Gas Stations vs. the 110v Recharge Cable

One of the most compelling things for me about driving an electric car is the idea of saving time. Time being the one non-renewable resource we have absolutely no control over, the idea of utilizing it better by not stopping at gas stations every 380 miles, and not waiting for the oil to be changed every 3,500 miles, is powerful.

The concept is I get to fill up every night while I sleep, at the ultra-convenient filling station in my garage. It’s called a high-voltage recharger, and it was installed a week before I picked up #217.

Charging Station/Lax Stick Holder

Charging Station/Lax Stick Holder

It’s promise is to fill my MINI E from zero (or —-) to 100% in 4 hours or less. It’s a great thing. It’s also currently useless, because it has no high-voltage recharging cable to connect it to #217. Apparently there is some delay in getting the cables approved for consumer use.

So while this bureaucratic delay works itself out, we pioneers are relying on the 110v “occasional use cable” to fill up our batteries. Originally intended as a portable “uh-oh” cable (thus the “occasional” in it’s title) this little beauty plugs into any normal, 3-prong household socket, so it’s also very convenient.

Trouble is, it’s also a very slow way to recharge #217’s large battery packs. The literature says it could take 24 hours or more. In my recent experience the “or more” added on another 1/2 a day.

After running the batteries down completely on Friday night, I plugged in with the 110v casual use cable at about 11:30pm. At 8:30am on Saturday, I was at just 24%. I had calculated that I could get 4% an hour earlier, but that was when I had started with a certain % of energy already stored. And I’ve talked about the “chargeometer” being less than a perfect gauge of what energy is present, so I have to assume my earlier 4% experience was a bit of the meter catching up.

I finally reached 100% charge around 11am on Sunday.  35.5 hours – 2.8% per hour – is not a practical solution for me to make #217 a daily vehicle. The Gas Station wins this round.

High Voltage Recharge so close, yet so far away...

High Voltage Recharge so close, yet so far away...

After tooling around town on Sunday afternoon in #217, I plugged back in with enough time to get to 100% for Monday morning. Which was a very fun commute – I gunned the car a bit on the highway (70+ for at least half the ride), knowing that I would have enough juice for the return trip. I also had to lay down some electric torque on two wide-bodies — for some reason, on separate occasions, different Japanese Luxury SUV’s almost sideswiped me.  I was able to make clean getaways both times. Nimble beats big. My ride home was uneventful, though I did take it a little easier just to keep the chargeometer above “—-“.

So here I am on Tuesday with my old gas machine, trying to think about options. I think I’ll contact the local MINI Morristown dealer – they are also participating in the E trial – and see if I can get a charge during the day there. That, combined with my 110v charge at night, should get me working daily with #217 until the high voltage cable comes in.

But I do have to question how the repeated use of the 110v cable will affect the Lithium Ion batteries?  I know in my laptop – which offers a convenient model since it too uses Lithium Ion – there is a warning not to use slower voltage rechargers since it could “damage battery life”. I also know that the more I recharged & discharged the batteries, the less energy capacity they held.

Stay tuned for the answers to these and many other questions….


One response to “Gas Stations vs. the 110v Recharge Cable

  1. Nice to see another blog. 2.8% charge per hour is about what I am getting too… not very useful, but it will do in a pinch.

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