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...


  1. Great post as always . . .

  2. Yes, great post Tom. I like your rants best ;)

  3. Amen Tom! I also love the time saved by not stopping at a gas station every three days. Leaving the house each morning with a full tank of electricity is fantastic!

  4. Now that was a nice long rant that I can relate to!

    Run for Congress!

  5. Congratulations on reaching 70,000 miles. That is an extraordinary amount of miles for a car with a 100 mile range. I'll miss your posts about the car here, are you going to continue posting about the BMW Active-E?
    On more thing - what is going to happen to your car and the others when you turn then in?



  7. really awesome Tom. You should be paid for what you do (maybe you already are?) I wonder how many people are now interested in getting an electric car after following your blog. It's kept me interested for many months now. I look forward to every new post.

    Martin Andrews

  8. The other way around, he is paying BMW. Tom is just showing his appreciation for a great car, but is also paying enough to drive them.

    As long as there are RSS readers, I will follow you on your just keep writing!

  9. Great read until you start talking about the US dollar.

    Why are you talking that way about American jobs ?. You are driving a BMW which implies that some of those $$ you pay them leave the country. It is OK for that to happen, in fact it is better that way.

    We live in a global Economy, some cents of every dollar leave the country, and some cents of every Euro, and Sterling pound and Swiss Franc come to the US.

  10. Anonomous: I never said I don't buy foreign products. Of course it's a global economy and products come form all over the world.
    I just prefer not to spend my money on foreign energy, especially when a lot of it comes from radical Middle Eastern regimes that hate the West, that's all. I have no problem buying a German car, electronics from Japan, chocolate from Switzerland and pasta from Italy. I just don't want to buy oil from Iran, Saudi Arabia and others.

    Energy independence is more important in my opinion than these other goods because it has many other more damaging effects. Our country (and every other one for that matter) doesn't NEED a fresh supply of BMW's. If BMW decided to cut us off or dramatically raise the price of their product we would just buy more cars from other makers. It's not that simply with oil and I'd like to see us start to lower our dependence on it, that's all. Using electricity for personal transportation is in my opinion the best way to begin to start to rely less on the stuff. We'll still need it, but hopefully we will depend less on it.

  11. Tom, thanks for sharing all that information. It is very encouraging to see that someone can fulfill all his needs for transportation with an EV.

    I have some questions if you don't mind:

    When you charge it, do you charge it until it's 100% full or you often unplug it before?
    How well is the State Of Charge gauge working?
    Do you frequently get to very low state of charge?
    Has the range decreased over time?

    Sorry for all those questions and thanks again for sharing your experiences.

  12. Hi Mate:
    I always charge it to 100%. Two reasons for this are: 1) it's not my battery and I'll only have the car for 30 months. It won't be in service for 8 or 10 years when the effects(if there are any) from charging to 100% would be noticeable. 2) WHen you charge an EV to 100%, your still not charging the pack to capacity, the manufacturers leave a portion unusable so the end user doesn't run the pack too low or fully charge it to the point where it will harm the cells. The MINI-E only had 80% of the packs capacity available. so there was always a 10% cushion on both ends of the charging/discharging capacity.

    The MINI-E's state of charge was pretty accurate, much more so than what I've experienced and read about on the Nissan LEAF

    Yes, I do frequently run the SOC very low, I drive a lot ;)

    I have measured very little range degradation, less then 5%. I can still get more than 100 miles per charge easily in fair weather conditions and 65 -70 miles when it's cold (20 to 30 degrees F).

    Don't be sorry for asking questions, I want you to!

  13. Thanks for the reply Tom. OK, you asked for it :) So here is a bit more curiosity...

    I am working in a company (from Europe) which is developing electric vehicles so I pretty much know the stuff, but we are (of course) facing some problems while developing the powertrain so we want to find out how others have solved it. The SOC measurement is a very critical point.

    Here is a very interesting blog post on that issue:

    The most interesting part is the following observation about the Tesla Roadster:

    "It's difficult to know how much charge is in a battery while you're charging it. My guess is that the SOC is an estimate that gets better near the end of the charge."

    With that observation in mind, (the SOC is estimated unless the charger gets to the CV mode) we can conclude what could happen if you discharge the battery to about 35% SOC (battery voltage still hasn't started to drop) and charge it only to 75% SOC (battery voltage hasn't started to rise) for a longer period of time. (example: 20 cycles)

    Depending on how accurate the current and voltage measurement is (and therefore SOC calculation), it might still be accurate. The worst-case would be that after a certain number of cycles, the estimated SOC (on your dashboard) would be much higher that the real SOC (in your battery). You could discharge the battery-pack completely and ruin it.

    I am sure that AC-Propulsion/BMW has integrated low-voltage protection on a cell-level to prevent such a scenario, but it could happen that the car stops with a decent SOC left on the display.

    It is very unlikely to happen to you since you are charging it to 100% most of the time. At 80+% SOC the flat part of the voltage curve ends and the voltage starts to rise, so the BMS can re-calibrate itself. The question is what would happen is you don't give the BMS a chance to re-calibrate by keeping in the flat part of the SOC constantly (so between 20% and 80%).

    Of course I don't ask you to push your luck and try it, it's just thinking out loud :)

  14. Mate:
    I do know some of the other MINI-E lessees don't usually charge to 100% and I know for sure some Nissan LEAF owners that I know stop the charging process at around 80% in an effort to prolong the life of the battery and I haven't heard of and problems from doing this.

    As for the SOC while charging, yes it is inaccurate. It always displays a higher SOC than the car actually has so I need to unplug and let it sit for a few minutes to really know what the real SOC is.

  15. I liked your points about keeping money in the American economy for power, multiple recharges to extend range, and the American Jobs to be gained from installing infrastructure to support electric cars.

    1. There are a lot of different reasons to support EV's, and not any real reason why not to in my opinion. I just don't get the pushback from some people. Who likes buying gas? Nobody I know, yet many still defend it vehemently. Maybe it's just "the devil we know" syndrome