Monday, January 31, 2011

The New City, BMW Films and Mini-E #183

From the minds of some of the most influential scientists, academics, pioneers and entrepreneurs of our time, this four-part documentary paints a unique picture of technology, culture, cities, our past, present and how it all relates to the future of mobility.

As a Mini-E “Pioneer” I had the great fun of spending a day in Hollywood working with a very talented production crew in the filming of the Mini-E segments for these four films. The very best part of this experience and one that I will always remember, was meeting my fellow Mini-E Drivers, Todd Crook Mini-E #140 from Long Beach, and Tom Moloughney Mini-E #250 from New Jersey. We all come at this from slightly different angles, but we all love the Mini-E in particular and the electric car in general. We have blogged together for 20 months but this was our first meeting.
I want to acknowledge the work of Donald Shoup in his book the High Cost of Free Parking. Although we all quote figures and statistics from time to time including in this film, I do want to recognize his research I have paired with my observations.
We have shared an interesting journey together, the three of us have over 100,000 miles logged in the Mini-E. Tom is the mileage leader of the group with over 50,000 miles in his Mini-E. It’s a neat feeling to know that when we signed up for this ride we were the only ones along with a handful of Tesla’s, legacy EV Rav4s, and the conversion electric car guys. In just 20 short months we now have major manufactures with the Leaf and Volt in the marketplace today, several more coming online next year, and just about everyone by 2013 including BMW with the imaginative, innovative lightweight Life Drive architecture and carbon fiber construction of the Megacity car.

The 500 or so Mini-E Pioneers provided a lot of knowledge and experience that has been helpful in the development of the electric car. BMW let loose in the wild a pre production car and gave the keys over to hundreds of normal everyday people and let those individuals experience and refine future BMW project I cars. That was a huge risk and BMW is to be congratulated, not chastised for that effort. Step two of the program begins this summer with the Active E, an in house rear wheel drive BMW 1 series with vastly different battery and drive architecture, not to mention four seats, a small trunk and connectivity.

I am very aware and appreciative of the pioneers that arrived before us, in some cases a decade or more before us. You are the ones that we read and researched when contemplating our entry into the Mini-E program. That list is distinguished, very small and includes the publisher of this website, William Moore and his many contributors.

The morning of the filming day, I left Carlsbad in Mini-E #183 that we have nicknamed Buzz, derived from Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story, which was derived from the Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The same Buzz who is also in this film series. Go figure!

I knew I had a 210 mile drive that day so my plan was to drive the 50 miles to the Lake Forest BMW dealership and then charge up during an early lunch. I left there and drove up to Hollywood, around Hollywood filming and then drove back to the Lake Forrest BMW dealership around 6pm. That was a trip of 107 miles, all freeway at 65-70mph with about 25% stop and go near LA, all done on one charge with 9 miles remaining on the range indicator! I plugged Buzz in and then had a wonderful dinner nearby. After about 1.5 hours I returned and Buzz had charged up to 55% more than enough for my last 50 miles back to the house.

A heck of day with 210 miles of driving up to and around Hollywood and back to Carlsbad and a personal record of 107 miles in one charge with room to spare.

To this day, it is still a bit unreal that I am driving all over So-Cal in a blast of a car to drive powered by solar energy from the sun. Well, at least the 25k in miles that I charge from home.
It is also with great interest that I watch the film series beginning with the “New City.” As a San Diego County Planning Commissioner, in a county of 3 million citizens the question is perhaps the most important one we face. We know that transportation has historically driven land use patterns and decisions, from the time when man and woman first jumped bareback on a horse.
What is the future of mobility?

You can drive on sunshine. To Infinity and Beyond.

Enjoy the films.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mini-E drivers prove EV’s are more than city/commuter cars.

Popular belief is that electric cars of a range of around 100 miles are only good as commute cars or city cars. This is a story line pushed hard by Chevy in the marketing of the Volt, journalist and bloggers unfamiliar with electric car technology fearful of range anxiety. The Volt has a range extender thus is an all in one vehicle.

The Volt has cast its vote into the range anxiety fear of the public and their prior EV experience, while downplaying the experienced voice of current edition EV drivers via the UC Davis study who express that range is not a significant issue in the use of their cars. A big mistake.

I beginning to think Elon Musk had it right when he said of the Volt, and I paraphrase, It’s neither fish or fowl, and is not particularly good as an electric car or a gas car. The Volt only goes about 25-35 miles as a pure EV around 30% of the range of a pure EV. In range extending mode the Volt which uses premium gas, gets 35MPG. This is 15 miles per gallon less than the Prius that gets 50mpg on regular gas as well as less than other gasoline and diesel cars in the similar size market segment.

So as neither a longer range electric car, or a fuel sipping hybrid or gasoline car while costing significantly more than either the Leaf or Prius, Its hard to make a case for mass market appeal with this vehicle architecture. Even harder when you consider the future with reducing battery prices and increasing fuel cost.

But what about the myth that pure EV’s like the Mini-E, Tesla Roadster and Model S, the Leaf and the Ford Focus Electric and many more on the way, are just commuter cars or city cars and will require you to keep a second car?

Listen to what a few of us Mini-E drivers have to say on the new BMW Active E forum.

1. We use our Mini-E for:

Costco runs, Ski trips, Camping trips, Multi-night hotel hopping with charging at the hotels, Evenings out on the town, Recreational driving (really fun) taking the dogs to dog beach,
weekend trips to wine country, shopping trips to south coast plaza
day tripping.

2. I use my MINI-E for just about all my driving needs. Very rerely do I need to go further than the car can or carry more cargo than I can squeeze in the cabin.
That being said, I do have the ability to charge the car at my work with my 50 amp EVSE so that is a big help in allowing me to drive the car further than a single charge can go on any particular day.

3. We use the Mini-E primarily for commuting, but like others - we will use the Mini-E over our other vehicles whenever practical. Our biggest limitation is having a 14 year old son. Since the Mini-E is a 2 person vehicle, and duct taping him to the roof of the car impacts range dramatically, when the 3 of us are going somewhere we use one of the ICE vehicles. The Active-E should change this.

4. I'm fortunate to have miles of twisty mountain roads nearby that I use for recreational driving on the weekends, and I've always had some sort of "sporty" car for this purpose. With the Mini E, I was able to commute on the weekdays and enjoy the mountain roads on the weekend mornings. It didn't always go as far as I would have liked, but it did allow a couple hours of "spirited" driving which was usually enough. Then home for a recharge and ready again for any afternoon chores!

5. Guilty Yes, also guilty of driving more, not less, due to the "Joy" factor.

6. I'm afraid I may also be responsible for the excess use of a few tires. The car is so darn fun to drive in the twistys. For me it's environmental to be sure, but not at the cost of enthusiastic driving and performance. The Mini-E is the right blend of the two.

7. The fun of the MiniE extends to the passenger as well. I use the car often to drop of my kids for their various activities. They always want to hop in and have at times squeezed together in the front seat for short trips rather than ride in the boring Prius. Hard for me not to take them along since I enjoy driving it so much.

8. My mini is my only car I use my car for commuting and use it all day for appointments for my job. It is used for short trips and pleasure driving. It is the only car my husband and I drive together in. I bring the car home charge it. My son takes it out at from 8pm - ? most nights. My husband takes it when he has the opportunity. Our mini is in the garage for charging only. It takes many trips in a 24 hour cycle. Most days it has a full charge in the morning when I take it, charge it around 5 or 6 when I get home. Two hours later my son takes it for the next 6 hours. Brings it home and it is charged for me in the morning. My husband drives it when he can. If it is in the garage charged, someone is usually finding an excuse to drive it.

There are rare occasions when we drive long distances or I need to carry large boxes. I switch cars with my son and can’t wait until I am driving my mini again. I hate driving anything else.

My everything car is my mini E.

Seems as that those who actually drive the all electric Mini-E are getting far more practicality and enjoyment than just being a commute car. It will be interesting to hear from the Nissan Leaf divers about their experience with their cars. City/commute or so much more?

For More insight to the Mini-E drivers and the upcoming ActiveE visit the ActiveE Forum at

Mini-E #183, 24,000 miles of sunshine powered motoring