Category Archives: Milepost Reviews

20,000 Electric Miles

Last night – after my usual 90 mile commute and a 5 mile round trip to a client – I had to run out for an errand several miles away. At about 8:40pm, the odometer on #217 turned over the 20,000 mile mark. I was so happy I pulled over to record the event.

20,000 electric-powered (and solar charged) miles!

This was one of my original goals when I first started this test last June, as I thought that to make this test meaningful (and cost-effective!) I’d need to drive the car to a significant distance.

That errand last night came at a convenient time, as sadly my time with #217 is coming to an end today. It has been a very rewarding 365 days, filled with some surprises and one or two frustrations, but on the whole a very, very satisfying test drive of what I hope and expect will be a mass-market option in automobiles in the coming years.

I took a look back to last June, before I received #217, and uncovered this list of questions that I hoped to get answered:

“…now I have another opportunity to leverage those (solar) panels to help offset what is undoubtedly my biggest personal contribution to global warming: a daily 90-mile commute. And that’s going to be something pretty amazing – generating abundant, renewable, clean energy from the Solar panels on my roof, and putting it into storage in the batteries of my MINI E in order to move me the 45 miles between my Point A & B. It’s a compelling model for us all, and could point to a greener, more peaceful future for ourselves and our children.

But will it work? What will happen in a thunder storm? Can I use the A/C on hot summer days when I’m stuck in a traffic jam and still 40 miles from home? Will I miss stopping by the gas station and picking up a Snapple? Can I zap myself accidentally?”

Luckily I didn’t get zapped, didn’t stall in a lightning storm, was able to run the A/C on hot days (though things did get a little cool on winter days), and ultimately enjoyed about 332 days fun, fast, all-electric driving. I even stopped by a few gas stations to get some ice tea, put some air in the tires and clean the windshields.

I also learned a few other things about driving an electric car:

– ‘range anxiety’ only lasts a week or so (after you get the 32amp wall box installed), and after that you’re  comfortable

– some kind of public charging infrastructure would reduce or eliminate range anxiety, and would be relatively easy to install (electricity already being the energy unit of choice for everything from iPods to Laundry’s)

– regenerative braking = “one pedal” driving control, which is fun, efficient, and saves the brake pads

– only about 3% of the population will notice that you’re driving an all-electric car unaided

– drafting off of trucks can save 5% of your battery pack

– you will forget to plug in…but you will only do this once

There’s no doubt more to share, and I plan on continuing to add to the dialog on electric cars. My hope is that in less than a year I can own one, but we’ll see how that goes.

For now, #217 and I part ways and take different forks in the road. #217 is headed to either China or Europe, whereas tomorrow I’m still headed to work. It just won’t be a solar-powered commute any more.


Doh! I need to drive 85 miles/day

One of my goals when I started this program was to try and drive 20,000 miles in an all-electric car. “Why 20,000?” you ask? Because it sounded good, and it seemed within reach -naively I took 20,000 miles, divided it by 365 and figured i’d need to drive about 55 miles a day. Since I have a 90 mile commute 5 days a week, it should be easy I thought.

The first “doh!” that I didn’t account for was that I’d loose about 6 weeks off the calendar because MINI couldn’t get the high-voltage recharger installed at my home – relying on just my standard household outlet, i’d need 2 days of plugging in just to drive one day to work. I also didn’t plan on losing a few more weeks for service calls (1 broken fiber-optic cable, installation & removal of snow tires, 5,000 mile checkups, etc.). Then there were the times I couldn’t drive #217 because she’s only a 2-seater, or I had to travel more than 100 miles, etc.

About a month ago I was doing some more quick calculations though, and I was still comfortably in line with my expected turn-in date of July 15.

That was before I got today’s second Doh! MINI now says my turn-in date is June 15 – which roughly coincides with my pick-up date of June 15, but doesn’t include the extra one month option they’d promised me to ensure I had “12 full months of zero-emissions driving with fast recharging…”. The representative I spoke with on the phone said that I could request my extra month, but “so far I’ve processed two such requests and both were denied. Prepare for June 15.” [why is it that the “end” of anything is always a hard reality? At the glorious and sun-dappled “beginning” of this process I spoke with fun and excited representatives who couldn’t wait to get me in my MINI E – and now at the end, all I get are brusque phone messages telling me to call a number, where the gruff-throated rep who answers sounds like a repo man who has had a bad decade?].

The rational side of me knows full-well that if I make 19,200 – or even something several hundred miles less – I could hardly count this experience as a failure. And yet, there’s something so compelling about hitting that nice round figure of 20,000, that the irrational part of me – which is to the say the single biggest part of me – would be very disappointed.

So from here on out I’m going to hunt for miles like a spoon hunts for ice cream at the end of the carton. By my calculations, I need to make 85 miles per day. I’m good for 90+ during the week for work, but the weekends may be tough…better go download some audiobooks 😉

5,000 Miles

I really wanted to catch the moment when it clocked over on Monday, but I missed it – a Springsteen song came on the radio and all attention to detail vanished. But here are some facts and details about driving 5,000 miles on electricity:

– In a tank at the Boonton Hess station, there are currently about 222 gallons of gas that I didn’t burn.

– People who know it is electric always get an excited tone in their voice, like when they first hear the family is going to Disney: “Really?!? So it doesn’t take any gas, at all?!?  Wow.” The few who have been able to drive it all marvel at the regenerative braking, the silence of the motor, and the torque, but after that the most amazing thing is that it drives and acts exactly like a gas car.

– People who don’t know it’s electric don’t give it a second look. On the one hand I feel good that I’m not a traveling sideshow and can sing loudly, or even do the other most popular thing to do in a car, without having all of I-287 looking at me; but on the other hand, part of this experiment is to try and show my neighbors that an electric car is a viable thing. So a wee bit more recognition would be good – more on that coming soon.

– It took me a little over 3 months to reach 5,000 – but for the first month I wasn’t driving it everyday (see High Octane Recharging). My goal is to put on a total of 25,000 miles before the year is up. So I need to average about 100 miles a day for weekdays, and 50 miles/day on weekends.

– My early impressions of the pros and cons still hold up (see 1,000 Mile Review) – I love the “one-pedal” driving, I still don’t miss my old gas station, and I’m still pleasantly surprised at the difference a near-silent motor makes. I’m also still doing a lot more calculations then I ever had to do with gas (“If I drive to my son’s baseball game, and then to my daughter’s soccer game, will I have enough juice to get back home?”).

– I’m really interested to see what the next 5,000 miles bring – and I’m pretty sure that I’ll reach one of my goals during this period: to run out of juice and have to call in the MINI Roadside Assist crew. Why now?  Because winter is coming, and I’ll need to use the heater – which might just take the last 10-20% of my battery range out, and there goes the “safety” on my daily 90 mile commute. Gotta remember to put a pioneer blanket and some snacks in old #217…