Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MINI-E Driver Stefan Reitmeier Checks in From Germany

BMW has expanded the MINI-E program to include trial lease programs in Germany, the UK, France, China and soon they will launch in Japan. Many of the cars that are in these countries were originally leased to US customers and were redeployed abroad when the customers didn't renew for a second year as I did. 
This post was written by Stefan Reitmeier who is driving MINI-E #014 in Munich Germany.

My name is Stefan, I’m working in the automotive industry as an engineer for body-in-white joining technology and I’m driving the electric MINI #014 for the period of nine month in the German city of Munich. At my job I have nothing to do with electrical car engineering, but as I got the information that MINI E test drivers are searched in Munich for a public test program, I filled out the online application form on the MINI website. And I was lucky to get one!
In Germany BMW operates two test fleets of MINI E’s. Since June 2009 there are 50 MINI's in Berlin on the road. In 2011 their number will raise to 70. In Munich since June 2009 15 MINI’s were tested. This number was increased to 40 in September 2010. From these 40 cars, ten are operated by the Red Cross to gather information of electric cars used in the carpool of a fleet-operator. Four MINI’s are held by the companies involved to the test program and 26
were distributed to private users. For these cars they had about 670 applications via the internet.

At its first mission #014 got about 7000 mi (11300 km) on its odometer driven around Los Angeles by Kathy Bakken:
Now it's back in Munich:
The MINI’s returning from the US after their leasing contract ended are not scrapped, but overhauled and sent to new missions in Germany, France, China,...

Because the car is only ONE part of electro-mobility, local power suppliers and manufacturers of charging stations are also involved in the test program. In addition to the wall boxes for the private garages also several public charging stations in the city area are installed. In Munich about 30 public charging locations are operational or under construction.

In Berlin the power supplier made first steps to integrate smart grid features to the wall box. The user plugs in the car and selects the time when the SOC has to be 100%. The power supplier manages the charging and has the possibility to use excessive wind or solar energy in times of low power consumption to fill up the battery. Unfortunately in Munich this feature is not installed...  

I like the electric driving with the MINI E very much. The smooth and fast acceleration, the low level of noise and vibration, no exhaust...concerning to this every conventional car seems a bit old-fashioned and obsolete. Being part of the daily traffic jam sometimes I feel like a non-smoker surrounded by smokers.

I use the car almost every day. My daily commute to work and back is a total of 12,5 mi (20 km), so range is no issue. Nevertheless I do not charge the car every day and the maximum traveled distance with one charge spread over several days was 74 mi (119 km) with about 12 mi (20 km) left. But I do not want to go to or beyond the limits when having the chance to recharge.

On the German autobahn I usually have traveling speeds of 80-85 mph, which of course cut the range. But my parent’s home at a distance of 46 mi (74 km) is safe to reach. Recharging there is absolutely required before driving back. You have to consider MINI Es limited speed of 94 mph (152 km/h) when using the left lane of the autobahn to overtake a slower car. You quickly become yourself a slow obstacle for faster drivers with traveling speeds of 110 mph and more ...
Anyhow, the limited speed is necessary for a rational dimensioning of the electrical components in an electric car and the 94 mph are appropriate even for the German autobahn.

Not appropriate for German weather conditions is the lack of an active temperature management system for the battery. Temperature at present is 19°F (-7°C) and the battery temperature in the unheated garage drops to 34°F (1°C). At this temperature the MINI refuses to charge. But the car still drives. Due to my short commute the gain in battery temperature for the single distance is only about 5-7°F (2-3°C). With the car parked the whole day in the parking structure, the temperature may fall to a critical point where the car even won't start. The MINI-Team sent an E-Mail and warned that the car may fail at battery temperatures below 41°F (5°C)!

Thermal management of the battery is a crucial point for an electric car and the insufficient solution in the MINI E is maybe the biggest deficiency the car has.

In my opinion one of the cars main missions is: Bringing the electric drive into people’s minds in a manner that it is not just possible, but even better than a conventional one. This applies to both the people who buy cars and the people who develop and produce cars.

Keeping some restrictions in mind, the electric car offers:

- less noise/vibration and no exhaust (important for people both inside and outside the car)
- more driving joy (important for BMW and their customers)
- the chance to use renewable energy sources (important for all of us)

All deficiencies of the MINI E like limited space, reliability of the driving range due to unstable battery condition, inadequate performance of the cabin heater and so on are well known now and attributed to the prototype status of the car and its short-term realization.

At the next level the ActiveE will eliminate those deficiencies, providing four seats with a respectable trunk, an active thermal management of the battery, an improved visualization of the cars energy status and the ability to precondition the car while plugged in. This will increase reliability and provide the best use of the limited battery capacity.

The ActiveE will do the fine tuning before getting to the final level, the project i / MCV. As you can imagine, I'm quite excited about this...

You are invited to take a look at . It's my blog in German language.

Some posts I translated into English. In this case you can follow the English Version -link below the post headline.
With best regards from Germany


  1. Enjoyed this update from Germany! Thanks Tom and Stefan for sharing!

    Todd #140 Long Beach, CA

  2. Great idea! I checked out his blog also. I see he has an English version. Do you have your blog available in other languages? I see you get views from all over the world.

  3. Wonderful post Stefan.

    Enjoy Mini-E #14!


  4. Thank you for the comments.

    Todd, Peder:
    I'm reading your blogs as well, so keep on writing..

    The English version is only a part of the original German one. My goal is to translate all posts, but i'm struggling with it...
    Due to this and the fact that i do not speak any further language, i'm not able to provide the post in an additional language.

    Well done..

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Thank you for your positive feedback.

    Todd, Peder:
    i'm reading your blogs as well, so keep on writing.

    The English version is just a part of the original German one. The goal is to translate every post, but i'm struggling with it.
    Blogging as much as Tom does is really hard work sometimes, so an additional language can't be provided without professional help.

    Well done...

  7. Thanks for the post Stefan! Keep writing on your blog also, I will definitely check follow your adventures also. Be well!

  8. Stefan - I see from your blog that you can plug into a wall power outlet with a plain cord, we in the US had to use a small safety box, called and EVSE. Perhaps the regulations in Europe are more rational. Thanks for the link. My wife will help me read the posts you have not translated yet.

    Jim McL

  9. Jim:
    the regulations in Germany are strict. The cord has on one side (not the side for the car) a connector based on IEC 62192-2 Type 2. This new connector can solely be used with the very latest charging stations providing special safety regulations for electric car charging. The special connector shape also prevents the car from being charged at conventional high power sockets concerning IEC 60309 without special safety devices.
    Charging the car at a normal wall socket, you have to use an adapter with a built in earth leakage circuit breaker. You may see the components on some pictures of my blog.

  10. ... IEC 62196-2 Type 2... (sorry)

  11. OK, a ground fault interrupter but not a "dead front" as SAE J1772 requires. A little kid might get a surprise for a millisecond when he sticks his tongue in it before the GFI cuts off. But he won't get hurt.

    Chademo is similar from what I hear. There is no heavy ground wire capable of carrying enough fault current to trip a breaker, just a GFI. SAE will probably do it the hard way.