23 February 2010

Three quarters through

 After eight months and almost 20,000 miles, I am three quarters of the way through the one year lease of the electric Mini. And I am happier than I expected. The driving experience makes even "luxury" cars seem primitive by comparison, not to mention stinky. There have been issues with the Mini E but most are in the past and issues are to be expected with a prototype.   Due to the issues I have experienced, Mini has waived several of the lease payments so I cannot complain at all about the expense.

I continue to easily get 120 mile range with just a little caution even in the cold weather.  Although, to get this range in the cold I should not have to use an auxiliary space heater to warm up the battery while it is parked and charging.  But the car is a prototype and this is a small concession that will not be needed in production models.  And being from Minnesota, plugging in a heater in the car is only natural when the weather is such I am putting on wool underwear anyway.

They are still working on the built in cabin heater. I use it on short trips when I don't need 100+ mile range. The built in heater was very strong at first but quickly went weak. They replaced a control module and some wiring a month ago and it was wicked hot for 6 days. Not very long.  Then it got really hot only half of the time, so it went back in for service. They sent it to northern New Jersey for a complete tear down of the heater. This time they replaced the heater core and some more wiring.  They claimed it measured between 130 and 150 degrees F at the vents when they were done, but when I picked it up it was lukewarm again.  I have tried it a few times since and every time it has been quite hot, but they understand there is work to be done to get the heater right.  I think they said they now have my old heater core in one of the engineering mules and are evaluating what is wrong.

But the big problem for a small number of us with high voltage from the power company is fixed. Charging problems are a thing of the past.

Compared to the other options out there, I don't see anything close to the Mini E. The Leaf has a shorter range and does not have complete thermal management for the battery, so I might as well stay with the Mini E which I know how to manage manually. The Volt has absurdly short electric range, especially after I have been spoiled by the Mini E.  Plus the Volt still  carries around a big can of cancer causing poison called gasoline.  That's is what I'm trying to get away from!  And the upcoming BMW electric does not present the air of humility that I look for in a car, if you can forgive me for getting subjective.  So if they offer to let me extend the lease on the Mini E, I will try to hang on to it for as long as possible.

11 February 2010

No more charging problems, heater still an issue

The electricians came by today and  installed a buck transformer which lowers my charging voltage to 240 volts from the unusually  high 252 volts that I normally have.  This should be end of my charging problems.

The transformer (really an autoformer in this configuration) is branded Acme.  If you can believe it.  It hums quietly.  My wife hates things that hum.  But I can turn off the breaker when I'm not charging the car.

 Acme?  Not Sola?  Not Square D?  I wonder if Grainger carries Acme?  Or Graybar?  Well.  Interesting.  Anyway.  I'm trying not to look at the country of origin sticker.

I had the car in for 18,000 mile service last week.  They fixed the heater.  It was wicked hot for about 6 days.  Now it has gone lukewarm again.  I guess those folks at Behr have a ways to go up the learning curve on high voltage electric heaters. 

They also put in my fourth PEU.  This one does not hum.  The old one hummed loudly.

All in all I am happy.  Big snow here in Jersey.  Lots of fun.  And the E is moving again.  Yea!

UPDATE:  OK, my electrician assures me that Acme is well known and respected brand in transformers, and it is labeled as made in NAFTA, if you catch my meaning if you get my drift.  But I couldn't resist the chance to invoke Wile E. Coyote again.  He became my alter ego for a while there.

03 February 2010

All the cabin heat you could want and no range decrease

There is a report that a new Electric Vehicle planned by Volvo incorporates a liquid fuel cabin heater:

Volvo EV uses E85 for Cabin Heat

What I find interesting here is the comments after the article which make it clear this is far from a new idea.  I was aware of the old air cooled VW Beetles in the 1960s that had accessory cabin heaters which burned gasoline.  (I heard descriptions of these heaters failing which gave new meaning to the phrase Flame Out.  As in flames coming out of the dash vents.)  But several 1990 vintage EVs also used some variety of liquid fuel cabin heaters as do many (most?) contemporary EVs in Norway, where there are a lot of EVs.  Hmm, does that oil producing country know something we don't?

I'll stick with the long underwear and wool socks, thank you very much.  But great idea.  Even the Corvair used a liquid fuel cabin heater.  (I didn't know the Corvair had an air cooled engine.)

Does anyone know if E85 burning at atmospheric pressure in a simple furnace type of heat exchanger burns more cleanly than under the crazy cycles of a piston engine?  I assume so.  Now where does the heater exhaust go in an automotive package?  I presume a tail pipe, not a chimney or (God forbid) the cabin?

Still, liquid fuels are efficient at providing heat and electricity is efficient and smooth at providing motive force.  Use the best tool for the job.

The elctricians are coming!

Got the call from Franklin Electric today, the buck transformers arrived.  They will be by next week to knock my line voltage down to 240 volts from the 252 volts that PSE&G supplies.  This will be the end of my cold weather charging problems.

I have heard that voltage tolerance is actually a regulatory function, meaning a political decision in the local area.  A friend up in upstate NY who works for the power company says they can deliver plus or minus 10% of nominal, which surprises me.  (Nominal being 120 or 240.)  If I recall correctly, the good folks at quick220.com were telling me that the Arizona utility they talked to aims at plus or minus 5% for class A service, meaning not at peak load in the summer.  Class B service is plus 5% minus 10% tolerance.  This makes sense.  I have seen minus 10% at work in the summer, which works out to 108 volts.