Thursday, December 22, 2011

MINI-E #345 Stops By For Some Juice

#345 Charging at 50amps

During the MINI-E lease program, I've made it know to the other Pioneers that they can charge up at my Restaurant in Montclair, NJ if they ever find themselves in need of a boost. I'm more than happy to supply them with the electrons needed to allow them to continue on their journey when it's longer than their single charge limit will allow.

I haven't kept count, but by now I'd imagine that I've probably had close to two dozen different Pioneers stop by and charge up; and many of them have dropped by more than once. Yesterday it was Michael Granoff's turn. Mike's day took him from the Northern part of the state to Central Jersey and on his way back he decided he'd be cutting it a bit close so he shot me an email asking if the EVSE would be available. If this had been the summer and the temperatures warmer, the distance wouldn't have been an issue, but now that it's cold and we use the car's heaters, our range drops off quite a bit. I think we both felt he would have made it without the charge, but he wasn't in a rush and it wasn't too much out of the way so why not stop by just to be safe.

Mike & I in front of our MINI-Es
I have a 50 amp EVSE at work which charges at nearly 12kWh. That really supplies a lot of electrons quickly, so after only about a half hour, Mike had plenty of juice to make it back home. We had a nice conversation about electric cars and EV infrastructure and the upcoming BMW ActiveE program (both of us are getting one) and then Mike was on his way.

Once I get my ActiveE, I'll convert my EVSE at work to be J1772 compliant. I can then charge my ActiveE there and offer the same free charging to anyone in the ActiveE program. I'm sure I'll continue to get occasional visitors in need of some electrons, and I'll be more than happy to oblige.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Last MINI-E Milestone: 70,000 All Electric Miles

I've often written about the miles I've logged on MINI-E #250 during the nearly 30 months I've been driving it. Not that driving a lot is some kind of accomplishment, because surely it isn't. In fact, I really wish I didn't need to drive so much but I do. The reason I frequently bring it up is because one of the criticisms of electric cars is that the limited single charge range renders them useless to people who need to drive a lot.

Driving around New Jersey
Since most current electric cars (that aren't made by Tesla) can only go about 100 miles per charge, many people assume that means you wouldn't be able to drive an EV more than 100 miles in a day without extreme inconvenience. What it really means is you can't drive more than 100 miles without stopping, which in my life happens very rarely. Even with my rigorous driving regime, I'm only in the car driving for about 2 hours a day. That means it's parked for about 22 hours every day and might as well be plugged in and charging up for the next trip. As long as you have charging where you park, you can drive an EV much more than it's single charge range limit on any given day.

My odometer rolled passed 70,000 miles exactly on the 900th day I've had the car. That means I've averaged 77.78 miles per day, every single day I've had it. Now obviously I haven't driven it every single day I've had it, even though I did on the majority of them. If you take away the days I didn't drive it at all, I actually averaged about 85 miles per day of use. The only way that could be possible is by driving it much more than 100 miles on many days, to offset the days I only drove it 20 or 30 miles.

Charging at work
I have an advantage over many people with EVs and that's because I have a level 2 EVSE at my job. This allows me to plug in and quickly recharge while I'm working. That, combined with the MINI-E's robust charging rate makes it very easy to drive a couple hundred miles in a single day. Some other EVs like the Nissan LEAF have a pathetically slow 3.3kW charging rate and that severely limits the owners ability to charge up quickly and get back on the road.  In the LEAFs defense, it does support level 3 DC quick charge, but there aren't any level 3 charge stations installed anywhere near New Jersey so I wouldn't be able to use that if I owned a LEAF. BMW has incorporated 7.7kW charging on the ActiveE so hopefully they understand that robust charging is necessary, especially on a premium electric vehicle. Additionally, I hope they include level 3 DC quick charge on the 2013 BMW i3. By then, I think level 3 charge stations will begin to be installed or at least the planning will have begun. Level 3 DC quick charge stations will make long distance travel much easier with EVs, however a robust charge rate on level 2 charging combined with workplace charging like I have, will definitely enhance the EV experience for everyday use and make the cars much more versatile.

So back to my milestone. It's been quite a run with MINI-E #250, but it's soon to end. I have applied and been accepted into the BMW ActiveE lease program which begins in about two weeks. At that time, I'll hand in the keys to #250 and drive home with an ActiveE. It will be bittersweet, no doubt. I love this little car and have has so many great moments in it during the 70,000 miles I've logged, but it's time to move on. The ActiveE is a much more advanced electric vehicle. It has an active thermal management system which will help to alleviate the drastic range inconsistencies throughout the year, it has a new glide mode to increase efficiency during highway driving as well as other improvements and better instrumentation.

Hello, thank you. Send us your money!
Before I got the MINI-E my daily driver was a 2009 Toyota Tacoma pick up truck that I still have. I only drove it about 4,000 miles since I got the MINI-E, mostly in the winter when I used it to plow my restaurant's parking lot and on days I needed to use the bed to haul large freight for the restaurant. It gets about 17-18mpg so by driving the MINI-E 70,000 miles the last two and a half years I didn't need to buy about 4,000 gallons of gas. (Rant Warning): That's one of the most satisfying things for me. I hate buying gas. I hate that about 65 cents of every dollar I spend on gas leaves the US, and some of it ends up in the economies of radical nations that support terrorism. I produce much of the electricity that I use myself, on my home solar array. It's clean, renewable energy. However even when I use electricity that was supplied by the grid, I know that 100% of it was domestically produced, and 100% of my dollars stay local, or at the worst regional. Electricity is 100% a domestic product that employs American workers in every step of the supply chain. Even if it's "dirty" coal, it's still employing US workers and keeping the money in our economy. Money that is then reinvested in America. There is nothing more American and patriotic than driving an electric car and it is mind boggling to me when I hear politicians and media blowhards criticizing them. I can only imagine these people have agendas against EVs due to alliances with big oil and lobbyists that line their campaign pockets, because in my opinion there really can't be any reasonable reason why anyone who is capable of thinking would think they are a bad idea for our country. Perhaps one of them can tell me how exporting over a billion dollars for foreign oil every day helps make us a stronger country. Perhaps one of them can tell me how investing in improving our electric infrastructure to a smart grid where EVs can supply energy on demand wouldn't be a good idea. Perhaps if we diverted even the smallest percentage of the external costs of keeping gasoline cheap here (fighting wars in the Middle East to protect our oil supply and subsidizing oil exploration for companies that then make billions of dollars and never pay a penny of federal income tax) we could put tens of thousands of Americans to work upgrading the infrastructure and installing EV charging stations across the country. We can invest more in renewable energy and continue to offer tax credits and rebates for zero emission vehicles. The money is there, we just need to take some of it from oil. Some people complain that governments shouldn't pick the winner in the fight of oil vs. electricity. They already have and have been subsidizing oil for decades. All electricity needs is a small percentage of what we already give oil and EVs will dominate passenger cars, I'm certain of it. (End Rant)

So as my MINI-E journey is about to end, I'm absolutely convinced I'll be driving electric from now on. Thank you BMW for giving me the opportunity to experience electric mobility. The 70,000 miles I put on the MINI-E is just the beginning. Hopefully, I'll be around long enough to drive hundreds of thousands of zero emission, solar powered EV miles.

And I'll continue to tell everyone just how great it is...