Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A last Mini-E lesson learned...2 cars 1 charger, easy!

All you need is a little $0.99 two plug doohicky adapter from Home Depot.  That’s a joke.

After two and a half years and 36,000 sunshine powered miles, I have learned and shared many lessons about how driving a sunshine powered electric car fits into our lives,  you can read the dozens of prior post to see all the experiences, but to cut to the chase,  the answer is brilliantly! It is simply the best car I have driven in 33 years.

As an antsy…as in anticipation,  Mini-E family  transitioning to the ActiveE, we signed up as early as possible and were approved for the ActiveE in early December. On December 10th, AV came out and installed our new universal J1772 wallbox for the ActiveE, removing the proprietary box for the Mini-E, as we expected the car on December 13th.

A slight delay - not unusual in the world of pioneers - has pushed back the delivery of the ActiveE for the original Mini-E drivers until mid January.  This left us with the Mini-E to drive for another month, but only with the ability to charge at 12 amps and 110 volts.  This is why it’s great to be a pioneer.  This small timing glitch gave us a chance to see how two fully electric cars would fit into our lives.  Let me explain how.

We know that one electric car does, and we know that we do not have the ability to run two 40 amp circuits for two chargers in the garage.  In our garage we have the 220 volt 40 amp circuit and a 110 volt dedicated circuit with no load other than the garage door opener. So the opportunity to drive a month on 110 voltage  was a great chance to see if charging that way would work for me.

The results?

No difference at all compared to charging at 220 volts on weekdays, and a 50% hindrance on weekends as we wanted to take longer drives,  multiple times a day and we could not do so charging the Mini-E at 110.  I call this a great success and here is why.

In our case it will work like this, Julie  will drive the BMW ActiveE with her 45 mile RT commute and will be the primary user of the 220 AV wallbox.   I will drive the second (future) full electric car like the ActiveE  for my 25 mile RT commute, and use the 110 circuit as my primary charger.   Most of the time on weekends we will use the ActiveE for our longer trips but anytime I need a little extra juice, either during the week or on the weekends, the 220 charger is always available for my use as well.   95% of the time I will not need it, but I will have access to it anytime I need the 220 charger.

This little month long experiment has now changed my thoughts on my future car,  Before this I was leaning to a Volt type small plug in hybrid SUV.  Now I’m convinced that my second car will be a fully electric small SUV like the upcoming BMW electric iX5 (not really, just a dream, please?)

One or two  times a year we will rent a long range gasser for trips of several hundred miles.  My hope is that manufactures like BMW will consider loaner programs for their owners of premium electric cars on a once or twice a year basis. 

Julie drives 18,000 miles a year, I drive 15,000 miles a year, in the past we spent $5,500 a year on gasoline. We both will have no problem driving electric cars  powered by sunshine, sharing one 220 volt charger. Our gasoline savings alone equal a new $27,000 car every 5 years. Remember, my Solar PV system has completly paid for itself in 5 years and is now paid off.

We are looking forward to the ActiveE. It’s going to be a real gas to drive!

Mini-E #183, 36,000 miles. 


  1. This problem is very similar to the one we are having at work. We have lots of EV owners (30 or so Leaf's, and a few scattered Tesla's and home conversions). Our employer has graciously made about a dozen 110V outlets available for our use, and has installed two L2 chargers as well. The problem is - everyone wants the L2 charger. We can't use it efficiently because once the car plugged in is finished, the owner can't always come move it immediately, and the next person in line can't immediately take over.
    What we need (and it sounds like you as well) is an EVSE with two plugs on the end. Obviously you can't charge two cars at once on one circuit, so only one is active at a time. Plug in both cars, and when one is done charging, the EVSE activates the other plug. I know there is some additional cost in the cabling - but something like this would be great for our office - and in any two plugin household.

  2. Anon,
    I hope for the day that every workplace has the same issues as your workplace. Thank you for your comment. It brings a few thoughts to mind.

    1. You’re right, a single EVSE with two to four plugs that has circuits to determine when one car is finished charging then automatically switching over to the next car would be a huge improvement for both workplace and two EV households. I can see the readout already, “you are number 3 in the que and your car will begin charging in 4 hours 10 minutes” which of course is fine for a 7-8 hour work day.

    2. Successful workplaces have fitness centers, food lounges, day care for kids and many other “perks” that are essential for productive working and retaining top quality workers in very competitive fields. I believe that a successful and well thought out EVSE scenario for employees will be a similar requirement for companies in the future.

    I’d love to hear more general comments from you regarding that many EV drivers at a workplace and their overall satisfaction levels with electric mobility.

  3. Problem with a charge station that has two plugs is that it would have to be a complete redesign. The critical path element is the contactor (relay) that services each plug. Very expensive and subject to many safety caveats.