[ad#post_ad]Today I left my MINI E in my driveway, keys inside, from where it will taken back to BMW headquarters for the last time.
Its hard to believe a year has passed since I first took possession of the MINI E pure electric car. After a lengthy application process, several months of waiting and a few emails to select BMW executives, I was finally told I had been chosen as a MINI E pioneer to participate in the MINI E field test. I became one of 450 people nationwide, and one of the 100 in New York chosen to lease the car.
Although by then I had already test driven the Ford Focus Electric mule, the Tesla Roadster, the Mitsubishi iMiEV, and even the Chevy Volt Cruze-mule, getting a pure elctric car as my daily driver, to live with for a year was a dream come true. I drove off from that MINI dealer’s lot in White Plains in June 2009 like a kid in a candy shop.
At first I thought I’d be very scientific and log all my trips and how much effective range I got. I did this for a few weeks, but got bored. Sorry not much data to share.
Overall, the experience has been absolutely fantastic. I absolutely love driving an electric car, no doubt about it. I love the smoothness, quick torque, and near silence. I love plugging it in each night and coming out each morning to a fully-charged battery (though I forgot a few times). Most of all I love the ever-present awareness I am driving without the use of gasoline, without imported oil, on pure homegrown US electricity.
I chose not to adorn my MINI E with the large glaring door decals, mine is the more subtle type of personality. As a result I was not once stopped by a stranger who noticed the car was electric. Of course I shared the experience with several friends and colleagues and let a bunch of people drive it (even a GM exec who shall remain nameless).
BMW asked for the study participants to engage in nine separate online tasks over the year, which would provide them data and feedback. Unfortunately I didn’t do any of them. I figured my constant daily effort on this blog and elsewhere was enough to advance the cause of electrification of the automobile, plus I just didnt have the time. Sorry BMW.
In the end I logged just about 15,000 miles of driving (14,914 to be exact). Four times the car broke down, all away from home and twice while engaged in driving, due to various power-electronic module failures, the cost of driving a non-production car.
A couple of months ago BMW offered me and others the chance to lease the car for a second year. Instead of charging $850 per month as it had in the first year, the second would only be $600. After that I could take possession of BMWs next electric car, the Active E BMW 1-series. The MINI E is really an aftermarket conversion of a standard MINI E with the rear seat removed and replaced by a 600 pound 35 kwh E-one Moli air-cooled lithium ion battery pack and an AC Propulsion drivetrain. The Active E is a little bit more of a ground up electric car with advanced driver interface and thermally managed pack. After that BMW will use all of its learning to launch its pure electric MegaCity car in 2013, that will be built using lightweight carbon fiber composites.
Along with 50% of the other lessees, sadly I had to decline this second year option. Why you might ask? Because the Volt will be out in a few short months. Although I do not live in one of the three Volt launch markets, and don’t have my name on any list except my own, I have one very good reason to believe and hope I will get possession of an early Volt. Ed Whitacre, the CEO of General Motors told me so in a surprise personal call. Yes, Im holding him to it!
I can say the MINI E performed very well as a commuter car for me, and I was able to use it for about 90% of my driving needs. Occasionally I needed to drive further than its range allowed either to go to a distant destination or multiple distant stops in one day. In those cases I drove a back-up gas car (having continuous access to one was a requirement of the program).
My daily commute is roughly 30 miles each way. I would leave each morning with a full battery and then trickle charge at 120 V in my parking spot at work. I had my parking garage management company install an outlet for me (I paid half). The home 240V/32 amp charger recharged the car from empty in about 4 hours, at 120V/8amp it takes about 33 hours.
Overall I would say my effective range was roughly 75 to 80 miles. I never once ran out of charge. My commute is 90% high speed (65mph+) highway driving which is why my range was so low. This was also quite weather-dependent. At one point when the temperatures dipped inot the 20s during the winter, range was about 50-55 miles and I found the needle below zero a couple of times (it still kept driving though).
Unfortunately I now must switch to my gas-hybrid that I have been using as a back-up car full time, until I can get my hands on a Volt.
Thanks MINI E, its been a real pleasure, and thanks BMW for a great experience. BMW has acknowledged the 2-seat MINI E is not a widely applicable car and won’t be putting one into production. The Active E and Mega City EV will both have rear seats and the latter will be design-optimized for an electric drivetrain.
For a me a 100 mile range pure electric car can be used for 90% of my drives. Driving the Volt and charging at work, I will drive 95% of my miles without the use of gas, but still be able to use the car on those additional 5% of occasions.
This entry was posted on Monday, June 14th, 2010 at 6:31 am and is filed under BEV, Test drive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.