My hallway connection charged all night, and #217 shows 100% charge. Here’s the pioneer part – my commute (45 miles, plus a trip to & from my client) is over some big hills, so I’ve no idea what they will do to the batteries. Plus, I assume these things will work like my laptop battery does – the more I husband the charge, the longer it should last. So on the downhill sides of those hills I’ll be trying to keep my Power Use lights – an indicator of how much ‘juice’ i’m drawing or, when braking or coasting, generating – on the “recharge” side as much as possible.
My goal is to reach my office with 55%+ remaining, and just take it from there. Stay tuned….
8:50am – I pulled into Morristown showing 48% left on the batteries, but then a very neat thing happened. My commute is made up of about 4 miles of town driving (so some stop & go) and then 41 miles of I-287 highway — a relatively new interstate with wide lanes and almost no traffic jams between Pearl River, NY & Morristown, NJ. I slowed down a bit from my normal routine (which was to peg the cruise control at 73), and kept it between 65-70. The driving was great – the electric motor delivers the same torque no matter what the speed is, so that’s fun. But I watched the charge deplete steadily, especially on the hills. The real surprise though was how much the regenerative braking contributes back to the batteries – in the 2 miles between the exit and my landing at Morristown’s Bank St. Garage, I picked up 4% – to 52% on the “Chargeometer”. I noticed a small uptick in my batteries on a nice, 1/2 mile long downhill grade as well. So that system does extend the range – to the equivalent tune of almost an hour on my 110volt recharge cable. Very neat, when you consider that in a gasoline-powered car once the fuel is burned it’s gone – here, you can actually recover some of it. And when that “some” means you go from 48% to 52% at your turnaround point, that’s very much cool.
So here I am – sitting with 52% juice. Just enough to get home. Or maybe it’s been set to have a large safety zone? I know when I originally signed up, MINI talked about “165 miles on a full charge….but consider 120 miles just to be safe.” When I picked it up yesterday, the dealer said “really, think of the charge gauge as 1% = 1 mile. So 100% on the meter should give you 100 miles”. Yet this morning, with 100% in the batteries, the readout said I only had an 85 mile range.
Now, not all miles are the same – I get that. But either the expectations & settings are deliberately being set low, or else the battery life can’t be accurately estimated; either way, the truth for my commute is somewhere between 85 – 120 miles. So far, i’m at 46 miles. And while I’m 100% into this “Pioneer” thing, I think I’ll play things safe today and won’t drive it to my clients’ office (couple of miles away). That leaves just 46 miles to get home, and to find out the answer to the first and biggest question of my road test – “How far can you go on a charge?”
6:45pm – The answer to the question is “I can go at least 108 miles on a full charge” (hooray!). I made it home fine, but was again struck at how the regenerative braking & battery heat (which builds up on the long highway stretch, but cools down relatively quickly after pulling off the exit) impact the battery charge gauge. Halfway home, I was down to just 20%, and my pioneer heart started pumping a little bit faster.
But then the discharge rate started to slow, until I was down to 7% as I pulled off the highway. And again, almost instantaneously, I started to see the “chargeometer” start to make some gains. By the time I pulled into my sons Little League game in town (approx. 2 miles on local roads) I was back up to 12%.
I have to say, part of the fun has been in seeking out and optimizing my regeneration opportunities. Red traffic lights now hold a certain appeal to this electric car driver, and I get a bit of a grin whenever I see a downhill slope. More on this in an upcoming post, but one of the most interesting aspects of driving an electric car is the way you can manipulate your source of power.
On my drive home, right around the 20%-left-with-25-miles-to-go mark, I was making some quick calculations (“What happens when I hit zero? I wonder if I’ll just come to a screeching halt…If i can get to the next exit, maybe I can plug in at a gas station…If I can make it into town, I’ll go straight home and plug in immediately”, etc.). But, inspired by my now-abundant 12%, I decided to indulge in a quest to get it to Zero.
I picked up my son at baseball, took him for a spin around an empty parking lot for a few minutes (it’s true btw, nothing corners like a MINI), then drove another 3 miles to my daughter’s softball game (11%). After that we drove 4 miles back home (9%), I grabbed a quick bite to eat while starving my MINI E, and then headed out to my Friday Night pickup soccer game (3 miles, 6%).
After the game, I decided to head 2 miles into town (5%), and gunned the car on any straightaway’s i could find (3%, 2%, 1%). After about 15 minutes of motoring around, I finally hit 0% – which actually gets disappointingly expressed as “—-“. I never experienced any alarm bells, slow-down or unresponsiveness. So, just as in a gas car where “E” means “Empty, but we all know you can go a few more miles beyond this”, —- means “hey dude, time to find a plug”.
Total for the day was 108 miles, though I’m sure I could get better range than that. I was a mile away from home – but happily it was a nice, long, downhill slope.