12 December 2009

On the edge of the qualifications

Some readers of this blog may get an incorrect impression from the lengths I go to when commuting in the all electric Mini E.  Those who are also Mini E drivers might understand the assumptions I am making in writing this blog, such as what the headline photo implies.  I have carelessly aimed this blog at fellow Mini E drivers.  For those readers who don't have their own Mini E lease, let me set the context.

When Mini started taking applications, it was clear that I would not be considered since my normal commute was 150 miles per day, and on the outside they were accepting people who drove at most 110 miles  per day.  Even then it appeared that they would only accept my application if they were desperate.  I worked with Google maps for quite a while and found a route to work on back roads that was about 110 miles round trip, and claimed that on my application.  It turns out that route is not passable by car, the best I  have done is around 116 miles, but normally 120 miles to save time.  I argued strongly with Mini that this would be fine since I could charge the car at work and Mini finally agreed to lease me an E, after strenuous pursuit on my part.  (I recently made the round trip without the benefit of charging all day at work, see link here.)

Being an engineer, I want to  know things, such as the effect of cold weather on the range.  In isolation.  That is, I want to know the effect of cold weather, WITHOUT the effect of the heater drawing down the battery.  And since I am already way out on the edge of the range limit, I go to perhaps ridiculous lengths to get this data without clouding it by other variables.

So let me ask, how many other Mini E drivers have even gotten a range estimate such as the one pictured  at the top of my blog?  Over 140 miles is quite rare I expect.  Maybe most drivers rarely see over 100.

Let me ask how many Mini E drivers regularly commute over 100 miles per day?  I know there are some, but I suspect it is less than one percent, and most or all are in Southern California, not the frozen North of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  And the one I read about has a 240 volt charger at work and at home.  I have only 120 volts at work.

So when I describe wearing 3 to 5 layers of clothes, preheating the Mini E with a portable heater, and drinking 5 cups of hot tea to stay warm on my long drive, this is  NOT behavior that one should expect is required in an electric car, any more that the terrain in the above photo is likely to be encountered in your daily commute.

But some people will always test the conditions out on the edge.  By profession I am a test engineer, and recounting these adventures is a testament to my personal curiosities, not to what the average driver of  an electric car might expect.

Believe me, on the weekends we drive the Mini E just like any car, with the heater blazing, maybe without warm coats in cold weather, maybe driving hard and fast.  And many days now  I have run the heater near the end of my long weekday commute, regularly bouncing the "charge meter" off zero a few miles from home.

But on the  edge I am very careful.  And the car performs amazingly well at the extremes if you are careful.  But you don't have to be anymore careful with an electric car than with the old "fossil fool" cars if you are not trying to reach extremes of range.

1 comment:

  1. MINI should be very pleased to have you as a tester - it's a great way to gather "edge" data! :)