Friday, April 30, 2010

Bumper Sticker Politics

I'm not a big bumper sticker guy. I have never put on one of my cars before but a friend of mine gave me this one a while back and I kind of feel guilty he bought it for me and I never used it. So I put it on the window so I can easily remove it when I get sick of looking at it. I do like the message. I just don't like stickers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Electric Street, Metuchen, NJ

I was driving in Metuchen, NJ the other day and saw this street sign. I had to stop and take a picture on the corner of Electric Street!

So it got me thinking, I wonder how many Electric Streets, Avenues, Roads, Places, Way, etc there were in New Jersey. Maybe it would be fun to drive to them and take pictures of the car in front of the street sign and post them here. So I pulled up Google maps and did a check. I was really surprised to find there were no other streets at all in New Jersey that were called "Electric". I just happened to stumble on the only one in the state, go figure.

So I guess I won't be humming an Eddie Grant tune as I drive along Electric Avenue anytime soon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another ecological disaster thanks to our Big Oil friends

After the explosion that claimed 11 lives, the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon sunk some 36 hours later. Since then, it has been spewing 42,000 gallons of crude oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico some 40 miles off the shores of  Louisiana. The visible spill is now roughly 1,300 square miles and rapidly growing.

Often when I read various online blogs and there are discussions over electric vehicles verses internal combustion engine cars, inevitably the discussion turns to the fact that much of the electricity in this country and around the world is produced by burning coal which itself is bad for the environment. This is true, burning coal (or burning just about anything for that matter) to produce energy is not environmentally friendly and we do need to develop more clean, renewable sources of electricity generation. However that doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination that oil is better, it just means that the current electricity generation methods aren't perfect, but it's still a better fuel than oil.

One only needs to look at the scope of disasters like what we currently have off the coast of Louisiana to see the disastrous results of oil spills. If a train carrying coal to a power plant derails and spills, we can simply pick the train back up, scoop up the coal and the incident is over. When a tanker like the Exxon Valdez dumps 11 million gallons of oil into the water or a oil rig like the Deepwater Horizon sinks they create an epic ecological disaster that lasts for decades, costs hundreds of millions of dollars and kills uncountable amounts of wildlife.

I charge my electric car on electricity generated by my solar electric system at my home, but even if I was using electricity generated from a coal burning power plant I know it is still a much better energy solution than drilling for oil is.

Friday, April 23, 2010

BMW Mega City Gets the Green Light

It really comes as no surprise but it's still nice to hear it formally announced. The BMW Mega City line, a sub brand that will be a line up of electric cars is targeting 2013 as the launch for their first pure BEV. It will be a five seat, three door hatchback and may look very similar to the photo above.

This is great news for everyone following the MINI-E program and other electric cars. Many of us in the MINI-E trial lease have wondered "What are we really working on?" BMW had told us from the beginning that they do not have plans on refining and selling the MINI-E, and that this program was gathering information for a future electric car from BMW. Now we have some clarity and even a picture to look at.

The BMW ActiveE will bridge the gap from the MINI-E to the Mega City vehicle and will have most of the components that will be used in the Mega City. We have been told that those of us in the MINI-E program that sign up for a second year(like I have) will have first priority to get an ActiveE next June. There will be roughly 700 ActiveE's positioned around the world for real world testing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Not only is today Earth Day, but it's also the first day of the 15th annual Iran Oil Show! Oh joy!! I thought it would only be fair to give the other side a chance to say hello on this great day. Pictured are Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and they both send their warmest wishes to the West with this note from the Oil Show: "We wish to say hello to our friends in the West that are celebrating Earth Day. We want you to know that we love the earth also, for that is where we pump our oil from"

Well guys, hopefully with cars like the MINI-E and others that will follow, we won't need your black gold much longer so have fun while you still can...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Car Wash Small Talk

My wife Meredith and I went for a leisurely drive to Princeton this morning. On the way back I noticed there was a car wash open and #250 was looking less than perfect after driving in the rain a few times this week so I pulled in and ran it through.

Ever since I added the "ELECTRIC" chrome badges, the no oil magnets and the EF-OPEC license plates I get stopped all the time when I'm in parking lots and even sometimes sitting at traffic lights by curious people that have questions about the car. However whenever I go to a car wash, it's just about guaranteed that someone will ask me about the car and today was no exception. Just as I walked to the counter to pay a gentleman walked up to me and asked if it was really 100% electric. I said yes but before I could tell him it was a pilot program he quickly followed up with "How much?" and "Where can I get one?" He didn't even know the range, how long it takes to charge...etc, he just knew he wanted one. Then he saw my plates. A huge smile came across his face and he said: "Those are awesome, it's just how I feel"

Once I explained the program to him and promised him that he will be able to buy an electric car soon, perhaps as soon as within 12 months he was even more enthusiastic. I told him about the Nissan LEAF, the Chevy Volt and that BMW would have an EV on the market, possibly in 2013. I know I've said it here many times before, but the more I drive the car and the more people I meet and talk to, the more I realize the time has come to begin the transition to electrics. The technology is ready and so is the public.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

2010 NY Auto Show Interview

A few weeks back I was contacted by Nathalie Bauters from MINI. She said she was contacted by a German Journalist, Thomas Geiger and that he wanted to know if she would be able to set up an interview with me at the NY Auto Show. He had read about me and how many miles I've driven the MINI-E so far and read this blog so he wanted to interview me about my experiences with the car. Nathalie arraigned for me to get a press pass to the show so I could go on press day which was two days before the show was open to the public.

It was great because I was able to walk around the show floor while it was empty, just photographers and journalists there. I could sit in cars and take pictures unobstructed by the hordes of people that are there once the show is open to the public. 

Finally I sat down with Thomas and another German journalist, Stefan Grundhoff and answered questions for about a half hour. They then took some pictures of me in the MINI-E on display at the show(see above) and I was free to continue to walk around and check out the show floor. Over at the BMW "lounge area" they were serving refreshments and had a small buffet line so I figured I'd partake in the festivities and joined in. I met Gert Hildebrand there, he is a member of the MINI design team. We talked for a while about the MINI-E program, the new MINI crossover, the Countryman as well as the future MINI coupe. Gert was also really interested in my opinions and asked if I think the new MINI coupe would sell if it were offered as an all electric model.

During the interview Thomas asked me if I would mind if he mentioned this blog in his article and I told it was fine. He then went on to say that he was a very popular journalist in Germany and that I could expect to have a lot of visits to the blog once his article is live. He was definitely right about that! The article was posted online three days ago and this blog has had over 3,000 new visitors in the past three days, most of which are from Germany and other European Countries. Just for a reference, I usually have about 60 to 80 visitors a day so his article was responsible for a remarkable boost in traffic. I have also received about a dozen emails from readers in Germany that have asked questions and offered support for the MINI-E and electric cars in general. You can see the article here, but you'll need to read German to understand it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I get a visit from the MINI-E engineering team

I came to work on Sunday and left for a while, leaving #250 parked right by the front door of the restaurant. When I returned, one of my waitresses said there was a table of guys that were looking at my MINI-E parked outside and when they were seated they asked to speak to the owner. So I walked over and proudly told them "I own the MINI-E and yes it's 100% electric, not a hybrid" I said this because it's very common for a customer to ask about the car, and they almost always assume it's some kind of plug in hybrid.

Well, I was unaware of who I was speaking to. In fact, I might as well have been explaining how to make bolognese sauce to Emeril. The gentleman second to the left in the photo above is Anton Lesnicar, chief engineer for the MINI-E and the other four are all members of the engineering team at BMW. So after they wiped their smirks off their faces and said "yeah, we kinda know what it is, we designed it" I then knew what I was dealing with.

They told me they wanted to meet the pioneer with the most experience driving the car(referring to the 27,000 miles I've logged in the car so far) as well as get some of the great pizza we serve. So they ordered some pizza and I sat down to talk EV with them. We touched on subjects from the cost to be in the program, to the lack of a thermal management system, to future BMW EV's namely the ActiveE and the Mega City. They also told me they are aware of, and visit this blog occasionally.

I had a great time picking their brains and I think they liked the feedback that they got from me. I gave Anton a copy of my trip logs that details every mile I've driven in the car so far which I'm sure he will go over thoroughly. I then asked them to stand in front of #250 charging up on the side of Nauna's and they gladly obliged.

Thanks for stopping by guys, I hope to see you again sometime!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nice trip to the Delaware Water Gap

Yesterday morning my wife and I got up early and headed up to the Delaware Water Gap. It's a beautiful area with lots of scenic views of the Delaware River plus places to picnic and hike. It was about 45 miles from our home so I knew we could make it with the MINI-E, I just didn't know how much driving around we could do once we got there since I wanted to head back home with 45-50% charge.

We made it there with about 55% charge left so we took advantage of the extra juice and drove around for a while. The roads were empty and the MINI-E was at it's best in my opinion. Driving along country roads with the windows down and all you could hear was birds and the occasional sound of the tires rolling over gravel in the road. We didn't even want to turn the radio on it was so peaceful.
After a while we stopped at an Appalachian trail and went for a short hike. We didn't have the time to go too far but it's definitely a place that we'll return to when we have more time for a longer exploration.

We headed back home and finished the trip of 100.7 miles with 7% charge left which would be good for at least 10 more miles before I would have needed to use the 15 or so miles of "reserve" that the car has. The MINI-E is good for most driving environments but in my opinion, there is nothing better than driving it on winding country roads with the windows down and listening to the tires on the road, the slight whine of the regenerative braking and the sounds of the environment outside the car that you normally don't hear over the engine of an internal combustion engine car. I can't explain it, you have to experience it to know how much more enjoyable it is.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I had to do it at least once

Ever since I picked up MINI-E #250 I have had the urge to stop at a gas station and say "Fill er up". Here in New Jersey it's against the law to pump your own gas (crazy I know) so there is always someone there to pump the gas for you. I always thought about doing it, but I really never pull into gas stations any more so the right opportunity never presented itself. The other day I pulled into an Exxon station to get a cup of coffee and instead of pulling in a parking spot I pulled up to a pump got out and walked to the convenience store to get coffee. As I walked away, I said to the attendant "fill please". I was out in a minute or so with my coffee and the guy was looking at me like I had two heads. I quickly told him that he's not crazy and I was just messing with him. He laughed and said he loved the car(especially the license plate!) and wished he had one. He had a bunch of questions about range, the electricity cost, etc; all the usual questions I get all the time. I asked him if I can take a picture of him and he happily obliged. OK, now I can cross that off my list.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MINI-E #250 Is Now Truly a Zero Emission Vehicle

My new solar electric system is up and running so I'm now "charging on sunshine" as some of the others in the MINI-E trial lease program that have a PV system like to say. My system will generate enough electricity to charge my car plus provide about 90% of my home electricity needs. I know of three others that have a MINI-E and a solar array at their home. Peder Norby drives MINI-E #183 in California, Don Young drives #364 in New York as does Gordon Miller with  #217. There are probably more since many that are involved in the MINI-E program are definitely "energy conscious" individuals.

I'm still getting familiar with the system but one of the great features that SunPower, the system I went with, offers is online monitoring. It's a really cool feature that allows you to access your systems production from any computer. It gives you real time production figures and you can look at the daily, monthly and yearly production from the system so you know exactly how much electricity it has produced. I will soon have an link on this blog for anyone that wants to see these figures (as soon as I figure out how to). Maybe Peder can help me with that as he had it set up on his MINI-E blog since he has a Sunpower system also.

Finally, I can now say the car is really a zero emission vehicle(or at least as close as you can get). One of the arguments that electric car detractors always use(because they have little else to fight with) is that electric cars that charge off the grid aren't zero emission vehicles because the power plants that provide the electric burn coal and other things so electric cars are no better than gasoline burning cars are. This is called the "long tailpipe" argument whereas the electric cars tailpipe stretches all the way to the electric producing power plant. There is some truth to that argument and we need to find alternative ways to produce cleaner, renewable energies. However, the pollution generated from drilling for oil, transporting it across the world, refining it and then transporting it to gas stations where you have to drive your car there to refuel, then have carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter constantly spew from the rear of your car everywhere you drive, is much worst than the impact from driving an EV that is charged from a coal burning power plant no matter how you look at it.

Plus, you CAN generate your own electricity from a clean, renewable source. Which is something you can never say about gasoline.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

MINI-E #250 Soon to be Charging on Solar Electric!

After about 4 months of applications, permits and weather delays, my solar electric system if finally being installed. I should be charging on sunlight by Monday. This system should generate enough electric to charge the MINI-E and about 80% of my entire homes usage. I'll post some pictures once the system is installed and operational.  Have a Happy Easter everyone!   

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Rumors Of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Just in case anyone needed proof that MINI-E #250 didn't perish in a blaze of glory as reported (by me no less) the other night then here it is. I hope you got a laugh out of the April Fools post yesterday and didn't take it so serious. From the emails and comments I received I think most people thought it was funny and got some laughs from it. I know it generated interest because yesterday I had the most visitors this blog has ever had in one day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MINI-E #250 meets untimely end!

Last night as I was driving home from work on Route 80 in Rockaway I started to smell something burning. I originally thought it must be a smell from outside the car that had infiltrated the cabin but it didn't take long before I realized that wasn't the case and that it was my car! I then felt a strong heat wave coming from behind the seats where the battery pack is so I pulled over, grabbed my important belongings from the glove box and got out. When I looked under there was a lot of smoke but no flames and I realized I didn't shut the car off so I went back in & shut it off. I got back out just in time as the battery pack burst into flames and soon engulfed the entire car. I called 911 and the Rockaway fire department came and took about 25 minutes to put it out.  I made a statement and called my wife to pick me up. I guess The electric car experiment wasn't meant to be. More on this later

UPDATE: I spoke to the fire marshal today and the cause was determined to be an "electrical problem"!   Really?????

BREAKING NEWS: Just in case anyone hasn't figured it out by now, MINI-E #250 is fine. I don't think anyone was really tricked by this April Fools post but if you were I apologize, it was all in good fun. Hopefully I gave my friends over at MINI & BMW a little scare even if for only a few moments. Richard, Hugo, Marian, Nathalie? Anyone have to think about it?  Have a great day everyone.