From June 2009 to June 2010 I had the privilege of Driving an All Electric MIMI E for a year, it was a great experience, and got me hooked on electric cars. I've since moved on to other electric cars which I will blog about.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

#304 gets towed

Friday night I began experiencing problems with MINI E #304, the battery temperature warning light came on and indicated that the batteries were too hot or cold and regenerative braking wouldnt work. We were already near our destination and I continued driving without the regenerative braking, the feeling of coasting in the MINI E was a little disconcerting, I've become so use to the regenerative braking it felt strange without it, the exact opposite feeling non-electric drivers have. Anyway we got home with about 27% charge, much less then it should have been for our 50 mile trip.
The next day we needed to do a few errands before the big snow storm hit, I wasnt planning on driving more then 20 miles. I unplugged and reset the trip odometer, something I do every time, I think I looked at the charge and it was at 100%, but I'm not completely sure I did this anymore, I was concerned about the battery temp, and quickly switched to that view. From the start I had the battery temp warming light, and regenerative breaking wasnt working even though the battery was at 56 degrees. After a short stop for lunch we were off again, after 5 miles the battery temp hadnt changed much was 57 degrees and the warning light was still on, I was curious what not having the regenerative braking was doing to my range so I switched to % range, where I normally keep the display, and was shocked to see 35% charge left.
I'd only driven 5 miles and had stopped for about 30 minutes during that time there was no way it should be at 35%. I had a few ideas about what might have been wrong, either the car was using energy at a very fast rate, I did have the heat on max (as I always do in the cold) and the regenerative braking wasnt working, but I wasnt driving more then 40 mph so this seemed unlikely, or The car hadnt charged overnight even though it was plugged in, which would happen if the computer was confused and thought the battery temperature was under 30 degrees, and might explain the battery temp warning light, even though it was reporting the temp as 57 degrees, or the percent charge indicator could be out of wack, I'd just read a facebook entry stating anouther drivers opinion that the Charge indicator got less and less accurate as the temperature dropped.
Anyway we didnt have far to go so I just kept going and kept my eye on the charge, after shopping for a couple hours we headed home. As we got close to home the yellow service warning light came on indicating we could continue driving but should bring the car in for service, about a mile later there was a audible click the car starting slowing down suddenly and I looked down and see a red battery symbol, meaning the high voltage system has been disengaged, ie we had no power.
At this point we were only a mile from my house, I called MINI for a tow and my girlfriend got a ride home, it was just starting to snow. I was near a busy light and people seemed to be having the hardest time realizing they needed to go around the car even though the hazard lights were on. a few people had camera phones out and were taking pictures, after all I had the brand new MINI E side decals just put on.
After a half hour the hazard lights stopped working, I needed to let people know to go around me and didnt have any flares, so I opened up the hood. I was a little worried about snow going in there, but I was more worried about being rear ended as visibility was getting worse. A little while latter a fire truck pulls up and offers to push me into a parking lot across the street, they block the light with the firetruck and four big firemen, and firewomen push me accross the street, Thank you Liberty Corners Fire department.
At this point I realized the red battery warning light hadnt come on. I tried to start the car and sure enough it worked I could drive around the parking lot, the battery temp warning light was gone too. I think opening and closing the hood must have reset things. The tow truck was due to be there soon, and my girlfriend was back with her car, so I figured it was best to just wait in the parking lot rather then risk it breaking down again. The tow truck arrived a little bit late, and #304 got towed to Morristown MINI, I have to wait till Monday to give them this story as the service department was closed by then.
We awoke Sunday to a foot of snow, guess Im going to have to wait to see how the MINI E preforms in the snow for myself, until then I'll be reading other peoples blogs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#304 back from service

I got MINI E #304 back from the service department on Friday after 2 days, They did a lot of work on it. Foremost of which was replacing the PCU thats the gold footlocker under the hood which is the brains of the MINI E, I know a number of people have had this replaced numerous times but this was the first time for #304. It sounds like if a MINI E has any problems at all the first thing they do is replace the PCU.
They also preformed the second scheduled maintenance, I'm at 7000 miles a little short of the 8000 mile point but it was over 3 months since the last scheduled maintenance.
The Tires were replaced with snow tires for the Winter, MINI is covering this for all MINI E drivers in NY NJ and will be storing our summer tires to put back on in the spring. They also put the Side decal on my MINI E, this the words MINI and the E plug symbol, I've been asking for this for six months, hopefully more people will recognize that its electric now.
I had also asked them to test the heater, as the heat output seems very low to me, but they couldnt find anything wrong with it.

Anyway its been running great since the service, but my range is down to 80 miles, due to running the heater all the the time, the batteries being cold in the morning, and I think the Winter Tires reduce my mileage too.

Had a little trouble this morning, I'd forgotten to plug it in the night before, this is only the second time I've forgotten to do this but its an annoying mistake. I was reading about the Chevy Volt and how they are going to have an iphone app to communicate with the car, it would be great if it could tell you at night, "hay you forgot to plug me in".

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

#304 limps into service

The last couple days, I've gotten a couple warning lights on my MINI E, the warning that the battery was too hot/cold for regenerative braking, and a yellow Motor light indicating that Motor power is reduced. both times this happened when I was almost at my destination and I didnt actually notice a problem the battery temp looked good in the 60-70 degree range, and I didnt notice a lack of power, though I wasnt going very fast. I was scheduled for a the 6 month service on Friday and to get the snow tires, so I figured this problem could wait until then.

Today the roads were covered with icy slush and it was raining hard, making for some nasty driving, heard from other people that the main roads were a mess, though I drove back roads. Anyway not long into my drive I get the temp and motor lights, but again dont notice anything wrong, a little while later the care switches from Drive to Neutral and I get a new error light indicating a Electric power system failure and/or Brake lamp control failed. I'd heard about others having the Drive change to Neutral but this was the first time it happened to me. So I pulled over and turned off the car then restarted it, then tried to switch back to Drive and instead it changed to Neutral, tried this a few times without luck and at one point saw a Red error light, that indicates Emergency transmission program active, after one more try I was able to get it in Drive. So I continued my drive, about 5 miles later I had the same problem. This time I decided if I got the car running I'd head to the dealer as I was pretty close at that point. and after about 5 minutes the emergency transmission program kicked in and I was able to drive, although I was definitely seeing very poor preformance from the motor, it was acting very sluggish. A few miles later it happened again, this time I was stopped on a hill, with lots of traffic, not a very good place to break down. but after about 5 minutes I got the car working, and drove the final mile or two to the MINI dealer

So now #304 is in the shop they arnt sure if anyone can work on it before Friday, I have a feeling I'm not going to get it back by then. They were out of loaner cars and the enterprise Rental car shop was also out of them, so it looks like I'll be using my Z3 for a while.

Well after 6 months of driving this was my first breakdown, and at least I avoided having to call the tow truck.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Had our first taste of snow in NJ and MINI E #304 handled the snow very well. There wasnt much accumulation but it was slushy and slippery, but even without snow tires I didnt feel any lose of grip.
One serious problem I did have is after cleaning off the wet heavy snoow from the windshield we started to drive home in the dark. At first I didnt notice anything was the matter, but when I turned off the main highway onto a unlite street, I realized my headlights werent lighting up the road it was almost all dark. I could see a little light off to the sides of the headlights but not in front. After some scary driving in the dark I was able to pull off and wipe the snow off the headlights. This solved the problem and the rest of the drive was problem free, I'm guessing snow accumulating on the headlights is a common problem with all MINI's.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Heater News article

I saw this article on the MINI E's Heater while browsing the web

They say that this new electric heater developed for just for the MINI E, produces more heat then a standard car heater

They have a heat output of 3,000 watts and weigh about 1.8 kilograms. In comparison: a Beru cabin heater for internal combustion engines weighs about 0.8kg and achieves a heat output of 500 to 2,000 watts depending on the product line.

There is just no way this is true, the MINI E's heater is barely luke warm even at Max after its had time to warm up, and uses a lot more energy then the AC does. Something about this article just isnt right.