Living On The Electric Edge


Last night I teetered between two worlds – one side promised the successful completion of my highest-mileage day yet, while on the other side there awaited a personal disaster that could derail my hopes and dreams for an electric car future, and put a serious dent in an otherwise happy marriage.

Just another day in pioneerland!

MINI E #217, now sporting over 3,800 miles, has been averaging between 100-110 miles on a single charge (it’s an inexact science because of the variation in speeds of my mainly-highway commute). Yesterday though I knew I’d need some extra juice because I hoped to drive it to a soccer coaches meeting I had in the evening, which would tack on an additional 26 miles. So i plugged in with the “Occasional Use Cable” during the day and got an additional 15% charge (for a total of 115% on the day).

It was going to be close, but in some previous experimentation I knew that #217 had at least 2 more miles left after I hit the “—–” (empty) line on the chargeometer. That, plus a burning desire to see where the limits on these batteries are, was all the push I needed to try for a 120+ mile day.

What were the reasons I shouldn’t have tried it? I had my wife in the car with me. Our two kids were staying at a neighbor’s house. It was a school night. And, finally, the meeting of course ran way too late.

Getting there wasn’t a problem. I drove fairly conservatively, but the 13 miles it took ate up 12% of the reserve, leaving us with just 8% to get back home. And back home was mostly uphill. And it was approaching 10pm. And our kids needed to get in bed.

That’s when I made the strategic decision to not tell my wife that we faced a potential hour-long delay while I tested out the MINI Roadside Assistance program.

9 of the 13 miles were highway, and so I kept it at 60mph. But the chargeometer still read “—-” with 5 miles to go. At 4 miles, I was getting the “Battery Depleted/Reduced Performance” icon coming on and off, and I resorted to making unnecessarily loud statements like “HEY – I Just Remembered To Take Out The Recycling On Tuesday!” to cover the audible alerts. Luckily that was when I hit a nice downhill for a 1/4 mile and I regen’ed all I could.

The final 2 miles were up and down hills, and while #217 never skipped a beat I kept bracing myself for the telltale dip in speed. At just 1 mile to go, I had one more major hurdle – a 200 yard long moderate hill climb – and  I literally held my breath to the top, trying to figure out how far I could push #217, bringing up images of the dog pushing the sled in The Grinch who Stole Christmas. At the top, my wife noticed the battery alert light and asked “Are we ok to make it home?”. “NOW We Are!” was the reply from the sweaty maniac behind the wheel.

Of course as I pulled into the garage, all I could think of is “I wonder how much further…” – but it was a school night, so that question will have to wait.

122.8 miles on 115% charge.

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2 responses to “Living On The Electric Edge

  1. “HEY – I Just Remembered To Take Out The Recycling On Tuesday!”

    Priceless. The whole saga was movie worthy, or at least edge-of-your-seat webisode worthy. Consider it. Very intriguing concept of testing the finite limits of the charge. I always felt I was playing dangerously when the gas light came on and I had just spent my last $20 at Ruby Tuesday’s (high school) and drove 20 miles north home to my parents’ house. But with such an exact measurement to keep in mind…you do live on the edge. I am not positive, but maybe those exciting electric car nights “spice up” a marriage, as they say. Even on a school night.

  2. Ah the classical Miller trait of pushing the limit!

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