Sunday, August 29, 2010

Closing in on 40,000 Zero Emission Miles


I looked down at my odometer today and realized that I am closing in on 40,000 miles on my MINI-E. I suspect I'll get there in a couple weeks, right around the time I pass 15 months with the car. I drive a lot more than the average American does, partly because I live about 32 miles from my job and partly because owning a restaurant means frequent trips during the day to get supplies, visit off-site catering jobs and sometimes even deliver food myself.

The time has gone by very quickly and I have enjoyed the car much more than I ever thought I would. I've met so many interesting people along the way, most total strangers that stop and ask me about the car. Many of which tell me they are interested in the same things I am; energy independence, national security and the environmental benefits of electric cars. I have also met a whole legion of electric car enthusiasts online, many of which have found me through this blog, and others I have met from electric car websites like PlugInCars.com, a site that I occasionally write articles for. In fact, the editor of the site, Brad Berman, recently asked me to attend the Bay Area Green Drive Expo in October to sit on a panel of experienced electric car owners and answer questions from the audience, which I accepted.

It's hard to simply describe the great feeling of driving a zero emission vehicle, you have to experience it. The good news is that soon many others will get the opportunity with electric cars like the Chevy volt and the Nissan LEAF both going on sale in three months, followed by the all electric Ford Focus by mid 2011. I really think the public is going to love these cars, and I'm really thankful I have had the chance to experience it before most others have.

One thing that's cool to think about is there is about 2,200 gallons of gasoline that I didn't have to buy, currently sitting in an underground storage tank at the Lukoil gas station in Morristown that I used to go to. That gas would have been burned in my Toyota the past fourteen plus months if I wasn't in the MINI-E program.

Some other facts at 40,000 miles:

I didn't have to purchase 2,200 gallons of gasoline (My Toyota Tacoma gets 18mpg)
At $2.65/gal that's about $5,800. Compared to the roughly $1,800 in electric I've spent to charge up which is a $4,000 fuel savings. Even with a solar PV system, the electricity still "costs" me money because I could have sold it back to the utility at the current rate if I didn't use it to charge my car.

I didn't have to get ten oil changes, a savings of about $500 and I didn't generate 60 quarts of used motor oil that needs to be recycled.

I didn't have to stop for gas about 125 times. That would have added up to over 12 hours of wasted time sitting in my car at the pump. It takes me all of 5 seconds to plug my car in when I get home at night and I'm sleeping while it charges.
I would be close to needing a full tune up. Plugs, filters, belts, etc. All of which aren't necessary with an EV. That's one of the great things with electric cars, there are so few moving parts that can wear out, making the long term maintenance very low. Of course you still have the one big expense of a replacement battery pack that will probably come at around 120-140,000 miles. It's really not possible to predict what that will cost because the price of the Lithium Ion batteries are dropping all the time as more and more companies are making them plus the technology constantly improves. That being said, the money you will have saved in fuel and maintenance will more than cover the cost of the replacement battery pack.

Oh yeah, and since I didn't have to buy any "black gold" to power my car, none of my money left our local economy and went into the pockets of some radical foreign regime that's a member of OPEC. I think I like that fact the most.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

MINI-E Vanity Plate Poster

A few months after the MINI-E trial lease program started last year, I noticed some of the participants had applied for vanity license plate to proudly proclaim that they were driving a car that doesn't need gasoline or oil. I'm not a big vanity plate fan and I generally like to blend in with the crowd rather than stick out, but I thought if ever I would want one give people a reason to look at my car this would be it so I applied for, and received "EF-OPEC"

Most everywhere I go people love the plate and take pictures of it all the time. I also get a lot of "Does that mean what I think it does?", to which I just smile. I few months ago I asked some of the others in the program to send me a close up picture of their vanity plates and I organized them and sent them to my printer and made up this poster. I then sent copies to the people that contributed their plate and also to some of the BMW employees in the electric car division. I never got around to posting it here and I have had a few requests to see it lately so I thought I would put it up for all to see.

Gotta go now, I have a reporter from the Star Ledger, a newspaper in New Jersey, coming over to interview me about the car and my solar electric system. I'll post a link to the article when it comes out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

BMW Megacity Information

I posted some links to information about the upcoming BMW Megacity car on my ActiveE blog. The 2013 Megacity is the vehicle that the MINI-E program was designed to gather information for. Click here to jump to the post.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Prius Gets Schooled on Efficiency



When I pulled into the Quick Chek parking lot this morning that I sometime stop at to get a cup of coffee I parked next to a brand new Toyota Prius. When I came out a few minutes later the owner of the Prius was looking at my MINI-E. As I walked over I said "It's probably not often you're parked next to a car that uses less gasoline than you do". He quickly said "I get 50mpg, I doubt this does" He then said he's never even heard of a MINI hybrid. I told him that MINI doesn't make a hybrid. Now he was really puzzled and asked "What is it then?" When I explained to him what the car was and that I'm in a pilot program to test the cars out and gain real world data to be used on future electric cars he seemed disappointed. Not disappointed about the car, but disappointed he didn't have one or even know about it. He asked me how much it costs in electricity to run the car and when I told him it cost me about $3.50 to go 100 miles(I pay .11 per kwh) but others pay between $3.00 and $6.00 (depending on their electricity rates). He did some quick math and realized he wasn't the most efficient car on the road as he thought he was. Sorry to ruin your day buddy...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Private tour of the MINI-E repair facility BMW headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ

Rob Healey is on the far right with the "Flying Doctor" Crew    (Sorry guys, I don't remember everyone's name)
This morning I drove to BMW's North American headquarters to attend the kick off of the "MINI Takes The States 2010" tour across America. It is basically a MINI road rally that starts on both coasts and ends up in Denver, Colorado. I don't think too many people are actually driving the entire route(maybe I'm wrong) but lots of MINI owners are going to drive specific legs of the rally and today it started with about 100(or more) cars leaving the Woodcliff Lake, NJ headquarters and heading to the first stop in Philadelphia. Obviously, I wasn't going to try to participate in the road rally since Philadelphia is a little out of my single charge range, but I wanted to attend the event to offer my support as well as say hello to some of the people in the MINI-E program that I know.

I arrived at around 8:30am and there were already a lot of people there. They had a new MINI Countryman on display which was nice to see. All of the cars that were going to participate in the rally were lined up three cars wide and looked to be about 30 cars deep. Since I wasn't participating, they directed me to a parking lot close to the gathering of people and right in front of the main entrance. As I approached, I saw about 6 MINI-E's parked in a row so I parked right next to them. When I got out, I realized that these were corporate cars that were being used to give test drives to the people there today. I was surprised how good they all looked, like they were brand new, but I'll get to that later.

I signed in, got a bag full of MINI goodies and some food and the first person I saw was Nathalie Bauters, communication manager for MINI. Nathalie contacted me a few months back and arraigned for me to have press credentials for the NY Auto Show because there were journalists from Germany that wanted to interview me about my experiences with the MINI-E. I then ran into Richard Steinberg, the manager of BMW Electric Vehicle Operations & Strategy. Richard and I have communicated via email and by telephone, but never met in person. It was nice to say hello in person and talk for a while about the MINI-E and electric cars in general. 

I then took a walk around of the facility as they were letting people see some of the vehicle testing rooms. There was even a MINI-E in one of the rooms with a AC Propulsion motor and PEU out for display on the counter next to the car. There was nobody there to talk about the MINI-E though. When I walked outside, Richard had a reporter there that wanted to do a short video interview with me and talk about the MINI-E. He also introduced me to Rob Healey who is the technical coordinator for the MINI-E. After I did the interview, Rob asked me if I wanted to take a private tour of the MINI-E repair facility where the "flying doctors" work on all the MINI-E's from the East Coast. You know I wasn't going to turn down this opportunity.   

First, he took me to an area where there were no complete cars, just parts. Everything from MINI-E's were on shelves from seats to battery boxes. There was even a huge vice there where he explained they put battery modules in to squeeze them to test that they can withstand the pressure. We then went to a parking garage where there were about 6 MINI-E's that were in various states of dissemble.  One of them had the entire interior including the batteries removed. It looked strange to see the car in that state. Then there was another that was really torn apart. So much so that I wondered why they even kept it. Without me saying anything, Rob offered "That one is used for parts" so that made sense. Sorry there aren't any pictures of the "inner workings" of the facility, but I didn't even ask if I could take pictures there because it was obvious to me that wouldn't be allowed.

We then walked over to the area where all the MINI-E's come to be repaired. There are two lifts dedicated to the MINI-E's and one of them even had a car on the lift being worked on. As when I first saw the cars in the parking lot when I arrived, I noticed how new and clean the car looked, like it was brand new. When I asked Rob about it, he said that all the cars that were returned after the first year lease were completely reconditioned. They had new front and rear bumpers installed, repainted as needed, new side view mirror covers, completely cleaned and reconditioned and anything that looked worn at all was replaced. Also, all of them got the giant plug decals put on the doors which was optional for us when we first got the cars(I declined). So that explained why all the MINI-E's I saw outside looked brand new. Before they ship them to France, China, Japan & the UK to be re-leased they really reconditioned them well, so much so the cars looked brand new. Actually I'm a bit jealous, maybe they'll spruce #250 up a bit the next time she's in for service. ; )

So the event went better than I expected. I had really went to show support for the rally and say hi to some of the MINI-E people and I ended up getting a private tour of the inner workings of the MINI-E program. I'd like to thank Rob for taking the time to show me around.