad. I drove my new route home, again trying to keep my speed under 55mph, the outside temperature was 49 degrees so I turned the heater up to full from the start, After the cabin warmed up I backed the heater off slowly to about half way, I the ride was comfurtable and I found keeping the heat blowing on my legs seemed to work best anywhere else and my legs would quickly get cold. I did not use the recyrculate button at all on this trip, I know my milage would have been better if I had, but its a pain so I'll save myself the trouble until its really cold. I arrived home after 71.4 miles with 25% charge left. Not as good as without heat but still much better then I had been doing and with my room for extra heat on those really cold days just arround the corner.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Back Driving Electric

Well it took a whole week, but #304 is finally back home and I'm driving electric again. I'm not sure what work was done on it, they were supose to be replacing a battery module but there doesnt seem to be very good communication between the dealer service reps and the flying doctors. I kept calling the dealer and they didnt know anything, even sent in an email to MINI corprate, a half an hour before hearing my MINI E was on its way to the dealer, got a nice call back the next day, and had to tell them #304 was back and they could disregard the letter.

Well communications issues asside its great to have my MINI E back, and just in time for the East Coast meet up, I'm looking forward to meeting other MINI E pioneers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

MINI E out for service

MINI E #304 has been out for service for a few days and I miss her, yes my fiancee gets jealous of her, she says I'm not allowed to sleep in the car. About a month after the 3000 mile service I got a phone call from MINI that one of the battery modules was not fully charging and they would like to replace it. It took a while to schedule a visit when the MINI E flying doctor would be in. But after I brought it in they realized it needed to go out to be serviced. So I've been driving a Gas burning Dodge from Enterprise, its no where near as fun to drive as my MINI E, but it does have Satellite radio. hopefully #304 will be back soon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cold weather Range Anxiety

Well after over 4 months of driving, I was feeling like I understood my Electric MINI E, it's been my regular car for all but 100 mile plus trips. Its been feeling like just a normal car, and I havent had much to report on this blog.
But my sense of normality has been shattered in the last week as Temperatures have plummeted, so has My MINI E's range. At first it seemed like a problem with the heater drawing too much energy, but it has become apparent that even with minimal or no usage of the heater, the MINI E's range has been severely reduced.
This weekend I drove the MINI E to my fiancee's as I've done many times, the ride there showed the first indication of a problem, I had to use the Heater a little bit but not too much it was 41 degrees out, and a bit cool in the cabin, but nothing too bad. I could tell I was using more charge then normal, but I never paniced and though I might not make it. The last 20 miles to her house are on a highway where 80 mph seems to to be the norm, I kept things at 65 mph and arrived at her house 78.2 miles, with 13% charge left and 11 miles to go. Thats a bit low, the first time I drove this I had 27% charge remaining, but it was within my comfort zone (just), as long as I didnt hit a detour, or miss her exit which would mean an extra 24 miles.
so on Monday morning I knew I needed to drive carefully, It was very cold it started at 35 dgrees outside and droped to 31 degrees during the course of my trip, the battery started at 48 degrees but was up to 71 by the end of the trip. At first I was afraid to use the heater, so for the first 20 miles of the trip I was freezing, I would hit the recircylate button every 5 minutes to keep from bringing in the really cold air, I kept the speed to 60 mph on the freeway, and stayed as far right as possible. After I got off the freeway the charge started to climb up and I felt I could afford a little heat before my fingers turned blue (I'd made a mistake and brought two left handed gloves, no rights) For the rest of the trip I'd bring the heater on for a little bit when I couldnt stand the cold, I had the air set to defogger to keep the fron window clear. I realized about half way that when I used recirculate the front window would fog up, but if I let the system bring in outside air it stayed clear, made for a hard choice, freezing or not being able to see. When I passed 50% at the 34 mile mark I knew it would be close.
When I got to 20% and had 20 miles to go I thought I could make it, especially as It seemed to hang at 20% a long time, but the last 10 miles to my house are on the freeway and up a very steep hill, I had to bring the car upto 60mph and was still passed by double trailer semi's going up hill. I reached the top of the hill with 3% charge left, after that it was all down hill and back roads about anouther mile to my house. I arrived with 13% charge and 11 miles to go.
I've driven the MINI E 5000 miles in 4 months but this may have been the last time I drive the MINI E to my Fiancee's house until Spring as it was just too close, and too cold. I was thinking if there had been freezing rain and I'd had to keep the defogger running at max heat to keep my window from freezing I wouldnt have even got half way, add to that the fear of being traped in the snow without heat and I dont think I'll be putting as many miles on #304 going forward.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NJ Leading the way to Solar Power

Move over California, New Jersey already has more Solar Powered Installations per mile and is growing. Here is a great article http://www.cnbc.com/id/33233060 about how State intensives are really pushing the growth of solar power in the garden state. I live in a condominium community where I cant install my own solar power but we are looking at houses and installing solar power will be a priority when we do move.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Heat

Well its starting to get cold in New Jersey so I turned on the heater in the MINI E. While driving with the Air conditioner on in the summer, barely used any electricity, I was shocked by just how much the batteries dropped when I turned on the heater. I've only run the heater for a couple days now, but the numbers are not looking good. During the summer a drive to work and back with no side trips and all on back roads a drive of 33.5 miles used 27% of the charge, but with the heater at half way and the fan on just slightly the same trip used 37% of the charge. Total range estimates are not that precise when based on these short trips, but my range has dropped from about 110 miles a charge to about 80, and this is on back roads never going faster then 45 mph. What will happen when I'm using the heater at max and driving on the highway? I'm worried about some of my longer trips, like to my fiancee's home, which is a 77 mile trip on mixed roads that uses 82% of my charge, I only have 18% to spare for heat on that trip. I'm also wondering whats the optimum temperature for the batteries, during the summer MINI recommended you use the AC to keep the batteries cool, which actually improved range, but with the heater drawing so much power I doubt it will be improving range unless its below freezing, I may be driving with my gloves on this winter.
Its still too early to say how significant heater usage is going to be, I'm going to need to collect more data ie drive with the heat at different levels. Got about 6 months to test the heater coming up.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Switching into Neutral

Well I finally had my first serious problem with the MINI E, the dreaded switching into Neutral problem, that other MINI E owners have reported. I was almost home after a 80 mile drive and came to a stop at a light on a steep hill. There was a VERY Big Truck behind me and when the light changed to green and I hit the gas nothing happened for a second then I started rolling backwards. I quickly hit the break and noticed the front panel had a big N on it while the stick selector was in D for drive. Realizing what was going on from other posts by MINI E owners that had already experienced this problem, I quickly shifted into part and hit the on/off button to turn off the car, all the while keeping my foot firmly on the brake and dreading the coming of horns blowing behind me. Once I was sure the car was off, I hit the on/off button again, the car booted up normally and I was able to shift into drive and get moving all before a single horn blew.
Not that bad of an experiance it could have been a lot worse, if I'd been unable to get the car started again, that would have been a very bad hill to be stuck on, no side pull off and a long long long way down to the bottom.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

3000 miles

#304 had its 3000 mile service, was fairly uneventful. drove in and dropped off my car, I work nearby so I didnt need a loaner just a ride to work.
I mentioned that I've been noticing a bad smell in it I think it has something to do with all the air that gets pushed through the cabin while its charging. I also asked about the side decals we had been promised, but the service rep didnt seem to know anything about that, he wasnt the MINI E specialist (unfortunately I never got to meet him) but said he'd ask about it.
They finish the same day, no problems to report and the car was smelling much better, they even washed it ( hope they remembered not to wash the under carriage ).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Assignment 2 and an update

Well its been quite a while since my last post. I'd like to say I've been busy, but mostly I havent had much new to add. #304 has been humming along, driving me to work and back, and anywhere else I need to go. I'll be taking her in for her 3000 mile service soon, but really I've just been using her like a normal car.

MINI asked me to fill out assignment 2 on their MINI E website, it was mostly a 5 point scale of how much you agree or disagree with a statement, and covered charging, regenerative braking, low speed driving and safety, it also had a number of places for comments which I enjoyed filling out.

I'm getting noticed more and more, probably the "100 Electric" and "Just Say No to Gas" signs help. Have had a number of people stop me to ask about the car, and its great to show them just how much fun an electric car is to drive.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ops and Ops again

On Tuesday I planned to drive to a remote work site to do some work on the computers there, its a long drive about 85-90 miles round trip all on highways. I made the trip once before in MINI E #304 and was looking forward to driving it on a long trip again. But when I went out to the Garage I found #304 unplugged and with only a 70% charge, Ops I'd forgotten to plug it in last night.

I figured I had an hour to spare so I plugged it in and waited, hoping that the 40A charger would be quick, but when I checked back it was only at 80% not nearly enough charge for the trip. So I took the Gas burner, my Z3 which I hadnt driven in a month. On the way I kept thinking the 40A charger should have charged the car more, an I wondered if I had the cars Amperage set correctly. Sure enough when I got back and checked it the car was set to 12A not 32A, Ops again.

It must have been set to 12A for a week and I never noticed, 12A at 240v is faster then at 110V but not as fast as at 32A. While forgetting to plug in the car is a problem I'm guessing all electric car owners will have now and then, I dont think setting the correct amperage on the car should be as tricky as it is with the MINI E. First I think the car could tell you the Amperage its drawing while charging on the display, as it is you just dont know unless you click through a bunch of menues maybe 10 or so short and long clicks on the selecter switch, a very clunky system. But more useful would be if the plug you connected the car to told the car what amperage to use, it seems to me a very simple thing to have a RFID chip in the plug that the car could read. While we are on the subject of the plugs, I dont like the current ones MINI chose to use for this project, they have tiny wires inside of them that look like they could easily brake from heavy use, and I cant see this as a good plug to use in a public place like a Mall as there is no locking mechanism, I can just imagine kids going down a line of EV's plugged in at a charging site and unplugging them all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

#304 gets noticed

Well I've been back home and driving #304 everyday for over a week now, its gotten to be normal no one even notices its electric, including me sometimes.
But the other day I was driving along and I notice the driver in front of my turned his head completely around to look at me, I guessed he was checking that he read my "100% Electric" sign over the window correctly. At the next light I pulled up beside him and he asks if its ALL electric.
I tell him it is and we get to talking, he didnt know MINI made an electric car, and had bought his Mazda because of the acceleration rather then a MINI. Well when the light changed I showed him just how much acceleration an electric MINI has. We drove down the road 10 or so miles, each time he'd catch up I'd leave him in the dust again, then we waved bye, was great fun to open someones eyes to a fun electric car.

I also had my wall charger inspected and it passed, so that is finally done. Having a fast charger makes such a big difference in how I drive, no more worrying if It will be charged enough to use the next day, and I can drive it all day then charge it for an hour or so and drive some more.

Monday, July 20, 2009

no MINI E for a week

We've been on vacation for the last week, had a great time, Mountain biked in Vermont, Climbed Mt Washington in New Hampshire, and Ocean Kayaked in Maine, put 1400 miles on the car, unfortunately it wasn't the MINI E, which had to site allone the Garage for a week.
It was a great trip but I couldnt help thinking it would have been better driving electric. 90% of our driving was on highways, and I really believe that the future is to electrify the highway system, like electric trains, they dont carry masses and masses of batteries, they get most of their power just from the lines over head or a third rail, and just carry enough power to get over short gaps in the rails. I think the future of electric vehicles is like that with cars and semi-trucks getting power directly from the power system while on the highway, with batteries or electric generators for local driving.
Then we can power not just short range commuters but our entire Goods distribution system, from electricity generated locally, and from renewable resources. As long as we power our trucks, buses, trains and ships with Oil, cars are just a small piece of the problem, and we need to look at solutions that solve the overall problem.
While overhead wires would be unsightly, and a high voltage rail would be dangerous, there are other options such as, a smart system that only powers the rail when a car is in motion over it, or a magnetic induction system a powerful magnetic field on the road surface powering cars, or many small low voltage rails on the surface, and cars using thier whole surface area underneath to recieve power, or some combination. I'm sure there are many other ways power could be transferred to a moving vehicle, these are just a few off the top of my head I'd like to see investigated.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Getting Attention


Well its been a whole month since I got MINI E #304 and we've driven over 1200 miles together. Today also marks a big turning point, I just had the Wall charger cable installed, so now I can charge #304 in under 5 hours rather then over 24. While the electrician was installing the cable he found the problem with my lights flickering, turns out the main line into the fuss box from outside wasnt connected tightly, and was arcing, he cut the ends off and tightened them down good.

I've been disappointed that no one seems to notice there is anything special about this car so I added some vinyl lettering to the car, "100% Electric" for over the front window, and "Just Say No to Gas" for on the rear. Now maybe someone will notice this is one Cool car.

Monday, July 6, 2009

to drive or not to dirve electric

This weekend my fiancee and I drove to an area we are thinking about moving to, it is only 35 miles away but while there we planned to drive around and get a feel for the area. So the big question was which car to drive, I really wanted to drive the MINI E and knew we could make the 70 miles there and back, but how much would we be just driving around to look at houses and stores? In the end we decided we better take the Z3. I measured our driving anyway and we got back home after driving 105 miles. I think we could we have done this trip in the MINI E, but range anxiety would have made me head back sooner then planned. This brings up one of the biggest problems with an electric car, now days, while it is great at driving between known points, if your going to drive extra, and dont know how much that will be, your range anxiety can be really strong. I hope public charging stations, or range extended EV's will solve this problem, I also think a intelligent GPS navigation system that would work with the car to tell you when to head home would be great.

I also have been having problems with my home electric since the wall charger was installed (even though Im not using it yet). At times the lights will flicker in and out, at first this happened only rarely and only in the bedroom, but over this weekend it became almost non-stop, with about half the lights in the house flikering in and out, including the fridge. Being a holiday weekend it was hard to contact anyone, but the elcetrician I've been working with was kind enough to talk to me, even though he was in the middle of a party, and while he couldnt come right out, made some good sugestions one being it might be every other switch in the fuss box, which seemed to be correct, and to contact the electric company to see if there was a problem in the area.
I called up the electric company and reported a partial outage, and had a service man over within a couple hours, only everything was working fine by the time he got there, he ran a load test but wasnt able to find anything wrong. He did see my MINI E and commented that it was a nice car, and when I told him it was electric was very interested, showed it off to him and he was very impressed.
Well having the charging cable installed this week, and will have them double check the connections in the fuss box, but sofar the flickering lights seems to be a mystery.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Driving Update

Been driving #304 for over 3 weeks now, and enjoy it very much. Last weekend we put a bicycle rack on the back and went out to Allamuchy Mountain for some mountain biking. The bike rack worked well even though this was the first time I'd used it with a hatch back, didnt see a big drop in the range, even with two people in the car and the bikes creating a lot of wind drag. #304 did great getting nice and dirty with the big boys on a little dirt road with 2 feet deep pot holes. Would of been a perfect trip if I hadnt taken a bad fall on the trail, I'm fine now, but was limping for a couple days.
This morning I had a problem where #304 wouldnt start up, I pressed the start button and the lights all went through the normal pattern, but the charge guage didnt move, could put it in gear and the D came on for drive, but it wouldnt go. Had to hit the start/stop button a few times and eventually got it to work, but it was quite strange.
Got my first bill from MINI for $850, BMW/MINI has offered to waive this first months payment and has told us to ignore this bill as the credit will show up in our next bill.
I also got an email that my wall charging cable will be in next week, so hopefully I'll have a working wall charger soon, this will mean less rest days for #304 and a lot more driving, I seem to be suffering from perpetual charging anxiety this is like range anxiety, only I'm not driving as fast or as far as I can because I know it will take a day to recharge the batteries.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Assignment 01


MINI sent out our first homework assignment, well if only school had been this easy. They've setup a web site for those in the field trial on which they will be asking us to fill out a journal, and upcoming survey's. Our first assignment was fairly simple, just needed to sign in and make a journal entry. From the picture above you can see some of the upcoming assignments, Subconscious Symbol Identification sounds foreboding, hope a psychiatrist doesnt see my answers, Im not sure I like the idea of BMW getting a peck at my subconscious. :)

Also got a notice that the wall charging cables are shipping to both coasts, so Ill probably have a working wall charger soon. Ill be glade to charge up quickly, but was sort of hoping for a second month with the lease payment waived.

Monday, June 22, 2009

2 Weeks with #304

Well its been a very short 2 weeks with MINI E #304 we've racked up 642 miles together and although charging with the 120v cable can be a pain I'm really enjoying this car, just would like people to realize this is an electric car.

Last weekend I went to my fiancee's house again, there have been a number of biking events in the Philadelphia area lately and we have to goto those. The drive was uneventful, but I wanted to charge the MINI E at her house without having to move the cars all around, so I tried using an extension cord, after about 4 hours charging I noticed a burning smell coming from the outlet, I quickly unplugged things the smell seemed to be coming more from the plug end of the extension cord then anything. The next day we switched the cars arround blocking my MINI E in for the weekend, and charged from the same outlet without an extension cable, without a problem, this is the same outlet we'd used the week before. I was a bit surprised about this as it was a brand new 12 guage 25' extension cord rated for 120v 15A the best that I'm aware of, I guess we just arnt going to be able to drive the MINI E at her house as changing cars arround every time we need to use it is a pain.

Here are some figures for all you math nuts who want to know exactly what the range numbers I've been seeing are. You'll notice a number of the shorter rides have some very low or high numbers, I tend to discount these shorter drives as not giving a true estimate. While the overall Average Range is 103 miles, if we droped all drives less then 40 miles we get an Average Range of 108 miles on a full charge, or at least until the gauge says 0%, the car is suppose to drive beyond that at a reduced rate, but I havent tested it


DateMiles driven Starting charge Ending Charge % charge per mile Range Estimate Starting Miles to go Ending Miles to go Starting odm Ending odm
8-Jun 17.4 100% 85% 0.86% 116
83 35
home from Dealer
8-Jun 21.1 88% 66% 1.04% 96
64

to mall
9-Jun 59.2 95% 40% 0.93% 108 93 41

work and erands
10-Jun
47% 26%


27 133
to dealer
10-Jun 27.3 100% 74% 0.95% 105 108 82

home from dealer
11-Jun 36.7 99% 66% 0.90% 111
74
214 to work
12-Jun 77.6 100% 31% 0.89% 112 114 36
292 to Fiancee's drove conservitively
13-Jun 5.3 87% 79% 1.51% 66




15-Jun 76.5 100% 29% 0.93% 108 108 27 301 378 Home from Fiancee's
16-Jun 47.8 100% 55% 0.94% 106 100 58


17-Jun 58.8 100% 43% 0.97% 103 108 45


18-Jun 34.2 79% 41% 1.11% 90 84 42
519
19-Jun 77.7 100% 27% 0.94% 106

523
to Fiancee's
22-Jun 76.5 100% 31% 0.90% 111 103 32 601 677 Home from Fiancee's

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trip to Philly

This weekend I drove #304 to my fiancee's house outside of Philly. I had previously measured the distance as 80 miles and was a bit nervous about my first long trip in my MINI E. I let the car charge upto 100% on Friday, while I drove my gas car to work. For the trip there I drove very conservatively staying at the speed limit and accelerating slowly, there is about 30 miles of highway driving with a 65mph speed limit, and I really saw a big differance in my charge usage during that time compared to the rest of my drive. I arrived having driven 77.6 miles with 31% charge left and 36 miles of range left.
I had to back the car into the driveway and plug the charger in through a window to get a charge, I can see why the EV1 had the charger plug in the front it would be a much more convenient location. I also put a towel over the wheel charger light, as it was a bit too noticeable otherwise. We used #304 a little bit over the weekend for short trips around the suburbs of philly, then I drove it back on Monday morning.
For the drive back I decided I could drive normally and get home safely. I left with a 100% charge and drove the same speed as most of the traffic about 75mph on the highway, and not exactly the speed limit on other streets. I arrived having driven 76.5 miles (not sure how I lost a mile) with 29% charge and 27 miles left to go.
I didnt have enough charge to make it into work so #304 got a rest day to charge up today.
I've had my MINI E for a week now, and have put 343 miles on it, would be more but without a fast charger, I'm having to give it rest days.

Friday, June 12, 2009

0 rpm acceleration limited

One of the great things about electric cars is they have instant torque that means that when you press the accelerator you get a the full power of the motor immediately, think of it as having a car that is always at red line in the power curve, but without that hi pitched engine noise.
Normally when I'm driving the MINI E if I punch the accelerator, I immediately get a very quick burst of acceleration and have to hold onto the steering wheel as torque steer pulls the car heavily to the left. But at a stop, when I press on the accelerator, there is a noticeable half second delay before I get even the smallest amount of acceleration, and even then the acceleration isnt anything to write home about. Then once I get moving, maybe at 3mph or so, the full acceleration kicks in and I have to pull my foot back on the accelerator. This is a very fustrating experiance, for the MINI E's they removed the normal button that would allow you to disable traction control, and if it was the traction control system kicking in to keep the the tires from spinning I'd understand. But its not, this is the control software overly limiting your acceleration at low RPMs.
In a previous article on greencarreports.com John Voelcker mentioned this problem, it was also mentioned that the car may have been running an older version of the software. I hadnt noticed this problem in my pervious test drive, and since these cars have been sitting in storage for the last 6 months, I'm guessing they all have an older version of the software. I asked my service Rep, at Morristown MINI about getting the latest software and he said he'd look into it.
Hopefully this is just overly conservitive software and we can have a car thats as quick off the line as it is once moving.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

looks like need to avoid GFI

Yesterday after having the car and charger checked out by the dealer, and both getting a clean bill of health, I got a full charge at from their 60A charger. The MINI service reps Michael and Fred from Morristown MINI were very helpful even though this was the first MINI E they'd had to diagnose a problem for, as it turned out the backline BMW tech they contact for MINI E problems was already aware of the problem, having read my blog post about it, to All MINI/BMW employee's reading this thank you for your help and supporting a great program, its good to know your reading this.

Anyway, I returned home and tried to charge the car again, but when I plugged the car into the garage outlet the MINI E's charge light only came on for a second before going out while the charger's charge light came on and stayed on. The MINI service reps had suggested I try plugging into other outlets, but also had said I should not use a extension cable as it might overheat, I have a 12 gauge extension cable rated at 120V 15A which I very much doubt will overheat. but I wanted to try what I could do without it. I found that if I pulled the car out and backed it into my garage, I could just barely reach a outlet in the kitchen without an extension cable, I plugged it in and.. POP the kitchen GFI triped. Then I started looking for somewhere else to plug in and noticed the laundry and dryer, The single outlet for both of these was not on a GFI, was the only outlet on that curcuit and had a 20A breaker rather then the regular 15A ones on most of my curcuits. So I plugged it in there, and it worked, was able to charge the car completely overnight, though its still very slow about 3% charge in one hour, at that rate we're looking at 33 hours to charge the car from 0% to 100%.
So it looks like we need to aviod GFIs though it did charge for me the first night on a GFI curcuit, this could be a big problem as most modern Garages and outdoor plugs have to be GFIs. The problem could also be the wiring, I got a wire tester and checked the outlets but it said they were all good, I'm going to try replacing one of the GFI's temporally with a normal outlet to verify whether its the GFI or the wiring, causing the charging to fail. In the mean time I guess no laundry is getting done while charging :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dirty Power or Grounding Fault

I've had a frustrating evening trying to charge my MINI E using the 120V 15A charger, after spending a great day Driving it and returning with only a 40% charge. At first it seemed to be charging fine but when I checked on it the charging light on the MINI E was out. I replugged things in and left it to charge, only to come back later and the Charger was showing a blinking charging fault, this indicates an EV ground fault trip, but I checked the MINI E and saw no error messages on the computer, I double checked that the Amperage setting was 12A and it was. So I tried again, later I had the same problem, tried again come back to no lights on the charger, a bit of searching revealed its on a GFI circuit and the GFI had triped, so reset and tried again then came back and the Power fault light was on solid on the Charger, indicating no Ground on the wall socket...
you get the idea I maybe a bit off in the order of some of those errors, about this point I couldnt even get get the the MINI E charger light to come on for mor then a minute. During this time I started to notice that lights all through my house were flickering every now and then, at first I thought the MINI E's charging problems were causing this, but after I gave up on charging the MINI E still only at 47% charged, I noticed the flickering didnt go away.
So tomarrow going to call and see what the experts say, I have a few possible Ideas.
1. Im getting very dirty power from the power company, and thats causing all these problems, if so I just need to wait and try later when the power company has fixed the problem.
2. There is a grounding fault in the MINI or the charging plug, looking at the charging plug that connects to the MINI E, carefully I saw a number of contact points that were not symetric, and could easily be a point of poor contact, going to have to speak to the experts on this.
3. the cuircuit I'm plugging into is not properly grounded, I tend to doubt this as this is a GFI cuircuit that goes to my main bathroom, and I had this checked out when I bought the house, but maybe I shouldnt be charging through a GFI cuircut, I'm going to have to have this tested.
Will know more tomorrow.

[addendum]
Took the MINI E and charger into the dealer, but they both worked fine there, I hope it was just a temporary problem with dirty power.

Tuesdays Driving

Just a quick update on todays driving, I left this morning with a 95% charge, and a range estimate of 93 miles, did quite a bit of driving had a few errands to run. The MINI E preformed flawlessly even took a co-worker for a spin, and really pushed it showing just how fast and fun the MINI could be. Returned home having driven 59.2 miles with a 40% charge left and a range estimate of 41 miles.

Charging Slowly but Driving

Last night I charged #304 for 1 hour then I drove to the Mall and back all on highways going about 75 mph.
The charging added 3% so I started with a 88% charge, drove 21.1 miles, and ended with a 66% charge, and an estimated 64 mile range.
I then plugged it in and let it charge overnight, of course I had to sneak out and see how it was doing during the night, one thing I noticed is that blinking charge light is bright, if you have windows on your garage the neighbors will think you have a strobe light going all night, it should dim based on time and ambient lighting.
Anyway after about 5 hours the charge was at 81%, after 10 it was at 92%, and after 11.5 it was at 95%
110V 12A charging is very slow, this really wouldnt be practical for everyday driving, but I do have another car I can use when the MINI E's charge is too low.
On the good side I'm finally driving an Electric car, and BMW is waving my lease payments while I dont have the wall charger.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Now Driving MINI E #304

I picked up my MINI E #304 a few hours ago from Morristown MINI and drove it home, what a great ride. Thank you Magdalena and Dean for going through all the details and making for a very smooth experience. Sandy from Facebook, was there too getting his MINI E the same time I was, and they had 3 more for some lucky drivers they were prepping.
The ride home went well, the regenerative brakes were fun, especially going down hill, I did have to us the regular brakes a few times, as I pulled out of the dealership, it accellerated faster then I'd planned, and later at a cross walk I had to stop quickly. I tried to drive normally home, though I just had to gun it a few times, even so I got home with 85% charge left after driving 17.3 miles, and a predicted 83 miles of range left.
Had a little trouble when I got home and had to plug in the 110 charger, at first the car fan whined faster, but I didnt see the charging light come on. After a few times unplugging and replugging I realized I hadnt checked the Amperage setting on the car, went and looked, it was set to 12A, but I cycled through the choices anyway. After that I plugged it in and the charging lights came on.
Well its not going to get much of a charge as Im going out again:)
stay tuned for further updates, and pictures coming soon

Friday, June 5, 2009

My MINI E is on its way

Heard from my MINI dealer that my MINI E is on its way from California to New Jersey and should be here by the middle of next week, even gave me the VIN and first payment information. but he didnt have the side plate number I asked. :( The Dealership (Morristown MINI) sounds very busy, said they had 60 MINI E's to move out by the 26th, going to be a lot of happy drivers in the coming weeks.
Need to call the insurance company, and ask them if that quote they gave me back in January is still good, then be ready to pick up my MINI E when they call.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wall Charger Installed

Had my Wall charger installed this morning, took about 2 hours, still no cable but otherwise no problems. Next step is for the Township to inspect it, and for the electricians to come back with a charging cable when it arrives, right now MINI doesnt have enough charging cables and the ones they do have are being installed in California.
Some bloggers in LA had mentioned having their wall charger installed and inspected right away, I wonder if LA is pushing EV charger installs to the top of their priority, dont see that happening that fast around here.
This is the 40 Amp charger, I asked the electricians about this and was told all they had recieved for New Jersey was 40 Amp chargers, I was a bit surprised, I know some people in NJ have the ability to use a 60 Amp charger and it seems a real shame not to use them where possible.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First MINI E delivered

Congratulations to Peter Trepp,

The very first MINI E Pioneer to receive his car #111 on Friday May 22nd
Read his blog about the experience and a article on USA Today

Hope to be seeing more notices about others receiving their MINI Es soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

MINI E Charging Cable Announcement

This weeks weekly update letter from MINI, was sort of a good new bad news read, with a lot of good information.
  • The good news the Charging cables have finally gotten UL approval so they are starting to install them.
  • The bad news they only have 150 of them and they are going to the west coast pioneers first.
  • The good news they are waving the first months lease fee for everyone.
  • The good news they will be delivering the west coat MINI E's as soon as the cables are installed and inspected.
  • The good news they will be delivering the east coast MINI E's the second week of June.
  • The bad news the east coast MINI E's will only come with a 110v charging cable initially.
  • The good news they will continue to wave the lease fee until you have a fully functional charging box installed.
  • The good news is they will give you the option to extend your lease so you have a full 12 months of driving with the charging station.
  • The good news they expect the east coast wall boxes and charging cables to be ready in July.
  • The good news is they want all pioneers to take delivery of their MINI E by June 26th

So what does this all mean to me? Well at first I was a little upset about having to deal with 110v charging, but since most days I'm only expecting to use less then half a charge, and on days I'll be fully depleting the battery I can drive my other car the next day, I dont expect this to be a major inconvenience. Im a little jealous of those on the west coast who get the free months lease and have a working charger. But maybe I'll get a second month or more where my lease fee is waved, if so I wouldnt mind if it ended up being another 6 months before the charging station was installed, driving the MINI E for free is well worth any charger hassles. The important thing is I should be driving electric in 3 weeks, just wish it was sooner.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

MINI E Test Drive

I drove the MINI E today.
Found out my MINI dealership had 2 MINI E's there today for a few hours, and I stopped by for a test drive, of car number 419
One word that best describes the experience is smooth. This car accelerates like no car I've ever driven before, you hit the gas and it just keeps on accelerating at the same rate without any of the jerkiness your familiar with in gas engines. and at low speeds the acceleration rivals my 6 cylinder Z3 sports car which gives you a shot of acceleration, then a dead spot as you shift, then another dash of acceleration then a dead spot as you shift. I bet unless your facing a professional driver you could bet most cars from 0-30 just because you never have to shift.
The quietness is very strange the first time you start to move, but by the end of my drive it seemed almost normal, until I left in my own car;)
The Regenerative braking was not as big an issue as I had thought it would be, first off Its not an immediate take your foot off the gas and your slamed with deceleration which some reviewers seemed to suggest, there is a noticeable maybe 1 second delay from when you take your foot fully off the accelerator until the regenerative breaking kicks in, at first I thought this might be a problem but then I realized, it helped you make sure you really wanted to break, and didnt just need to shake out a foot cramp, or reduce your acceleration slightly. And you can apply the regenerative breaking slowly, by reducing the pressure on the accelerator just a little bit you get a slow deceleration. By the end of the drive I was able to judge the breaking distance easily and was breaking without touching the break petal at all.
The only down side was that with my erratic driving, jaming on the accelerator then taking my foot off to feel the breaking I dropped the car's charge by 5% after only going 3 miles, but once Im familiar with the car I'm sure Ill do better.
It was a fantastic experiance and really has me excited as I wait for my new MINI E

NYC meet the MINI E



Last night MINI had a event in NYC similar to the one on the 5th in LA, where MINI E pioneers could get meet each other and the Engineers and people behind the MINI E, and of course the MINI E's numbers 403 422 and 480. It was a 5 star event all the way, with a well stocked open bar, and some really fantastic food, including my favorite all you could eat oysters that were some of the best I've had in a long time.
The event started off with a presentation by Mark Alt, and while he did seem a bit nervous starting out he quickly got comforting with the crowd and went into a very interesting presentation, on what you can do today to help the environment by voting with your dollars. He pointed out Stu's MINI E business card and other bloggers and how important our words can be in influencing other people and being spokes people for electric cars and MINI. The presentation ended with a number of people having a chance to express why they are in the MINI E program and what it means to them.
Then we had a chance to eat and meet people, I had a great time talking to a number of very different people, only wish I'd had a chance to speak to everyone. There were the pioneers including a couple fellow bloggers Stu and Tim, there were the engineers and sales people who answered a lot of my questions, and even a few buisnessman who were working on differant ways of providing chaging services to electric vehicles, one mentioned owning old payphones on the street and working on using that infrastructure to setup charging stations throughout the city.
Some of the questions I got answers for:
Will it have satellite radio? No (really bummed about this, Im addicted to XM)
Can you pre-heat the car while its plugged in? Cant do that now, but they thought it was a great suggestion and are going to work with the engineers to see if this could be added to the software. (cool how you can change a cars behavior just by tweeking the program running it.)
what happens as you deplete the battery? After the charge meeter gets to 0% the car will still drive normally for about 10 miles, then the preformance will drop and the car will only drive very slowly for about 3 miles at which time it wont go any more. Also the 155 or 120 mile range estimate was to 0% charge so this does not include any limping home in its estimated range.
Can you charge it of a standard 220 outlet? No its limited to 11A 32A or 50A charging only.
I even got a chance to speak to the president of MINI USA and tried to get a hint from him on MINI's plans for electric cars and my favorite the extended range Electric, but he seemed to feel the weight costs would offset the gains from this design, and the MINI already had a very good gas mileage make any gains in mpg minor, cant say I agree with him, I think a EREV MINI like the MINI QED or volvo's C30 Recharge or Volt would be a great idea, as it gives you the benefits of an electric vehicle for your short daily commute while offering the range of a Gas vehicle, and of course a small vehicle like the MINI will have better acceleration and mileage then a larger vehicle, but I wasnt about to argue with the president of MINI USA, I just tried to hide my disappointment.

On a side note yesterday seemed to be a big day for spoting cars, on the way into the city I saw a first generation prius, only the second one I've ever seen and at lunch I saw a Prius that had been converted to a plug in hybrid with a plug in port, a phev sticker and a A123 stcker, see A123's site for info on how this conversion is done, really wanted to talk to the owner about this but couldnt.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Signed Installation Contract

I Signed the Installation Contract with CFCI today for them to come and install the Charger, it was a $0 bill for me, but I still took a day to really think about it and make sure I'm really serious about getting the MINI E, before any work is done. Up to now its just been talking about this and seeing what needs to be done, now this is getting REAL.

I must admit I've had my doubts about getting the MINI E, mostly its been the expense, I know I can afford it, if I didnt get it I'd just save the money for my Volt down payment, but its still a lot of money. Then there is Range Anxiety, what if It wont drive the 80 miles I need it to, because I'm not driving as efficiently as they assumed, or it wont get that range on a cold day, so many what ifs.

And the delays havent helped, when you go into a show room to buy a car the salesman will do anything to get you to sign there and then, because they know once you leave your unlikely to come back. With BMW's MINI E program, only the most committed or those who should be committed, can keep their enthusiasm and interest up for 8 plus months any day of which we could change our minds and say no I dont really want it, and I've had those days.

I've seen a lot of people dropping out in the last few weeks, mostly because of the installation expense, I've heard quotes of upto $5000 to install the charger in a detached garage, if I had to pay that much I'd be out too. This is a serious problem with the mass adoption of the Electric car, as many people dont have a high voltage line in their Garage needed to charge an Electric Car quickly. I think the government should step in now and regulate that new buildings have high voltage lines installed to the Garage for future electric cars, it would be such an inexpensive thing to do when homes are being built, and such a big expense latter. I think there should also be a tax break for installing chargers in homes, as this is a big step towards going electric.

I've also been wondering if they will have as much trouble with this in Europe as we do in the US since they are all 240v in the home, but I think they have a lower Amperage so they may still require updated wiring too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Field Trial range expanded

I got an email from BMW inviting me to join the MINI E field trial, guess their Database isnt upto date. They had a list of requirements and they have changed them a bit. The new requirements state you must be within 110 miles of a participating dealer, I think it use to be 50 mile. While it doesnt state it I think this would mean if you live in Philladelphia or Connecticut and are willing to buy your car out of state you could be in the Field Trial. Also they dont mention the need for a Garage, I dont know if this is an omission or maybe they oked installing the Chargers outdoors now, this would really help those people who have a detached garage with little power, assuming they can park close to the house. This would be perfect at my fiancee's place, I wonder if I can talk them into installing a second charger at her place:)


MINI E: 100% Electric, Zero Emissions MINI.

Dear %%FIRSTNAME%%,

BMW Group EfficientDynamics is the principle behind every vehicle we manufacture. It stands for reduced emissions and increased fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance. It also represents innovative thinking, which doesn’t always come just in the form of a BMW. That’s why we’re proud to introduce you to another member of our family, the MINI E.

You’re invited to apply to participate in a 1-year Field Trial for the first 100% electric, zero-emissions MINI. As a MINI E Pioneer, you would be instrumental in shaping the future of MINI and BMW Group EfficientDynamics and, quite possibly, the future of motoring itself. Your experiences, opinions, and feedback could help bring us one step closer to a practical transportation alternative that has the potential to run on clean, renewable energy, without compromising any of MINI’s world-famous handling.

To be selected, among other criteria, you must meet the following:
* You must live within 110 miles of a participating MINI E dealer.
* You must have a daily round trip commute of no more than 110 miles.
* You’ll have to sign a one year closed end lease* which is $850 a month**
(includes collision coverage).
* You’ll need to agree to have a wall box to charge the MINI E installed in your home.
* You’ll need to return the car and the charging wall box at the end of the Field Trial program.
* You have to be licensed to drive a motor vehicle for 5 or more years and have a clean driver’s license.
* You’ll have to agree to bring the MINI E to your MINI E dealer for scheduled maintenance and a status check up at 3 months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first, and at 6 months or 8,000 miles, whichever comes first.
* You’ll have to agree to provide reasonable feedback about MINI E ownership experiences to MINI USA and affiliated research teams. Feedback methods include filling out surveys and maintaining an online log book.

Availability is limited so if you think you have what it takes to be a MINI E Pioneer, contact a participating MINI E dealer to apply today.

»Visit MINI-E.COM for dealer listings and more information about the Field Trial

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meet the MINI E

Got an email from MINI that they are planning a get together with other people in the MINI E field trial or as they like to call us MINI E pioneers. This will be on May 13th in NYC and from what I've heard May 5th in LA.

The Guest speakers will be Marc Alt and Partners

Program highlights will include:
Sneak Peak and orientation of the MINI E
a special presentation from an environmental expert
Open discussion with the MINI USA management team

I'm really looking forward to this, going to have to write up a few questions to ask, already have a couple ideas.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Passed Inspection

Had the initial inspection today, an Electrician came to my house and looked over the fuss box and where I wanted the charger box, was here for maybe 15 minute, would have been 5 but I kept asking him questions. He seemed to enjoy it though, is quite enthusiastic about the new business opportunities electric cars will have for his profession, when they start installing banks of charging stations for government and business groups.

He didn't see any problem with the 100A fuss box, based on the size of my house and the amount of electrical appliances I currently have, at least for a 40A charger. He wasn't aware of the 60A charger and felt that might have been more iffy. I suspect BMW felt that way too and thats why they are installing 40A chargers in homes. Im curious what type of chargers BMW of Germany is installing on the streets of Berlin.

The Electrician had five inspections today, his first, I know one other was a co-worker. They are starting slow probably to get the hang of things, but it sounds like I may have a MINI E soon.

Next step sounds like the electrician will submit an estimate of the work, and CFCI will draw up a contract, I think this is just a contract for the charger installation, not the full lease agreement, we'll see.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Installation Email

I got an email from Clean Fuel Connection asking when over the next two weeks would be a good time for a site visit, so they can inspect my homes electrical work and make an estimate of the installation costs. The only problem is I might be away on business for the next two week, my schedule is a bit up in the air at the moment, hopefully I'll be able to work something out.

The email also had three attachments, a flow chart showing each step in the process from credit approval through taking delivery, looks like you sign the forms just before they start the electrical work. There was a Brochure on the charging station from Clipper Creek, and a FAQ sheet. The FAQ sheet states that the time to charge up the batteries with the charger when they are fully depleted is 5 hours, but a 20 mile trip would take 50 minutes to recharge. These numbers dont make sense to me they had advertised that with the charger it would take less then 3 hours to completely recharge. And using the 20 miles in 50 minutes number that would mean it takes 5.8 hours to recharge from a 120 mile trip. Either these numbers are incorrect or the original charge and range data was way off, I suspect they may be using a less powerful charger then the one used to generate the original charge time estimates

The FAQ also mentions charge times for a 120v outlet 5 hours for a 20 mile drive, over 24 to fully charge which is in line with the original numbers. But noticeably absent is any mention of the ability to charge from a 220v outlet, I hope that was just an oversight.

Hope to hear back from them soon.

Also saw this article about solar powering a MINI E, it sounds like the author in CA has already had the charger installed. So maybe CA will be seeing some MINI E's delivered in April rather then May as we'd been led to believe.

[addendum]
I spoke to a neighbor who is an electrician and he said all the houses have 100A Electrical Service and since we live in a condominium development with all the electric underground he's not even sure it can be upgraded to 200A. this has me very worried, Id assumed since the buildings were relatively new they would have 200A service, I really hope he's wrong or my place is small enough that I dont need a 200A service.

[addendum 2]
I got a call from Green Power Technologies it sounds like they are the East Coast coordinator. Had a very informative discussion with the representative who will be managing things, and have an inspection scheduled for Monday. He also informed me they had two Chargers a 40A and a 60A so even if I only have a 100A Electrical Service I should be good, as long as Im not drawing too much. This also explains the differences in charge times, I know MINI was using a 60A charger for their MINI E data sheets, but it sounds like the Clean Fuel Connection's FAQ was based on the 40A charger. I had been getting worried that I might not be able to get the MINI E, but I feel much better about things now

Friday, March 27, 2009

MINI E Drivers get PLUGGED-IN

MINI sent out a email news letter to people in the MINI E Field trial called PLUGGED-IN, this is suppost to be a weekly email to keep us plugged-in on whats going on with MINI E Field Trial. Im really glade to see this as we are all getting a bit anxious to get out there Driving. They emphasize the Field Trial nature of this program and refer to potential Drivers as Pioneers as in a previous email.

So whats the status?

Well inspections for Wall chargers are proceeding on the West Coast, and will start shortly on the East Coast. There is a problem with the production on the cable for the wall box, but they plan to go head with installation of the wall boxes and add the cables when they become available. They expect to start delivering Cars in May, so Im guessing I wont get mine until June :(

Also its official the big MINI lettering we've seen on the sides of cars used at shows and on test drives is just for shows and will not be on the Field Trial cars.

Tesla unveiles the Model S

Tesla Unveiled their Model S Electric Car yesterday, this is a 5 door sedan with an expected price of under $50K after government tax credit, and a Range of 300 miles. It can even be fully charged in 45 minutes from a 480v outlet, expected production late 2011. I love the styling on this car, only what am I going to do between my MINI E lease runs out and the Model S is released?

See the Tesla Model S

Thursday, March 19, 2009

MINI E's being prepped for delivery

Here are some photos of MINI E's in an import yard being prepped for delivery, can you pick out yours? Mine is the one on the left :), wish I could make out its number.
[source of Gordy Ormesher and evworld.com]



Friday, March 13, 2009

CA Wall Charger inspections have started

Found a Blog by Stefano Paris in California who was one of the first to have their home inspected in preparation for installation of the wall charger

http://revengeoftheelectriccar.com/mini-e-charge-station-initial-site-inspection

Sounds like he's passed the inspection with flying colors congrats Stefano.

NJ Inspections wont start until after the CA installations are done, thats probably at least a month away, Im starting to get impatient now that its actually in sight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jay Leno Test Drives the MINI E

Great Video of Jay Leno Test driving the MINI E, never expected it could do a power slide like that.
I noticed he is driving number 138 where all the other Test Drives have been very low numbered vehicles, but this one still has the "MINI E" name on the side, I think that is ugly and detracts from the simple E plug logo, I hope it is just for the MINI's shown to the Press and wont be on the Field Trial MINIs.

Also he mentions the regenerative braking and it sounds like that only kicks in under 40 mph, so probably you can take your foot off the GAS and coast at higher speeds.

[Source: Jay Leno's Garage]

The Costs

For many people the first thing they ask is how much does it cost?

And while I am thrilled to be able to drive the MINI E I have to admit that it is not cheap and Im not saving money by driving electric. It costs $850 a month for a one year lease, and I must return the MINI E at the end of the lease. I had to do some serious thinking to decide whether I could afford this and whether it was worth it to me, and make sure my fiance didnt dump me for being a reckless spender.

Since my current car a 1997 BMW Z3 is getting a bit old, I've already been in the market for a new car, but not exactly in a hurry, I still think the Z3 beats the Z4 in styling anyday. Before the MINI E was announced, I was thinking I'd wait another 2 years until the Chevy Volt came out and get that, it looks like a number of companies have Electric or Range Extended Electric Vehicles coming out in late 2010 or 2011 and I still plan to get one then, The MINI E bridges the gap nicely.

I do keep my car in very good condition and spend about $3000 on maintenance each year, I will keep it around for long trips, and just because I love it and dont ever want to sell it, but will be glade to not be using it as my primary car.

So is $850 a reasonable amount? A one year lease of a $40K+ JCW MINI would be about $550 a month, so for a MINI it is expensive, but if you consider that AC propulsion charges $70K for their ebox electric vehicle which uses the same batteries and electric motor as the MINI E, an $850 lease seems about right. Now in Berlin they are only charging 200 euros, which is about $325 a month, which seems unfair but then they have to use public charging stations around the city.

Am I saving money on Gas? I drive 15K miles a year and my current gas milage is 22 mpg, at $1.85 a gallon that's $1261 a year in gas. The MINI E uses 26 kw/h to travel 120 miles so that would be 3250 kw/h per year. In NJ we have a choice of energy suppliers and I pay a primium to recieve my electricity from all renewable resources wind/solar/hydro so Im paying .20 cents per kw/h.
If I got the math right that translates to $650 a year to power my car with electricity, or about half the price what I was spending on Gas. Now a year ago when gas was $4 a Gallon and Electricity from non-clean coal was .10 cents a kw/h the savings would have been $325 vers $2727 or 1/8th the cost of gas.

What about Tax savings? In NJ there is no Sales tax on Zero Emission vehicles, which would have been an extra $612 dollars Im not paying. There is also $7500 plug in electric car credit, while the details of this and how it relates to leased cars isnt known right now, and probably wont be until September if I did qualify for the full credit and if my tax rate was 28% that would be about a $2100 reduction in my taxes. [edited] (This appears to be incorrect, I calculated this as a deduction rather then a credit, if the IRS gives the full credit on a one year lease and your not hitting the AMT thats a full $7500 back on my taxes, that's 3/4 of the lease paid for by the government, would be nice but I'm not holding my breath for it.)

What about Insurance? The MINI E's lease includes collision insurance probably saving me $800 over a regular lease on a new car, so all I need is liability, I priced that out at only $300 extra.

So is the MINI E saving me money, of course not. Electric Cars are way too expensive right now to be practical, but I do believe they are the way of the future, as battery technology gets lighter and cheaper, as Gas prices return to higher and higher prices, and as renewable electric energy production becomes more common and cheaper, Electric Cars will become a viable and cheaper solution then Gas.

So why Drive the MINI E? To drive an electric vehicle, at least 2 years before I could otherwise. To help the environment by using clean electricity rather then Gas, which pollutes our air and contributes to global warming. To not send my money to foreign nations that are openly hostile to the US. To not support Big Businesses that are making record profits in a time of res session and lobbing to Drill in our National Parks and off the coast of our beaches. To support companies that are looking at alternative. To be part of a program where my opinion and experiences will have a big impact on the future direction BMW takes in developing the Electric Car. And to Drive a Really Cool Car.

Robert

Monday, March 9, 2009

wall box charger

I received an update from MINI that they would soon be contacting me to install the wall box charger. They have contracted Clean fuel Connection to install the chargers. It maybe a while though, it sounds like they sent this notice out to east and west coast field trial participants and will be installing them on the west coast first.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

German MINI E Field Trial

Saw this article that Germans living in Berlin will have the opportunity to sign up to for a MINI E Field Trial along with Americans. They can only lease the car for 6 months so that 100 people can drive the 50 Cars over the next year, but they do have to pay significantly less € 250 a month thats about $325 US, versus the $850 a month we in the states will be paying.

from vattenfall.com


E-mobility Launched in Berlin


First Vattenfall Charging Station for MINI E Cars Commences Operations



· Environmentally friendly driving pleasure undergoes first ever tests
· First charging station successfully commences operations
· Application phase for 50 MINI E electric cars now begins
· Total of 100 Berliners to be selected as e-car pioneers Vattenfall Europe AG and the BMW Group have successfully launched their shared project "MINI E Berlin Powered by Vattenfall". The first ever test drives with the MINI E electric car on the streets of Germany's capital Berlin are now a reality. The cars are being charged up at Vattenfall's first charging station in Berlin-Treptow. With this, the establishment of the infrastructure for this cutting edge project has now begun, with more charging stations due to be installed soon. Astrid Klug, Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety: "The first charging station represents a vital step on our way to achieving e-mobility here in Germany. [READ MORE]

Monday, February 9, 2009

Charging Stations in New Jersey

Found this while searching for Electric Car charging stations in New Jersey

Automotive Industries: "

New Charging Station Booklet Out NEW YORK CITY April 4 The New York Electric Vehicle Assn has issued a new booklet with maps showing the charging stations routes and giving data over the entire metropolitan area including all of New Jersey man for "


Before you get your hopes up, this is from a Magazine called The Automobile dated June 29th 1916

or this one from the New York Times 1912

Temperature

The Lithium Ion Batteries used by the MINI E work best if used at a temperature around 74F. It is very important that they not get too hot because high temperatures can permanently reduce their performance, and there is the risk of them catching fire (mostly if it was damaged or there was a defect in manufacturing them). Batteries at low temperatures can have their performance and ability to hold a charge severely reduced, but this is temporary and has no long term effect on the batteries.

BMW is aware of this and they have mentioned that the housing the batteries are in is designed to keep them cool. I dont know the details of the system but I can make some speculations and what I'd like to see.

The Tesla Roadster goes to great lengths to keep the batteries at an optimal temperature, it has a liquid cooling system that runs all the time, and I've read numerous criticisms of it as being a big energy waster, the MINI E uses air cooling with temperature load and speed sensitive fans also it is mounted inside the cabin so it must take advantage of the heating/cooling used for the driver. I have wondered if this is a passive or active system, if the batteries start to get too hot will the car automatically turn on the AC? When the car is left out in a parking lot on a hot day this could end up using a lot of power, but would also mean you'd have a comfortable cabin when you got inside. The EV-1 had a feature where you could tell it to pre cool the cabin but only while it was plugged in.

Being in New Jersey I dont expect problems with over heating to be that much of an issue, but I do worry about poor performance in low temperatures. I'm hopeful there will be someway I could tell the car to warm up the cabin on a cold day maybe an hour before I plan to leave, so the batteries will be able to hold a full charge, and I wont have to blast the heat as soon as I get going. Also I wonder how much of a range hit I'll get on those days when I need to use the heater or AC all during my driving.

Its all just speculation at this point but this will be something Ill talk about in more detail once I have some real experiences to back things up.

Friday, February 6, 2009

MINI E-REV

This isnt the MINI E, but it is a prototype MINI thats a Extended Range Electric Vehicle similar to the Chevy Volt that means its electric and runs on bateries for a limited range then a gas engine kicks in and generates electricity which powers the motor for longer ranges.
This MINI is also super fast they quote 0-60 times of 4 seconds, its also really cool how the electric motors are in the wheel.

Always on Regenerative Breaking

One of the best things about being in a field trial will be having direct access to the Engineers who designed and are testing the MINI E. BMW has stressed the importance of communication between the customer and technicians during this field trial. So far I havent talked to anyone from MINI/BMW but the salesman, I'm looking forward to questioning their technical people in more detail about the MINI E.
I keep thinking up new questions to as, going to write them down here to keep them all straight, and will let you know when I have answers.

I have some concerns about the regenerative breaking, the MINI E has an unusual system where when you release the gas petal ( need to change that to accelerator petal or something) the regenerative breaks kick in which is sort of like engine breaking. I think I understand why they did this having the wheels directly tied to the motor is technically a lot simpler then having to put the car in neutral when you release the accelerator, in a Gas car the engine is always running so you dont notice any breaking effect unless your engine is at very high RPM or your going down hill in a low gear.
But I worry about this always on Regenerative breaking for a few reasons, coasting without breaking or accelerating is one of the first tricks hypermilers practice, regenerative breaking gives you back energy but no where near what it takes to get to back up to speed. I worry that I'll be releasing my foot of the petal and breaking when I dont really want to, I find people who ride the breaks very annoying to drive behind.
Then there is safety, one trick a safe driver knows is when your on an icy road or hydroplanning the last thing you want to do is put on the break this will send the car out of control, you need to release the accelerator, and let the car coast down in speed slowly, I wonder what the best practice for controlling the MINI E when you lose traction, Im guessing keep your foot on the accelerator, but just barely, maybe that will slow it down.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

MINI E videos

Here are some of My favorite MINI E videos

Test Drive


Test Drive


Test Drive


AC Propulsion the power behind the MINI E


Looks Like this isnt the MINI E but it is an electric MINI, not sure who built it

In the Beginning

Back in September I read that BMW would be making an all electric version of the MINI and leasing it to 500 people in the California and New York/NEW Jersey area. For years I've been interested in Electric cars, following with interest the latest news on the Tesla Roadster, and Chevy Volt, I've also owned a BMW Z3 for over 10 years now. I had thought it would be at least late 2010 to 2011 before I'd be able to get an affordable electric or Range Extended Electric Vehicle, so I was thrilled with the prospect that I could drive an EV now, that was fully serviced by a company I've liked.

I quickly tried to find out how to apply, I was convinced you'd need to be a Movie Star or know someone in BMW to get one, but I kept looking for information. About a month later BMW debuted the MINI E at the LA autoshow and opened a web site for people to sign up to lease one of the 500 MINI E's as part of a field trial. I quickly filled out the form, which asked many interesting questions, to try and get an idea of who you were, one of my favorites was when it announced that all the data you'd entered was lost, and would you mind entering it again, it wasnt really lost they just wanted to get an idea of how you deal with problems.

So I filled out the request, and waited... and waited ... and waited. There had been a warning not to try and contact BMW or MINI personnel asking about the status of your request, or trying to pressure them for preferential treatment, so I made no attempt to find out what had happened to my request. By new years I figured I hadnt got in, with the way the economy and GAS prices had dropped I convinced myself this was a good thing and I should wait another 2 years for a new car.

Then towards the end of January I got a call, I'd been select to join the MINI E field trial.

next step is, they will be sending an electrician to make sure the charger box can be installed in my garage, I dont expect any problems with this as it is a relatively new home. Then its just a question of waiting for delivery, Im told that will be April or May.