2nd Gen E Behind the Wheel | Mini E Gas-Pump Freedom (Restrictions Apply)

Discussion in '2nd Generation: 2007+ R55 through R61' started by Nathan, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

    Mar 30, 2009
    Short North
    +10,069 / 0 / -0
    Published: March 25, 2010
    New York Times

    DRIVING the Mini E in and around New York City highlights both the promises and the pitfalls of electric cars.

    One promise, backed up on an only mildly nail-biting drive through Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Westchester County suburbs, is that the Mini E — an electric version of BMW’s Mini Cooper — can travel more than 100 miles on a charge in favorable conditions. As Mini has said, you may be surprised how far 100 miles is when you are commuting or running local errands.

    Another is that the Mini, in contrast to plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt that arrives late this year, will never make contact with a gasoline nozzle.

    The Mini E driver also spends just $3 to $6 for 100 miles’ worth of electricity; a car that averages 25 m.p.g. would cost $12 to cover the same distance, assuming a gasoline price of $3 a gallon.

    The pitfalls may be easy to ignore while you’re humming silently in the Mini, but they are lurking.

    First, you cannot buy or lease one unless you are among the 450 people selected for a yearlong pilot project.

    Second, battery-sapping winter weather can seriously reduce the car’s driving range.

    As with hybrids, the Mini E captures energy from its brakes to recharge the battery. But the Mini’s regenerative brakes are arguably too aggressive in their energy scavenging: if you step off the throttle, the Mini drags itself to a stop — you need not even touch the brake pedal. With practice, feathering the throttle allowed me to modulate the dragging-anchor effect. BMW has considered adding cruise control or a free-wheeling mode for smoother cruising.

    The space-hogging battery pack eliminates the Mini’s back seat and most of its cargo area, leaving just an oddly shaped parcel shelf. The nearly 600-pound battery also neuters the Mini’s signature go-kart handling. To imagine what happens when you want to change directions quickly, picture four adults standing on the rear bumper.

    Yet driven for mileage rather than excitement, the Mini has no trouble keeping pace with traffic, running from a stop to 60 miles per hour in 8.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 95 m.p.h. Even for a committed petro-head, it is genuinely satisfying to drive a car that runs on electrons; it feels as though you are getting away with something.

    Those electrons spring from advanced lithium-ion batteries like the ones in laptop computers; the coming Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt will also have lithium-ion, which offer roughly double the power with half the size and weight of the nickel-metal-hydride batteries found in most hybrid cars.

    Mini doesn’t like to publicize the limp-home mode, worried that owners might come to rely on it, but the E can crawl roughly 10 miles at up to 25 m.p.h. once its battery indicator is at zero.

    That helpful feature brings up the “range anxiety†of those considering an E.V. That issue has proponents of plug-in hybrids like the Volt — which switch seamlessly to gasoline once batteries are depleted on longer trips — citing their superior range and marketability.

    My own teenage years were dotted with hikes to service stations, gas can in hand, after I misjudged how far my nickel-and-dime fillups would take me. But range anxiety is more acute in an electric car, as I discovered when I briefly thought I had too little juice to make it home. (Going easy on the throttle, I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge with miles to spare).

    But stray too far afield in the Mini E and not even a gas station can save you. You will also need a tow to the nearest electrical outlet and a few hours to wait for a recharge.

    That’s a chief reason why electrics are being positioned as commuter cars.

    Until there’s a widespread charging network, an electric vehicle is largely tethered within the radius of its travel range — 100 miles, or whatever — from home. E.V. evangelists tend to play down range limitations, arguing that a charging infrastructure could be quickly developed. But nationwide charging remains more theory than reality.

    For all the promise of electric cars, the 220-volt question remains this: How many consumers, especially apartment dwellers or anyone who lacks a secure, handy outlet, will buy the E.V. first and hope the plugs will follow?
  2. VioletDC

    VioletDC Member

    Mar 27, 2010
    Leesburg, VA
    +3 / 0 / -0
    Very interesting article on the MINI E, Nathan. That last paragraph really jumped out at me, re: apartment dwellers (me!) and the fact that electronic hubs/outlets are nonexistent 4 the most part. I never knew the Volt could switch to gas once the battery died! Y didn't MINI think of that??? :confused:

    Also makes me feel sorry 4 the MINI E owners' inability to participate in long runs (MOTD, 4 example) or other enthusiast activities 4 fear of running out of juice at an inopportune time.
  3. Tom2112

    Tom2112 New Member

    Mar 16, 2010
    Stig Substitute
    Sharon, PA
    +2 / 0 / -0
    Yes, aside from the manufacturer's unenthusiastic support of electric vehicles, the biggest nail in e-vehicle's coffin is the lack of infrastructure to support it.

    Apartment dwellers are pretty much eliminated. Inner city dwellers that park on the street are pretty much eliminated. And even suburbia has it's problems. How many people have a 220v/30amp circuit running to their garage? At least the suburbanites can pay and have one installed, but that is another hidden cost.

    Stack on top of that the added load on the local (neighborhood) circuit. If several e-vehicles charge all night, the could overload the local capacity to supply enough amperage and cause brown outs. Fortunately, it would take a bunch of vehicles to do it, and at this point it is unlikely to happen because not many people have them. But fast forward a few years, and we could have a lot of problems if the infrastructure doesn't adapt.

    I like the idea of e-vehicles, but it's time is not as near as everyone seems to think.
  4. rkw

    rkw Well-Known Member

    May 7, 2009
    San Francisco
    +449 / 0 / -0

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