2nd Gen E BMW's yearlong Mini E trial exposes infrastructure problems

Discussion in '2nd Generation: 2007+ R55 through R61' started by Nathan, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

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    Early next decade, BMW of North America plans to sell an electric "megacity car" as a subbrand of BMW, similar to the brand's M high-performance cars. But further details are skimpy.

    BMW already is preparing for that launch. Its yearlong trial with the Mini E electric car has opened the auto marketer's eyes to the maze of regulations facing plug-in electric cars.

    "We are learning a heck of a lot just about the sheer infrastructure," says Jim O'Donnell, CEO of BMW of North America. "When we bring out another electric car, we will be in a great position because we know all the wrinkles."

    BMW has 450 Mini E electric cars running in a yearlong trial in metropolitan New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles.

    There should be more cars on the roads. But after more than six months of addressing regulatory hurdles, Mini has yet to get approval to install more than 30 additional fast-charge boxes in New Jersey. With a 240-volt box, the Mini E can be recharged in three hours rather than the 21 hours needed using 110-volt power.

    "If you are in a house with a normal supply and you want to bring a 240-volt [charger], you have to have an agreement from the power utility," O'Donnell says. "New Jersey is the most difficult because there are so many local authorities."

    An inspector from each municipality has to approve the installation to make sure it complies with local codes. The cost of the box ranges from $1,500 to $1,800. The box had to be approved by Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

    What O'Donnell calls "the New Jersey problem" is compounded because "all the components are certified, but they say the system isn't certified," he says.

    A BMW spokesman says the Mini E experience is a prelude to a more widespread launch of electric vehicles.

    "We are dealing with only three metropolitan areas of the United States," he says. "Think about when you start to build the national network and all those local codes."

    Read more: BMW's yearlong Mini E trial exposes infrastructure problems: AutoWeek Magazine
     
  2. goaljnky

    goaljnky New Member

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    So this brings up a what-if... What sort of a load and strain will be placed on the power grid if all of a sudden we all started driving electric cars? Would that open the door to the rise of another Enron? Will we need to raise regulatory over sight in anticipation?
     
  3. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    I've read reports that say "we have enough electric grid capacity for 180 million plug in cars" and other reports that claim we'll crash the grid if a small fraction of that number are actually deployed. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle - depends a lot on when the vehicles are charged (there's lots of excess capacity available late at night) and also by location (some local power distribution systems have much less headroom than others).
     
  4. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

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    Our national grid

    is designed for peak power delivery, that happens in the afternoon. So it depends on what time you charge the cars. If you charge at night, about 60% of grid capacity is available. If you charge in the afternoon when it's hot and all the factories are running and air conditioners are on, there's not much capacity.

    Interesting thing here. If you combine time of use meters (cheaper power at night) with electric vehicles, the power generation actually becomes more cost effective, as the power plants get to run for more kilowatt hours averaged per unit time, and the cost of the plant can be spread out over more kilowatt hours sold.

    My folks had an EV-1 and charged using a time of use meter. They paid between 1-2 cents per mile for electricity. Depending on your cost of gas, that's about 150-300 MPG cost equivalent. If they were to charge at peak times of the day, that cost was about 4x that, so 45-75 mpg equivalent.

    Matt
     
  5. goaljnky

    goaljnky New Member

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    Matt, these time of use meters is something that everyone has, or do you need to buy that?
     
  6. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

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    In my area of TX they are just starting to install time of use meters. The project is slated to last 3 years to convert all of the Dallas/Fort Worth area and we get a surcharge of 2 bucks and change per month over the next 3 years to pay for the switch. However, our rates have just gone down for some odd reason. With no call to the provider of choice my Kw/hr rate has dropped 3 cents.
     
  7. Deviant

    Deviant Banned

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    Well, the transition to a smart electric grid combined with some of the "Better Place" ideas and a whole lot of money should make the gradual increase in the number of EVs pretty problem free for most. Keep in mind with current technology and capabilities most people will not choose an electric car as a sole vehicle and the primary buyers of them initially will be higher income households that already have one or more cars in the driveway. I also see telecommuting being a bigger thing in the future (I'm sure Nathan can attest to his strenuous daily commute) and it's environmental impact will result in fewer cars on the road, all cars traveling fewer average miles, and decreased energy uses due to the downsizing of centralized office buildings (why should a company pay to air-condition you while you pay to air condition your house? Just stay home and pay to cool yourself).
     
  8. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

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    Depends on the area...

    When the folks got the EV-1, the meter was free but it was only given to those that really needed it. That was quite a while ago, and it's really done on a utility and regional (county, city, state, whomever has the regulatory oversite) basis.

    What's really dumb about the slow roll-out of time of use meters is that you really do save a lot of money for doing things like running your dishwasher and washing machine (whatever) at night when power is cheap. Without time of use meters, all that can be done is ask for people to lessen loads at peak use hours. With the time of use meters, you save a ton of money to use less at peak hours, and shift your load to off-peak.

    It's really a case of letting the market work....

    Matt
     
  9. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    Blasphemer! Stone him! Stone him!
    :lol:
     
  10. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

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    Ouch!

    ;)

    but in this case, the marginal cost to really complete the incentive loop is so low I have no clue why every utility district isn't going for this. Just seems stupid to me.

    But then out here in California there's Fresno, that won't even put in water meters. They have flat rate water prices and no knowlege about how much they use! Totally boneheaded in a state that's running low on fresh water.

    Seems that selfishness trumps intelligence yet again.

    Matt
     
  11. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    Flat rate water - HA!

    Well, that's one way of "letting the market work" - boneheads. :rolleyes:
     
  12. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

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    One argument I always get into with free-marketers

    asks the question, if the design of the market doesn't capture all the true costs, how can it optimize the best price? This is when the discussion usually turns from ideas to insults....

    Back on topic: It's funny that New Jersey has all these issues with regulations for meters. Guess that Mini just didn't contract with the right "union"!

    Matt
     
  13. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

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    I figure if a 750Li for Tony, XDrive35d for Carmella, JCW Convertible for Meadow and M3 Coupe for AJ just happened to be available there would be no issues with getting any of the electrical work completed...
     
  14. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    It's more fun being off topic. :D

    You scum sucking communist. :wink5:
     

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