Friday, November 25, 2011

Mega-City Car? How about Open-Country Car?

My house is straight through this field and on the hill you can see in the background

Electric cars are perfectly suited for urban environments. The low speed, stop and go city driving uses a lot less energy than higher speed highway driving does, plus the regenerative braking is used more and this helps to recover more of the already used energy. This has prompted some people to even say that electric cars are only good for city driving, and that nobody who lives in the country would want to buy one.

This general thought is so prevalent that BMW dubbed the upcoming i3, the first electric they will sell, the "Mega-City" car. The thought behind the name is that the car will be primarily marketed for people who live in some of the largest cities in the world.  BMW views mega-cities as urban areas with more than six million people – places like New York, Los Angeles, London, Barcelona, Paris, Tokyo and the Ruhr Valley area in Germany.

Wild life, not city life on my way to work
I agree that EVs work very well in urban environments, but it's the notion that they aren't well suited for rural areas that has me scratching my head. The reason: I live in a rural area about 50 miles west of New York City and have been doing just fine driving MINI-E #250 for nearly 30 months now. In a couple days the odometer will roll passed 70,000 all electric miles, many of which were driven on the winding country roads of Northern New Jersey.

One of the resident horses in my town
When I drive to work every day, I don't pass the skyscrapers you would find in a mega-city. I drive by horses, farms, streams and open fields and the MINI-E is perfectly at home there. Of course I'm not saying that an electric car with a 100 mile range would work in rural middle America where you need to drive a hundred miles to get to a grocery store. Obviously there are limitations with the current crop of electric vehicles, but ranges will increase and charging times will decrease as more and more companies are investing in them. However even today an EV can work perfectly well in areas other than big cities.

I doubt I'll get BMW to rename the i3 the "open country car," but perhaps someone out there who lives in a suburb or rural area who reads this will now realize an EV might just work for them. Plus, remember that I've been driving around the past two and a half years without the benefit of a single public charging station anywhere I've ever driven. Now that they are beginning to be installed, it will only help to make EV life even easier. Whether you plug in under the bright lights of a big city or in a barn next to your horse stable, the future for electric vehicles is sure looking good.  

You can see the solar panels that charge #250 on the roof of my home in Chester, NJ


  1. Well, written piece, and I have to agree. Of course you have the benefit of having a charging station at work, but still your point has a lot of validity.

    Looks to me like you have had some financial success in your life. It is excellent to see people like yourself lead the way to a cleaner future rather than (as often happens) a dirtier one.

  2. John,

    Yes I can charge at work, but many people that I know can also, even if it's only level 1. I do charge 220v while I'm working because I have it available, but if I could only do 110v it would be nearly as good. I had the car the first 6 months without charging at all at work so I really don't NEED it, it just makes the car much more useful. I work at my restaurant 10-12 hours a day so that would be plenty of time to charge up, even if I only had 110v available.

    Now that public charging is starting to gets some traction, EV owners need to help to educate their employers about the benefits of installing charge stations for their employees. It's a collective effort, we all have to help do our part.

  3. Hey Tom, I live in Rural Sussex County, NJ and agree with you 100% Plus is close to getting funding and once that happens, I will put in charging stations everywhere I can! They are coming soon and will allow people that stop for even a short 20 minute shopping trip could gain some "free" miles! I drove over to Warwick NY with the Plug in Prius last weekend. My wife and I shopped for 25 minutes and got 6 Free miles of EV travel! Imagine if there were EVSEs everyplace that cars sit! It is actually pretty rare for people to drive more than 100 miles during an average trip. The numbers just don't back it up! EVs are coming and they will be here to stay!