100% Charge vs. 95 mile Commute

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.

Battery "Chargeometer"

Battery "Chargeometer"

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.


8 responses to “100% Charge vs. 95 mile Commute

  1. Gordon,

    The batteries will also read a little higher after they cool down.

    Your predicted range is computed by the car using it’s estimate of the battery charge remaining divided by your average consumption (in Amp hours per 100 miles) over the last 18 miles.

    Out here in Kalifornia I have managed to go 110 miles on a charge. I will blog more about that later today or tomorrow.

    • That’s great info, thx! I had assumed that the computation would change once I pulled off the highway (and got better mileage driving local streets), but it’s interesting that the temperature has an impact as well. So far we’re dealing with a very mild spring here – this morning I think it only reached 72 – so as we pull into summer I’m sure that will also be a factor.

  2. Very interesting read, those batteries are a bit strange, always great seeing them rise for no apparent reason. I tend to think when you’ve been pushing them for a while then stop or slow down, they give you more energy for a while.

  3. Reading your blog encourages me… I got my car 10 days ago but have yet to drive it to work (also a 45-mile commute). With the rain and the 110v charing hassles, I wasn’t ready to try it. But I will on Thursday. Hope I can do 108 miles too! I picked up my car in Morristown but drive to Eatontown from Maplewood NJ.


    • I’m sure you can get at least 108 miles Tim – and keep in mind, I did 90 of my miles on highway at speeds between 65-70mph; if you ease up a bit, and spend less time on the highway, you’ll be fine.

      Plus, if you do run out of juice, that’s what the roadside assistance number is for! I wonder if we can still call ourselves pioneers with a a bail-out crew just a phone call away?

  4. I have an estimated 101 miles on my current charge and the odometer/miles left estimate reads about 102-105……I need to push it over 100. My best so far is 93.9 (with reserve).

  5. Tim,
    You can definitely go 108 miles. I have #250 and have logged 107, 108 & 115miles on a single charge. You will have to drive conservatively, though.(if that’s possible, I know the car is fun!) By that I mean so 75mph highway and gradual acceleration, no punching it when the light turns green! When I first got the car I was maxing out at 92-95 miles, but I have been increasing the range by simply driving less aggressively and using regen as much as possible. Good luck! Tom

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