Category Archives: Uncategorized

To Custom Plate or Not?

A friend of mine stopped by the other day to get a look at the new Tesla Model S, and probably the second comment out of his mouth was “You need to get custom plates for this!”  I had been thinking about it, but would love others thoughts about custom license plates – your feelings in general, and specifically for a new electric car that has aspirations to change the market.

Thanks for your thoughts, please leave any ideas in the comments!


A New Electric Ride (with heat!)

A New Electric Ride (with heat!)

After a 14-month wait, yesterday i took delivery of a new Tesla Model S – so good to be back running on electrons, and in a purpose-built electric car that really feels like you’re driving the future. Thanks to Tesla DES Nathan (right) and future Tesla owner Leigh Light for being part of the experience.

24-Hour Electric Ride Road Rally

This coming Memorial Day weekend I’ll be driving #217 in a 24-hour road rally to see how many electric miles I can rack up in a full day. My best guess going into it – accounting for battery range and 4-hour recharging stints – is that I should hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 miles.

Here’s my plan:
– Start Sunday, May 30 @9am – finish at 9am on Monday, May 31

– Drive 2.25 hours, yield 100 miles – recharge for 4.5 hours, repeat 4 times

– The Rally should see trips to all 4 points of the compass

– The Rally should minimize any duplication of roadway (no running up and down the same bit of highway)

– Every trip should offer a photo op (see partial list of sites below)

LIST OF PHOTO OPS WITHIN 50 miles of Pearl River, NY

– the Bear Mtn. Bridge, the lookout at the top of Perkins Memorial Drive, West Point and the Storm King Arts Center and the Roosevelt home to the North; the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chrysler Building, Central Park to the South, Morristown, NJ and – in an homage to the man who brought us loads of useful electrical devices – the Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, NJ.

Got any other suggestions – fire away!

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 😉

Small Joy

I was driving in Manhattan the other day, stuck in stop and go traffic in Chinatown (and btw, stop and go traffic is what an electric car really loves – I drove around 8 miles and my charge only dipped 2%, but I digress as this post isn’t about the electric part of the car…) when I saw a couple of cyclists in my rear-view mirror winding their way thru the stalled cars.

from one efficient vehicle to another.

Anyone who has driven on Mott St. knows how narrow the roads are down there. Add in a row of parked cars on one side and a few box trucks on the other, and things get very cozy.

Which is why I was so appreciative of the cozy dimensions of the MINI. It just always, always, always fits.

It’s one of the unexpected joys of this whole Electric Car Pioneer thing, that I never worry about finding a place to park. It’s a great feeling of entitlement as I regularly pull to the front of just about any place I’m going, knowing that all I need is the courtesy space of daylight between two SUV’s to settle in.

So these two cyclists were wending their way towards me, and they comfortably pulled past my ever-comfortable MINI, when they had to stop. As you can see, another fairly modest car in front of us was still too wide to provide passage.

It made me laugh. And so I snapped the shot and reminded myself that, as the good Dr. Seuss once said, “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

A Cold Mirage?

Brrrrrr. There’s no doubt about it – when the thermometer dips, so does the range on my MINI E’s high-voltage batteries. And it’s been a hot topic of conversation among the MINI E pioneers in the northeast for over a month now that the weather has been so cold.

Most drivers are reporting anywhere from a 15-20% hit on the range displayed. And that’s in line with what I’m seeing as well – at least for a couple of hours. After that, I’m seeing some evidence that this “cold tax” is just a temporary reaction, and that those missing electrons aren’t really “gone”, just in hibernation (excuse the wordplay fun on all things cold…I can’t help myself).

During the summer and fall, my 45 mile morning commute would generally leave me showing 52% or so on my charge meter as I parked my car. I’d then plug in using the 110-volt cable, work all day (wink) and come back to a 75% charge at night, which meant I was getting between 2-3% recharge per hour.

Now I sometimes pull in to my parking space in the morning showing just 35% left on the meter. But when I come back in the evening – with the batteries still exposed to the same frigid temperatures – I still am greeted with a 72% meter. So either my recharging capability has more than doubled, or those extra 10-15 percentage points were really there all the time – just not being seen by the meter.

Charge accuracy, you may recall from earlier posts, is a pretty fuzzy thing, at least with this model of electric car. The algorithm tasked with calculating the charge isn’t yet smart enough to be more than a general gauge of the state of charge. What is interesting however is that the settings seem to over-estimate the actual drain that the cold weather will have, anywhere between 15-20%.

A MINI E “Pony Express” Trip

Don Young, MINI E #364, took an amazing trip last week – traveling almost 700 miles over 4 days from his Shelter Island, NY home on the eastern end of Long Island to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in the Hudson Valley, and several other stops in-between. To get there and back, Don organized a “Power Support Team” to recharge his MINI E #364’s batteries every 70 miles or so with high-voltage pit stops.


Original Art by Lea Miller

But Don didn’t just stop with the idea to take a high-mileage round-trip, he made an event out of it. Dubbing his journey the “MINI E E*TOUR”, he had custom window wraps and car magnets created to advertise and celebrate both his tour and “Power Support Team”, and also created his own t-shirts to give out to the many people he’d meet along the way. He also contacted a local newspaper in Bethel and did an interview there; plus he took the time to meet with strangers and bartenders (and probably some strange bartenders too) to show off the car and relate his experiences driving it.

I just love these kind of individual, people-powered quests, and my wife and I were very proud to support Don and fill him up on some solar-generated electrons last Thursday and Sunday. Infected by his enthusiasm for the project, my teenage daughter and I put together a poster to welcome Don and mark his journey to our home. Creating the poster gave us a chance to talk about things… like how weird it was that we were going to welcome a “complete stranger” to our home while most of us were away so he could plug his car in; about how normally we wouldn’t do such a thing; about how it was OK this time because we were all part of a broader community of people involved in the same thing – so while Don may or may not be strange ;-), he was driving a MINI E just like us, for all the same reasons and with all the same desires for a better future, and that disqualified him as a stranger.

As Don himself noted, “On my MINI E E*Tour, I’ve had great experiences with 8 MINI E’ers, 2 companies, 3 corporations, and 1 foundation. I also learned that stopping once in a while to make new friends, and talking to bystanders about GP? (#364), is as nice a way to travel as I can imagine.”

At the risk of sounding corny or melodramatic, I imagine his experience was very similar to the old Pony Express system – Don too set out on the road in full awareness that his journey would only be complete if a group of people he’d never before met came together to help him. He too had to rely on faith in an unmet community. And in this day and age – where we rightly teach our children to be wary of strangers, and where we rely on standardized systems for everything from dining to refueling – what a unique experience that is.

In the few short years ahead, at just about the time my daughter will learn how to drive, electric cars will no longer be the domain of a few hundred pioneers. The frontier of “limited range” will be closed with the solutions of public recharging at the old ‘gas’ stations, battery swap technology, electrified liquid, or some other kind of innovation which will be hugely convenient and enable our modern and mobile lifestyles – but which will also be a bittersweet signal that this particular kind of unique, individual, community travel experience is unnecessary.

Don’s promised to post photos and tales of his experience, and I’ll be sure to link to them here.