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.
MINI E #304 has been out for service for a few days and I miss her, yes my fiancee gets jealous of her, she says I'm not allowed to sleep in the car. About a month after the 3000 mile service I got a phone call from MINI that one of the battery modules was not fully charging and they would like to replace it. It took a while to schedule a visit when the MINI E flying doctor would be in. But after I brought it in they realized it needed to go out to be serviced. So I've been driving a Gas burning Dodge from Enterprise, its no where near as fun to drive as my MINI E, but it does have Satellite radio. hopefully #304 will be back soon.
Well after over 4 months of driving, I was feeling like I understood my Electric MINI E, it's been my regular car for all but 100 mile plus trips. Its been feeling like just a normal car, and I havent had much to report on this blog. But my sense of normality has been shattered in the last week as Temperatures have plummeted, so has My MINI E's range. At first it seemed like a problem with the heater drawing too much energy, but it has become apparent that even with minimal or no usage of the heater, the MINI E's range has been severely reduced. This weekend I drove the MINI E to my fiancee's as I've done many times, the ride there showed the first indication of a problem, I had to use the Heater a little bit but not too much it was 41 degrees out, and a bit cool in the cabin, but nothing too bad. I could tell I was using more charge then normal, but I never paniced and though I might not make it. The last 20 miles to her house are on a highway where 80 mph seems to to be the norm, I kept things at 65 mph and arrived at her house 78.2 miles, with 13% charge left and 11 miles to go. Thats a bit low, the first time I drove this I had 27% charge remaining, but it was within my comfort zone (just), as long as I didnt hit a detour, or miss her exit which would mean an extra 24 miles. so on Monday morning I knew I needed to drive carefully, It was very cold it started at 35 dgrees outside and droped to 31 degrees during the course of my trip, the battery started at 48 degrees but was up to 71 by the end of the trip. At first I was afraid to use the heater, so for the first 20 miles of the trip I was freezing, I would hit the recircylate button every 5 minutes to keep from bringing in the really cold air, I kept the speed to 60 mph on the freeway, and stayed as far right as possible. After I got off the freeway the charge started to climb up and I felt I could afford a little heat before my fingers turned blue (I'd made a mistake and brought two left handed gloves, no rights) For the rest of the trip I'd bring the heater on for a little bit when I couldnt stand the cold, I had the air set to defogger to keep the fron window clear. I realized about half way that when I used recirculate the front window would fog up, but if I let the system bring in outside air it stayed clear, made for a hard choice, freezing or not being able to see. When I passed 50% at the 34 mile mark I knew it would be close. When I got to 20% and had 20 miles to go I thought I could make it, especially as It seemed to hang at 20% a long time, but the last 10 miles to my house are on the freeway and up a very steep hill, I had to bring the car upto 60mph and was still passed by double trailer semi's going up hill. I reached the top of the hill with 3% charge left, after that it was all down hill and back roads about anouther mile to my house. I arrived with 13% charge and 11 miles to go. I've driven the MINI E 5000 miles in 4 months but this may have been the last time I drive the MINI E to my Fiancee's house until Spring as it was just too close, and too cold. I was thinking if there had been freezing rain and I'd had to keep the defogger running at max heat to keep my window from freezing I wouldnt have even got half way, add to that the fear of being traped in the snow without heat and I dont think I'll be putting as many miles on #304 going forward.
Move over California, New Jersey already has more Solar Powered Installations per mile and is growing. Here is a great article http://www.cnbc.com/id/33233060 about how State intensives are really pushing the growth of solar power in the garden state. I live in a condominium community where I cant install my own solar power but we are looking at houses and installing solar power will be a priority when we do move.
Well its starting to get cold in New Jersey so I turned on the heater in the MINI E. While driving with the Air conditioner on in the summer, barely used any electricity, I was shocked by just how much the batteries dropped when I turned on the heater. I've only run the heater for a couple days now, but the numbers are not looking good. During the summer a drive to work and back with no side trips and all on back roads a drive of 33.5 miles used 27% of the charge, but with the heater at half way and the fan on just slightly the same trip used 37% of the charge. Total range estimates are not that precise when based on these short trips, but my range has dropped from about 110 miles a charge to about 80, and this is on back roads never going faster then 45 mph. What will happen when I'm using the heater at max and driving on the highway? I'm worried about some of my longer trips, like to my fiancee's home, which is a 77 mile trip on mixed roads that uses 82% of my charge, I only have 18% to spare for heat on that trip. I'm also wondering whats the optimum temperature for the batteries, during the summer MINI recommended you use the AC to keep the batteries cool, which actually improved range, but with the heater drawing so much power I doubt it will be improving range unless its below freezing, I may be driving with my gloves on this winter. Its still too early to say how significant heater usage is going to be, I'm going to need to collect more data ie drive with the heat at different levels. Got about 6 months to test the heater coming up.