Friday, January 13, 2012

MINI-E #250:The Final Hours

Charging at home for the last time. It's the 1,383rd time I've charged up in the 31 months I've had MINI-E #250

"This is the end, my only friend, the end." In a couple of hours I'll get into MINI-E #250 for the last time. :(

I'll be driving with my wife to BMW's North American headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ and handing the keys to Richard Steinberg, BMW's Manager of Electric Vehicle Sales and Strategy and my time with the MINI-E will be over. My final odometer reading will stand at about 72,500 all electric miles, not bad for only 31 months of driving.

It's been a wonderful 2 1/2 year journey that has amongst other things, proven to me unequivocally that electric cars, even one with only a 100 mile range, is perfectly suited to be the primary car used in a household. I specifically want to point out the word primary, because it wasn't the secondary car in our household, it was always the car my wife and I went to first.

I'm not going to go in to all the reasons why we loved this car so much, there are over 200 posts here for anyone who hasn't followed. I will say the sting of having to return it has been soothed a bit by the fact that when we leave BMW HQ today, we'll be driving a BMW ActiveE electric car. The ActiveE is BMW's last step before they make a series production electric car, the 2013 BMW i3. The ActiveE is another test car like the MINI-E, however this car is completely engineered by BMW and has all of the actual components that the i3 will have in it, so we are basically field testing all the new electronics, motors and battery cells before they are offered for sale to the public in the i3 in about 20 months form now.

I'm heading to BMW HQ because BMW asked me to be the first customer to accept delivery of an ActiveE and they are having a press ceremony today where BMW North American President, Ludwig Willisch, will present me with the keys to the car. I've been a very vocal proponent of the MINI-E program and a supporter of BMW's efforts to develop electric cars so they thought it appropriate that I accept the first ActiveE and I am certainly honored they chose me for this event.

Now that I won't have the MINI-E anymore, I'll be transitioning this blog to my ActiveE blog, which will eventually give way to my BMW i3 blog. However I'll do one more post here in a couple of days to review the ActiveE handover event and offer my final thoughts on the MINI-E program. Thank you all for following the past few years and for offering your comments and questions.  I would have certainly stopped doing this a long time ago if I thought nobody was reading or cared what I had to say about this experience.


  1. Really looking forward to reading more, as you switch to the ActiveE :)

  2. Is there an RSS for the ActiveE blog? I tried it and got "birds eye view", not updated since October ...

  3. Have an awesome day my friend. We're on vacation until Tuesday but hope to get our car when we return.

    who would have thought this day would happen when we took the keys of the Mini-E 31 months ago. I know my thoughts were that it was only a one year trial and that would be the end of it. It was only the beginning :)


  4. Ian: Thanks, I'll get the RSS straightened out

    Peder: Thank you, I wish you could be here too. Like you, I had no idea what I was getting myself into ;) There are a lot of people besides me that deserve to be honored like this today, you and Todd are on the stop of this list with me. It's been great getting to know you guys during this journey.

    1. Tom, likewise...along with a great car, all the new friends, I've met along this journey, make it even more enjoyable. Hope you have/had a great time today!

  5. Yes, RSS seems to be corrupted, please straighten it out, I wouldn't want to miss your first post about your actual ActiveE.

    I'm a bit jealous I have to admit :)

  6. Tom,
    I've been meaning to ask you a couple of questions about EV recharging (given your experience w/ the Mini-E, and your knowledge on EVs in general).

    First, how widely varying are the various EV chargers that exist for the various EVs (and PHEVs) on the market? I know that several of your posts in the past have touched on the fact that you have both a low power & a high power charge option, and that different vehicles (e.g. Nissan's Leaf) are designed for different chargers, so I was wondering whether this results in a highly fragmented market or if the systems (grid-end and car-end) are being designed with enough smarts to allow maximum flexibility.

    For example, if several different EVs (e.g. Leaf, Volt, plug-in Prius) were to show up at your restaurant, would they be able to plug in to the system installed for your Mini-E?

    If there is a common standard, it seems like it will accelerate the ultimate deployment of EVs (people can charge at a friend's house after driving there for dinner, for example; a single parking lot can be designed to satisfy many different makes/models of vehicles).

    Second, does the EVSE need to be installed indoors? I think I've seen some pix of your home charger installed in your garage (though, I'm guessing your restaurant one is probably outdoors). I ask b/c I don't have a garage & I'm wondering whether you would have any concern w/ having your primary (home) EVSE mounted outdoors (say, at the head/side of a driveway)? I live in New England, and I'm wondering if you'd have any concerns connecting to an EVSE when it's raining or snowing, or when it might rain/snow while the EVSE is connected. And, I'm wondering if you have any concerns about leaving an EVSE unattended while connected & charging to an EV (perhaps concerns that kids or animals might get shocked). Are these kind of environmental/social hazards/concerns incorporated into EVSE design?

    Finally, I'm sure you are familiar w/ the Better Place charge-and-go concept (I see you have it linked on the side):

    I was wondering if you know whether BMW, or any other manufacturers beyond Renault, are seriously looking at developing a common battery standard to allow wide implementation of a battery swap concept. I think this capability, while not essential, would really make the adoption of EVs by most people a no-brainer. Beyond the elimination of the range concerns, it also has the potential to reduce up-front vehicle costs (since the battery itself might not be included in the cost of the EV) and it reduces technology risk (since you wouldn't be locked into the battery technology available at the time of EV purchase, but were instead able to leverage the pool of batteries held by the swap-station).

    If you've got a few minutes, I'd really appreciate your thoughts on these topics.


  7. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear in the past about the standard plugs, but everyone now(except Tesla) uses the industry standard J1172 connector so anywhere you go and find a public charge station you can plug in because they all use the same connecter called the J1772 or simply the "J plug". Tesla is walking to their own beat because they want the ability to charge faster than everyone else so they designed their own plug to accept a higher rate of electricity bu they do have a converter plug so a Tesla owner could use a public charging station that has the J1172 connector.

    Some EVSE's are made for outdoor use. The ones I got for the MINI-E program are made by Clipper Creek and can be installed indoors or outdoors and are very durable. I wouldn't hesitate one minute to install it outside, I bet it would last a very long time.

    Yes I know all about Better Place and I do follow their progress. Currently there aren't any Auto manufacturers other than Renault that are investing in the battery swap system. Time will tell which is the best way to go (battery swap vs permanently installed). By not buying the battery up front you get to buy the car for much less, but then you are locked into lease payments forever. As battery technology improves and costs come down, does it make sense? I'm not sure. If I knew for certain that we wouldn't have any major battery breakthroughs in the next 5-10 years then I think it would be the "no brainer" you talk about. However what if I told you in seven years there will be a battery that delivers 300 miles of range, recharges in 20 minutes and costs half of what today's batteries do. Would battery swap be necessary then? I'm not saying it doesn't make sense, I just think it's too early to declare which is better.