Tag Archives: MINI driving experience

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other…

less is more

Funny thing happened at an office building today  – when I got there, parking was a bit tight. That’s when I noticed the giant SUV taking up two spots (why do some folks think that’s ok to do?). Anyways, I hesitated for all of 2 seconds, and then eased into the crawl space between the two behemoths.

When I came back out parking had eased up a bit, and I got this nice image. It says a lot I think – about the choices we all make with regards to resources (parking spaces, fossil fuels, etc.), about how those choices impact others, and the unexpected gifts and advantages to be had by taking less than what is offered.

But most of all I think it’s just funny.


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.”

Baby’s Got New Shoes

Woa, the holidays knocked me out!  But i’m back, and will be updating more frequently now that December is done.

The big news to report is that MINI has swapped out all of our tires for new snow tires – GoodYear Ultragrip 7 to be exact. I hear that, because they are run flats, they had to be special ordered from Germany. It had to have cost BMW/MINI a pretty penny, but clearly safety is a potential issue with such a relatively heavier vehicle on icy roads. I noticed that the dealer, who installed them, only inflated them to 38 psi (max is 51 psi) – the question is what this will do to my average mileage range. So far I’ve noticed about a 5% dip, but it’s only been a few days.

In other news, we’re going through a serious and prolonged cold front here (mornings are in the teens, high’s during the day don’t reach much past the mid-20’s) but there hasn’t been a huge decrease in the battery performance. I do regularly plug-in during the day (thanks again Morristown Parking Authority!) now, but that’s more so I can feel easy about running the heater, etc. – I did a test a few weeks ago and made it home fine with only a few less % points than the summer commute.

Lastly, I had to go on an all-fossil diet for the past 2 weeks because we were traveling out of the area. It’s good to be back!

A Halloween Trick, and Treat

So there I was, on All Hallows Eve, driving back from the store to go set up for our annual Halloween Party, when all of a sudden – after nearly 7,500 miles of issue-free driving – my experimental MINI E pulled an electric muscle and I suddenly lost almost all of my power.

I was on Veteran’s Highway in Orangeburg, NY – very near my house – when the “Noticeably Reduced Motor Power” icon came on. This is a feature that is meant to kick in when you’re very low on battery, and is intended to give you enough juice so you can limp off a busy freeway or drive ahead to a safe location before all the power is exhausted.  The trouble was, I still had about 80% of my battery charge remaining, so there was no good reason for this…except, this being Halloween, maybe I was meant to be forced off the road so I could meet a nasty end at the hands of a frightening, bloodthirsty monster.


Me (left) and Jay on Halloween

Instead, I met Jay.

About a minute after pulling off the road, while I was looking under the hood for an unplugged wire or some other obvious reason for my situation, I heard a beep – and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

After months of driving a MINI E without seeing another one on the road, there was MINI E #365 pulling off to join me. I knew there was only one other E in all of Rockland County, NY, and that one was 15 minutes away in Suffern – while this meet-up occurred not even a mile from my house!

Out popped Jay – who lives in the next town to our south, Park Ridge, NJ. He and I spent a about 10 seconds looking at the engine (“Uh…I dunno”), and then a couple of minutes exchanging stories and admiration for the car. He hadn’t experienced any problems so far (though he hasn’t driven as many miles yet) and he too was enjoying the silence of the drive, the pep of the motor and beauty of no visits to the gas station.


#217 meet #365

I took another photo of #217 & #365 together on the side of the road before Jay took off again. Then, weighing my options to get home – either call the MINI Roadside Assistance crew or try and coax it up and over the last hill, then coast down to my house – I decided to give the engine one more try. I put the key in, pressed the start button and – like magic – the “Noticeably Reduced Motor Power” icon was gone.

I hightailed it home, laughing at my first MINI E trick and treat of the year.

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…

Back In The Electric Saddle

Taking our family vacation in upstate NY (300 miles from home), I’ve been a gas-only driver for the past two weeks – including both land and water vehicles. So this morning’s trip was a nice reunion with #217, and I was reminded of some of the reasons why I enjoy driving an electric-powered car so much:

– Sound: just a gentle, electric whirring, and then it’s mostly just background road noise (tires on asphalt) until I hit the highway. And even then when I turn down the radio, it’s really interesting to hear the different sounds of other cars & trucks. Not having a loud engine noise is like occupying a parallel universe – everything is very familiar, yet fundamentally new & different.

– Smell: while I don’t hate the odor of gas, it’s really nice to not have to smell it. Today, passing by my “old” Hess station, it was a good feeling knowing that I don’t have to pop in there twice a week. It also led me to think about the various boats I got to tool around in over the past two weeks – a Jetski, a big 28-foot cruiser and a 6-seat powerboat – and how great they would be without the noise and chronic fumes. I wish I could read German, because it looks like the company AquaWatt had the same idea.  Can’t wait to ride in an electric-boat.

– Power: I love the pick-up/torque/”go” that #217 has – maybe it’s because I was guiding a minivan for the past two weeks, but power that I get from the MINI E is just plain fun. The biggest difference between this and my 2007 Infiniti G35 is that I there is no “power-curve” with the MINI – it just keeps accelerating at the same rate. Ironically, right about the time I was zipping up to speed on the highway, there was this cool story on NPR’s Morning Addition that profiled how electric vehicles are dusting gas-powered Ferrari’s and the like at drag races.

– Feel: Instead of burning 4.2 gallons of gasoline to get to and from work today, and run around my town, I’ll be using some stored electrons that the solar panels on my roof helped to generate. And maybe some of the other electricity was generated hydro-electrically, or by the Upstate NY wind towers I saw on my vacation. It just feels good to be part of the future solution now.

It was a great vacation, and I’d normally be mourning it right now. But getting to drive #217 again softens that a bit – it’s good to be back driving electric.

New Bling

IMG_0840 I took the “window word stickers” that MINI sent out to the “MINI E Pioneers”, and cut out the url to this blog. Some may say it was a waste of time, while others would say it was an incredible waste of time. But I figured that with just one xacto knife on a lazy Saturday morning, I could hit two birds with just 25 hand-cut characters:

– publicize the blog (I’m already at 1,000 views – my goal is 10,000 in 1 year)

– get some attention to the fact that this is an electric car (see my July 2 post on “The Incredibly Invisible Electric Car”

So far I’ve it on my rear window for a week, and I’ve actually noticed a slight uptick in the daily visitors (above 20/day now, used to be 15 or so) – looks like this advertising thing really works.  But it would be fun to confirm it – so if you’re reading this now as a result of seeing this URL on the back of my car, please make a comment!

As for the car itself, it’s been a quiet couple of weeks as I’ve been watching my daughter’s 11/12 Softball All Star team play in the Eastern Regionals in Albany – at 144 miles away, just outside the range of #217’s batteries.