Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mini-E meets a cousin

My wife and I stopped for bagels this morning at the Bagel Pantry in Metuchen, NJ and when I pulled into the parking lot I noticed a man and a woman stare at the car and walk right over as soon as we got out. "All electric right?" he asked, followed by "how much power?" I told him 205 horsepower, but he quickly responded, "No, how much battery power" This wasn't just a casual EV fan I was dealing with, these were experienced EV owners and knew all the right questions to ask like what kind of batteries, what's their weight and so on. He told me he owns a Corbin Sparrow and loves it. I wasn't 100% sure what that was, but it sounded familiar and I figured I'd look it up when I got home so my wife and I went inside and had our bagels. When we got out we saw that they had gone home and brought back the Sparrow to show us. I took one look and said to myself "That's a Myers NMG". I then asked Phil and Jen, the owners "Isn't that a Myers?" Phil explained that the original company was Corbin and when they went bankrupt Myers bought the assets and continued the line. They recently introduced a new two seat version that looks much more modern and refined both inside and out. Anyway, this car has three wheels and only one seat. It has lead acid batteries that weigh over 800lbs and can take the car about 40 miles per charge. Just as a quick comparison the MINI-E's lithium ion battery pack weighs only 600 lbs and can take the much bigger and heavier MINI about 100 miles per charge. We chatted for a while more, took some pictures and we all agreed this is exciting times for electric vehicles. I know I've said it before, but one of the best parts of being in the Mini-E trial lease is that I keep meeting new and interesting people that want to talk about the car and the EV industry in general. That's been a bonus I really didn't expect when I signed up.


  1. That thing looks like something from Dr Seuss. The Cat in the Hat should pull up in that(or maybe Thing 1 & Thing 2!)

  2. That's a VERY unusual vehicle, and so nice of the owners to share it with you.
    Let's hope in another few years the battery weight / range technology jumps down that curve again :)

  3. The web site says they now have Lithium Ion and it goes for under $30K. I did not see anything about regenerative braking. For me, if it does not have regen that would be a deal breaker.

    My 120 mile commute in the Mini is very hilly and I can do it without recharging at work if I have to, though I only have once. But without regen I probably could not make it even with plugging into 120 volts at work for 9 hours.

  4. Hey there! I'm the owner of that 2000 Corbin Sparrow, #38. It's got about a 40 mile range, top speed's about 110 - the earlier versions like mine were fitted with a 600 Amp Raptor electric dragrace controller, so they're a little overpowered. :-)
    It's a sure-fire crowd attractor, and certainly the most fun vehicle I've ever owned - and judging by the comments I've gotten this last 9 years, anybody making them for a reasonable (like, say, $10,000) price could sell a hundred thousand of them.

    As for regen braking, it's not worth much with current battery technologies. The Sparrow's design is rear wheel drive, so regen braking is essentially impossible (as soon as you try to use the rear wheel to generate power, it just locks up.) A front wheel drive version would be capable of regen braking, but until we get a battery that can safely accept charge at 100C (that is, 100 times the rated 1 hour discharge current of the pack), most of the energy of braking is still going to be dumped as heat into brake rotors for all but the most feather-footed "drive electric" folks. If you look at the Prius, its "leaf" regen indicators are 50 watt-hours each, and it takes several braking cycles to earn one "leaf". Each 50 watt hours is enough to run one headlight for an hour, or the car's main electric motor for 3.6 seconds at full load. Another way of looking at it is that each "leaf" is about half a cent's worth of electricity at household prices, maybe 2 cents if you were generating it with a gasoline generator.

    Much, much more important than regen is aerodynamics. There are hobbyists out there who have taken stock gasoline engine cars and more than doubled their mileage just by reshaping their car's bodies to make them more aero - if the car companies were run by engineers instead of gearheads, we could see 100MPG vehicles with conventional drivetrains within two years. I think that a production electric car (heck, most production cars) should look a lot more like the Aptera or the aerocivic ( than like a conventional sedan (a.k.a. a brick on wheels.)

    I don't know how much power the Mini-E is capable of regenerating from decel and braking, but I suspect you'd get a much better range boost from putting on some front and rear wheel covers, adding wiper deflectors, smoothing out the nose, and replacing the side mirrors with cameras and internal display screens. I know, I know, but then it wouldn't look like a Mini...

    It was a blast seeing an EV drive into the parking lot - in the 9 years I've owned the Sparrow, yours is the first other EV (save bicycles and skateboards) I've seen on the road - sad but true!
    Here's hoping we start to see lots and lots more of them.