Wednesday, July 29, 2009

“Put a Plug in it“

Plug in America has crossed the line from advocacy to opposition. That is my opinion.

They could have and should have done a legislative piece about balancing and changing the CARB rules without throwing BMW and the Mini-E under the bus.

Here is their press release.
Judge for yourself.

Advocacy for plug in cars is something I whole heartedly support, ripping into one of the very few (two) car companies that has a Li freeway legal plug in Electric car on the road today is not.

It is my sincere hope that the Board of Directors of Plug in America do not allow board members or advisory board members who have family working for rival companies to launch into an ill informed hit piece against any company, especially a company who has 500 plug in vehicles on the road and a division dedicated to advancing plug in electric drive technologies.

The majority of the press release was sourced form two individuals and their issues with BMW. I note with significance that that their issues were not with the car or the performance of the car in general, but rather the company, during the deployment and with about a third of the cars going to fleets at near zero rates.

What the press release was not about, is BMW putting 500 plug in electric cars on the road, the large majority of them in private drivers hands and the complexities of that deployment. It was not about BMW Mini-E promoting excitement and media across the world for plug in cars. It was not about BMW waiving a months lease to show good faith to their drivers while dealing with some delays, It was not about how the Mini-E is part of the development process “BMW Project I” working towards a BMW city car coming in 2011-12 . It was not about the overwhelming satisfaction and emission free driving that the vast majority of drivers are getting from the Mini-E.

It was not about the fact that I, and hundreds of other Mini-E drivers, and thousands of others who ride in the car, and tens of thousand who see the car on the raod doing 85 on the freeways are now convinced that plug ins and electric vehicles are the future that we need (is that not a goal of Plug in America?)

None of these pro plug in facts were even touched on by Plug in America. Shame on them!

Plug In America advisory board member Chelsea Sexton said: "This is turning out to be a half-baked, poorly executed program by BMW, who is acting solely for the sake of regulatory compliance.

I disagree with vigor. What the program consist of is putting 500 plug-in BEV Mini-Es with Li batteries on the road. There has been straight talk from BMW from the beginning that this is a one year development field test program with no expectations that you will be able to buy the car. I reject 100% the argument that we are done with development and testing phase, that we should complain that this is just another test as opposed to a mass market retail product. The key component to the opening of the electric car world to the masses is the energy density of the Li batteries and that needs to be tested rigorously in all driving climates and conditions which is exactly what GM and several other car makers are doing…. Testing, just like BMW for their future BMW City Car

The press release further states

In contrast to BMW's lease plan, Nissan has announced a late 2010 delivery of 5,000 all-electric vehicles designed from the ground up and offered for sale for between $25,000 and $33,000, before federal tax credits. The Japanese auto company, recently awarded a $1.6-billion loan from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to build a battery plant and modify its existing Tennessee facilities, has also announced that it will deliver hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles in 2012.

There is an axiom that says “half a truth is worse than a lie.”

The Plug in America press release told half a truth and chastises BMW for the high cost of the Mine-E lease. It Ignores that a leased of financed Tesla can cost $2000 a month, and scolds BMW Mini-E that it will cast a negative impression on folks that Plug ins are expensive, while praising Nissan for offering for sale a market rate between $25,000 and $33,000, before federal tax credits car.”

That’s a half truth and they as plug in advocates know it, Nissan is going to sell you the car and then lease you the batteries. “Ghosn aims for Nissan's electric cars, minus the battery, to cost as much as a standard car. Consumers will lease the battery at a cost that, including charging, will match what they would have paid for gasoline. “

Any car company can make an electric car without the batteries for the same price as a car with a traditional gas drivetrain. The cost is in the batteries and the fact that Nissan is leasing the battery packs is a convenient omission by Plug in America to fit their “ BMW is the bad guy” story line.

Plug in America, you blew it. You gave a platform and the benefit of the doubt with the weight of the story to one disgruntled individual (who BMW has graciously agreed to be released from his lease obligations) and an ev entusiast who was cut from the program thus a bit of an axe to grind. Those voices while important, were not balanced by the hundreds of very satisfied Mini-E Drivers and the goals and accomplishments of the program.

The weight and credibility of Plug in America via this press release was then used by major media including the La Times to trash BMW in other stories.

It certainly tarnishes Plug in America in this plug in drivers mind.

That is regrettable.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Confessions of a “Sun Guzzler”

Thursday | July 23, 2009

I’m driving like a mad man! Burning up the electrons like they grow on trees, like there is no end to the supply. (we’re going to need to change some of those old wise tales)

Heavy foot, light heart, huge smile as I turn past 2000 miles in my first four weeks (not counting two weeks of away time from #183) of driving Mini-E #183 on sunshine.

I honestly think I have discovered the holy grail of environmental nirvana, a solar powered home and car. Living and driving on sunshine!

I admit to being more than a tad conflicted. All my life I have been preaching conservation, conservatism of our resources and way of life, to bundle trips, light on the gas pedal to make driving more efficient, save precious fuel and money, take mass transit, and yet here I am joyriding with the accelerator pedal floored like there is no tomorrow. like a 16 year old who exuberantly says to his mom “I’ll go to the store for you” just so he can go out for a drive, roll the drivers window down and howl like a wild man! Any excuses to get into #183 and go is what I am looking for.

The law and I will surely be meeting soon for a little “slow down son” talk.

So what gives,? I am putting twice the mileage on my electric car than I did with my gas car and having twice as much fun! All in serious violation of my enviro-conscious.

I am conflicted. Because I am not conserving, and yet I am, I am not, I am! Am not-am so.

It reminds me of a story, when I met my wife years ago. She said she has some “bad news and some good news.” The bad news is she liked really good wine (every dating mans worst nightmare!) The good news she said: “ and I can afford to pay for it” big smile on dating mans face :)

For the first time in my life, I have been able to let loose the beast of a driver who is an enthusiast at heart and an environmentalist in soul and not feel entirely guilty about it. I said entirely because as I mentioned, I still am conflicted.

The bad news is “I really like to drive fast cars and have fun all the time” the good news is I can afford to pay for it because I am driving on sunshine with no emissions .

I am a Sun Guzzler! I don’t know if I should feel guilty or celebrate!
The future is sunshine and no emissions :)


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mini-E Politics, Problems and Driving Fun!

Try as I might to keep this blog locked in on my one year driving experience with #183, the politics and tax breaks of the Mini-E program have surfaced and never one to be shy, I add my own individual thought to the issue.

I appreciate and do not degrade or hold less valuable, the thoughts of others.

What has “upset” me most about all previous electric car trials is that they are held in secrecy by car makers or only with fleets (now going on with plug in Prius, plug in Escapes and other manufacturers primarily with utilities.) The individual driver, the lay person (me) was never allowed to participate in these futuristic trials. Do these prior trails have glitches and problems, you bet! It’s called a field trial.

Along comes BMW and they want real world drivers as part of the field trial. To good to be true for me as a solar energy nut, but it is true and I am driving #183 on sunshine for a year. Literally, driving on sunshine.

There are some paying individual Mini E drivers that are not happy that BMW is letting a large chunk (estimates offered are 100 to 150) of their 450 cars go to non profits, utilities, educational institutions and governments as part of the field trial for $10 a month.

Exactly what “I signed up for” is a 12 month lease at $850 a month plus tax to take the keys of a very special trail vehicle for a year, provide feedback to BMW and then hand the keys back. Nothing more, nothing less. The ratio or what BMW does with the other cars is of zero concern to me. With one asterisk.

*Thank you for opening up the field trial to average Joe drivers.

No doubt BMW is and has honestly said they needed to deliver the cars by a date certain to obtain the important CARB credits earned from a ZEV. I honestly can’t fault them for that. My opinion is they are very serious about their “I” project, very serious about their Mini-E project and very smart about deploying the field test in a manor that is most beneficial regarding tax breaks and other financial incentives. The idea of using the Mini Cooper as a mule is a brilliant cost saving measure allowing them to gain needed real world electric drive train experience akin to Chevy using the Cruze as a mule for the upcoming Volt.

Oh yeah, you can’t drive a Cruze/Volt mule in a field test either.

To assume this is all a crock and designed solely to take advantage of ZEV credits is void of any logic or reality considering the great cost of this project in relation to the ZEV credits and the fact that every other major car maker is now “making major plays” in the electric car field. It’s just that BMW was a few years ahead of most of them.

If there is a problem with the ZEV credit system then by all means fix it, I support that. I do not support blaming a company like BMW for following the rules set for all, and being one of the first out of the gate with an electric car that I can drive and benefiting by those rules.

I rather think the word is Bravo!

Back to the cost of the car.

I know Mini-E drivers come into this in a different situation and price points with cars. But here is how it breaks down for me. I have driven Volvos the past 16 years all leases. The last few were S60s and the last one was a S60R.

Volvo S60 R
36 month lease $2500 down payment = $ 69 a month
Lease payments with tax $479
Insurance $ 89
Maintenance and repair $140
Gas $120

Total $897

lease payments with tax $925
One month free credit to all $-77
Insurance $ 22
Maintenance and repair $ 0
Fuel $ 0 (zero for me)

Total $870

For me it’s a push or perhaps a few hundred dollars extra to participate in the BMW Field trial. To participate in the evolution of electric transportation. That's a deal that I can afford and am willing to make!

I consider the Mini-E every bit the car that the G35 and the Volvo are each with their own strengths and weaknesses. If I had the choice of the three cars today providing the Electric Mini-E had four seats in a production version I would buy the Mini-E hands down.

Now I know you can get a small car for $150 a month or drive a well kept older car for a lot less money than the Mini-E. I am certainly not trying to put forth an argument that the Mini-E is cheap, but for me it’s very much in line with what I was paying for my cars before.

So far so good! 3 weeks of great driving fun, 1300 miles on the odometer and no problems with the car.

Longest trip was 93 miles on the freeway with 13 miles left the range indicator.

Next post will cover in more detail the driving experience.

Call me a homey for BMW, call me a cheerleader or booster, call me naive, call me bad at math, call me anything you want….

But call me an electric car driver, driving a really fun car on sunshine.

Loving my year with #183.