|The next day the snow was melting off and I had to tow it up my driveway to the garage since the battery was completely depleted.|
It's not how I would have liked it to happen, but then again, what ever goes as planned? Ironically, that is precisely the argument that many pundits have against electric cars. With the limited range that today's EVs have, coupled with the effect the cold weather has on EVs that don't have thermal management like the MINI-E, many that are not EV supporters point that because the unexpected happens, they can be unsafe, and leave their drivers stranded in traffic or during a snowstorm. Earlier this year, I even took Charles Lane of the Washington Post to task on this very subject. He wrote an article about how he was stuck in traffic in a snowstorm and he thanked God that he wasn't an a crappy electric car because he would have most certainly ran out of juice and been stuck to freeze to death by the roadside. I wrote a rebuttal article and posted in on plugincars.com and it was then picked up and posted on many other sites and managed to garner a lot of attention. I still stand by what I wrote, and I did correct some blatant inaccuracies about EVs that Mr. Lane wrote. However as much as an EV supporter as I am, I do admit that as of today, there are instances that are better suited for internal combustion engine cars. Wow there it is, I said it. Please note that I did say "as of today." That's because, I do believe that as long as there is support for EVs, the automakers will continue to improve and refine them, and it won't be long until they do everything as good or better than ICE cars, but we certainly aren't at that point just yet. Why would we though? The ICE has had 100 years of refinement, and today's EVs are barely the first generation of modern electric cars, and the MINI-E I'm driving isn't even first generation, it's a prototype test car.
Anyway, back to the topic. This past Saturday morning, my wife and I took a drive to New York City. The plan was to leave the city around 11:00am, and head back to my restaurant in Montclair where my wife would leave me and drive home. Since the trip to the city and then to my restaurant is about 75 miles, she would need to recharge a bit at the restaurant before she drove the 31 miles to our home. My 4wd pick up truck was waiting for me at the restaurant, and I would drive that home at night after work. I brought the truck there earlier because the weather forecast called for snow later in the day on Saturday, starting at around 2 or 3pm, and I might need it to deliver food if the roads got bad. NOTE: This would be only the 19th time in recorded history (145 years) that it snowed in October in New Jersey.
|Charging at work in the snow|
When we entered the Lincoln Tunnel heading back to NJ, it was raining. When we exited the tunnel on the NJ side, it was snowing like crazy. We couldn't believe how hard it was snowing and how quickly it was accumulating. We still had to drive 18 miles to my restaurant, and then charge the car a bit before my wife would drive it home. At this point I wasn't really worried because I've driven the car dozens of times in the snow and the MINI-E being front wheel drive, and heavy because of the batteries does really well on snow covered roads. However, as we continued to the restaurant, traffic started backing up as the snow kept piling up. It took us much longer than usual to make it to the restaurant, and with the heat on all the while, the battery was down to about 5%, much less than I would have expected after a 75 mile journey. That meant it needed a longer recharge time and this would allow even more snow accumulation before my wife would set out to get home. We charged for 1 1/2 hours at 50 amps and this brought the state of charge to about 70%, much more than what would be needed for the 31 mile trek home. I've driven home in the snow many, many times, and in temperatures much colder than this so I knew she had more than enough juice to get home. My wife likes driving the MINI-E and is plenty comfortable driving in the snow so she didn't hesitate to set off home in complete confidence.
As Robert Burns wrote: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The "wost case scenario" that all the EV hating pundits write about was about the happen and we didn't have a clue. When my wife left to head home there was about an inch or two of slushy snow on the roadways, nothing at all to really be worried about. The roads weren't cold enough to ice up, and as long as it was just snow, the MINI-E shouldn't have any problem at all getting good traction. Not long after she headed home she realized it wasn't going to be easy. Traffic was crawling along at a snail's pace and she started to notice large branches were falling off the trees all over as she was driving. The problem with snow in October is that the trees still have most of their leaves. The leaves catch the snow and the branches become so heavy from the snow that they simply break off. As the snow continued to fall, so did the trees. Everywhere. She was stuck in one of the worst driving conditions ever in the area. Entire trees were toppling over everywhere. In only a couple hours thousands of trees were down, power lines were down and streets everywhere were closed. Her little 31 mile drive home became the "Worst Case Scenario" as everywhere she went the roads were closed and she had to turn around and try to find an alternative route, all while the snow plied up to over a foot of accumulation. I was on the phone with her trying to figure out a way to our house given all the main roads were closed. She was only five miles from our house, but seemingly no way to get there when she asked me what the large yellow battery icon meant. UGG! That means you are really, really low and only have a few miles to go before you run out. Not to scare her too much I said "Oh that just means you're getting a little low on energy now so it's probably best to shut off the heat now, just to be safe." It turns out she knew how low she was when she called me to help her with a route home, but didn't want to get me worried so she didn't tell me. At that point I was convinced she wasn't going to make it, and was already thinking of who I could call that was nearby to go out and rescue her. With the current conditions, it would probably have taken me two or three hours to get to her, so I figured it would be better to call on someone close to her if it was necessary. Anyway, after we consulted Google maps we found a back roads route that would get her home, provided none of the streets that way were blocked. If any of them were, and she had to turn around once more, then for sure she wouldn't have made it. She followed the route, crept along in reduced power mode at around 20mph, and pulled into our driveway about two hours of roadblocks, deep snow, falling trees and other motorists that need to learn how to drive (I won't go into that today). However, just as she pulled into the driveway, the car rolled to a stop, then went another ten feet or so and slowly crept to a halt. There was no way it was going to make it up my 350 foot, all uphill driveway; not a chance. I had to tow it up to the house the next day with my truck and push it into the garage.
|No power meant most gas stations in the area were closed. No electricity = no gas.|
|Spoiled Food :(|