Wednesday, September 29, 2010

MINI-E #250 Shows off at Green Transportation Expo

 I was asked to bring the car to a Green Transportation Expo in Florham Park last week. Fortunately, I pass through Florham Park on my way to work so it wasn't much of an inconvenience at all and I agreed. It was held in the parking lot of Pershing, LLC and there were about 15 other cars there. My MINI-E was the only pure electric so it got lots of attention and I was answering questions about it the whole time I was there. Most everyone really liked it and a few even knew about it. 

I even spoke to one of the organizers and he had told me that they were looking into installing charging stations in their parking lot for their employees. As you can imagine I encouraged him to do so and even offered some ideas and told him I can help him get in contact with the companies that make the EVSE's if he needed help. It's really great to hear employers getting on board with the EV movement. Workplace charging will play a big role in the mass deployment of electric vehicles. My personal experience of living with an EV was definitely improved when I installed a charger at my workplace. 
I talked about BMW's future EV plans including the ActiveE and Megacity vehicle and there was a lot of interest in those cars also. The day went well, there were a few hundred attendees and I'm sure more than a few of them went home with a different outlook on electric cars after I talked to them for a while.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another Day, Another Interested Motorist

I've frequently written about how often people stop me and ask questions about the MINI-E. Is it a hybrid? Is it really all electric? How do you charge it? The final question is often: Can I buy one?

I had another "electric car moment" this morning on my way to work. As I pulled up to a traffic light in Morristown I noticed the person behind me holding up their cell phone to take a picture of the back of my car. This happens all the time since I got my EF-OPEC vanity plates. Usually once they get a picture, it ends there but today was a bit different. Once the traffic light turned green and I started moving I noticed that he moved into the lane next to me and sped up to get even with me. He then lowered his window and motioned to me to lower my window. We were pulling up to another traffic light so I really didn't mind.

Once I lowered my window he quickly asked "I hate to inconvenience you, but do you have a minute, I would really love to talk to you about your car" I really wasn't in a rush to get to work anyway so I agreed and told him to pull into the Dunkin Donuts parking lot that was right up the street. It turned out that he read the article on me in the Star Ledger a few weeks ago and knew all about the MINI-E from reading about it but he had never saw one in person. He had lots of questions about range, charging, temperature management and even wanted to know if I had noticed any battery degradation yet so he knew the right questions to ask. He said he has a deposit on a Nissan LEAF and is waiting for it to be available in New Jersey.

After about a ten minute conversation he thanked me, I gave him this blog address and we parted ways. Encounters like this have been one of the most interesting part of being in the MINI-E program. I have met so many people that are interested in electric cars, much more than I ever expected. With cars like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF coming to showrooms in a couple months we will finally have a choice.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Guest Post on Edmunds Inside Line

Edmunds Automotive is one of the most respected automotive authorities. For many years they have offered guidance for purchasing new and used cars in print and online. They also have a site that tests cars for long term durability. They buy the cars and drive them for a year or two and report on their time with the car. They call this site Edmunds Long Term Road Test. Occasionally at their request, I write guest blog posts for them about the MINI-E. Donna DeRosa, managing editor for Edmunds contacted me recently and asked me if I could write another post, this time about the effects the extreme heat we have had this summer has had on the MINI-E. Hit the link below to jump to the post I did.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Much Electricity Does the MINI-E Use?

One of the questions that people frequently ask me about the MINI-E is "How much electricity does it use?" Sometimes they'll just say "I love the car, but I wouldn't want to see your electric bill!"

When I tell them the car costs between $3.00 and $6.00 in electricity to go 100-120 miles they usually smile and say "Wow, that's great". The reason the range is between $3.00 and $6.00 is because there is such a difference in electricity rates throughout the country. The MINI-E has a 35 kWh battery pack but only 80% of the pack is usable which means it has 28kWh of available power. That 28kWh can move the car between 90 and 120 miles depending on how efficiently you drive. It is less in the winter months because the heater uses a lot of energy, but for most of the year these numbers are correct as an average.

The national average cost for electricity is $.12 per kWh which means it would cost the average person $3.36 to fully charge a depleted battery on the MINI-E. However rates do vary. I pay $.11 per kWh at my restaurant in Montclair, lower than the national average, but it costs me $.18 per kWh at my home in Chester, only 30 miles from Montclair. So if I "fill up" at work it costs me $3.08 but at home it costs me $5.04! Obviously I take advantage of the lower rates and charge at work as much as possible.

Since I have a solar PV array at my home, I sell the electricity back to the utility at the rate they sell it to me ($.18/kWh) so every kilowatt-hour that charge at work saves me $.07. The average person drives about 15,000 miles per year. If they had a MINI-E they would need to use about 4,200kWh to drive 15,000 miles. If you use the national average, you would pay $504 for fuel for the entire year. If you use my rate at my restaurant, it's $462, at my home it's $756. So figure anywhere between a $40/month and $65/month increase in your electric bill if you had a MINI-E and drove it the average of 15,000 miles per year.

One of the great things about electric cars is that you can easily reduce your electric bill by $40 to $60 per month just by being more efficient and therefore completely eliminate your transportation fuel cost! You can't use less gasoline unless you drive less, but you can reduce your electricity usage and still drive as much as you always have. Simple measures like a programmable thermostat and the use of compact florescent light bulbs can make a big difference. In fact, five 100 watt light bulbs left on continuously for a year use the same amount of energy as it takes to power the MINI-E 15,000 miles! Here's how: five 100 watt light bulbs use 500 watts per hour. In 24 hours they use 12,000 watts or 12kWh. In 365 days they use 4,380kWh. What does the MINI-E use to go 15,000 miles? Remember above I calculated it to be 4,200kWh? So five 100 watt light bulbs use 180 more kWh than it takes to power 3,200lb MINI-E for 15,000 miles!

If you take a good look at your home electricity use, I'm sure you can reduce your usage enough to drastically offset the cost of electricity to power an electric car, if not completely eliminate it. Then, every penny of the money you would have spent on gasoline can go right into your pocket!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Phil Blackwood and #411 stop by Nauna's for a Charge

Ever since I got a 50amp EVSE installed at my restaurant, Nauna's Bella Casa in Montclair, I have posted on the MINI-E facebook page and here on this blog that any other MINI-E driver that needs a charge can come over and "fill up" as needed. Many have taken me up on the offer. Actually much more than I expected, which is fine with me as I get to meet some of the others in the program, chat MINI-E, and then sell them a dinner or lunch while their car is charging.

This past Saturday Phil Blackwood stopped by with #411 for some quick electrons. Phil had driven from his home in Central Jersey to New York City to attend the Solar Road Trip rally, a movement to get the White House to re-install solar panels on the roof. Phil needed a little extra juice to make it back to his house and Nauna's was in a perfect location to stop off at on his way home.

Phil and I had a nice conversation, he had a late dinner and after about an hour charge he had more than enough juice to get home.
Thanks for stopping by Phil, it was nice to meet another MINI-E pioneer!

In the past year that I've had the EVSE at Nauna's I've probably had two dozen or so MINI-E's stop by to charge up. I'm thinking I need to talk to BMW about the installing a real public charging station in my parking lot when the ActiveE program begins and they can tell the ActiveE participants in the NY/NJ area that the station is available for them to use at no charge. We can get the press involved and advertise how BMW is committed to a sustainable future with alternative fuel vehicles... Hmmm

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nothing Like the Smell of Toxic Fumes in the Morning....

As I drove to work this morning for a while I was driving behind a pick up truck that I believe was diesel. Whatever the fuel used, the truck was leaving a huge stream of smoke as it drove down the highway. Even the picture above doesn't do it justice.

I passed the poison-belching behemoth as quickly as possible but started thinking, what did I really accomplish?  All these other cars that I'm following are spewing hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulphur oxides just like the truck was except I couldn't see it. That's one of the problems with tailpipe pollution, it's mostly invisible so people don't really realize how bad it is to breathe or just think it dissipates in the air. I think if all tailpipe exhaust were visible, like it was on the truck, then people would be more concerned with it and demand change. Just because we can't see the poison doesn't mean it's not killing us.

Electric cars like the MINI-E aren't necessarily emission free. Sure there are no tailpipes but the electricity that was used to charge the batteries was probably generated from burning coal so there is pollution created which will come out of the smokestack of the power plant instead of the tailpipe of the car. However, it is much less than the pollution that you get from burning gasoline. Plus, if you really want to factor in the entire cradle to the grave environmental impact from oil as compared to coal then the difference becomes even more pronounced in the favor of the coal generated electricity. Then there is the fact you CAN make your own electricity like I do with my home solar PV array. This combination makes an EV a true zero emission vehicle. Lets hope the EV + PV combination becomes common in the near future now that electric vehicles will finally be available for sale here in the US. I'm looking forward to seeing less and less tailpipes in front of me as the shift to battery electric vehicles begins.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Front Page News Story on Me & #250!

Recently I was contacted by Mike Frassinelli, a reporter for the Star Ledger, New Jersey largest newspaper with a daily circulation of over 300,000. He wanted to do a story on me and the fact that I'm driving an electric car and also charging the car with electric that I generate myself from my home solar array. Being the media hound I am, I happily agreed and he came over to my house with a photographer about a week later. We talked for a while, took some pictures and I even let him drive the car for a while. Mike is a great guy and a good journalist, asking all the important questions and even following up my interview with a conversation with Richard Steinberg, head of BMW's electric car division here in the US.

A few days later I heard from Mike and he told me that it looked like the story would run in Sundays paper but that was tentative. Then on Saturday, the day before it was to run, he called me back again and said he had good news and bad news. The bad news was that it wasn't going to be in Sundays paper. He then went on to say the good news was that the paper liked the story so much, they want to put it on the front page and Sunday wasn't possible. Wow, front page ink! That was good news.

So on Tuesday, August 31st, I started getting text messages from friends early in the morning. . The first one came at 5:50am  and said "I'm staring at some goof-ball on the front page of my morning paper, you really out did yourself this time". That was how my day was to be. I had dozens of telephone calls, text messages and emails. Also just about everyone that came to the restaurant that day had the paper in hand and wanted to talk to the "celebrity" some even had a pen and joked about wanting my autograph.

It was a fun experience and hopefully I got some people thinking about electric cars and solar electric. The combination is really great and hopefully a model for future personal transportation.

You can read the entire article from this link.