If you want to learn more about what it’s like to drive an electric car, then check out the bloggers who are test driving BMW’s Mini E. The Mini E Field Trial, described as “an official public field trial of the first, 100% electric, zero emissions Mini,” gives drivers an opportunity to experience the ups and downs of owning a BMW EV.
Their experiences shouldn’t be missed by anyone who’s considering moving to a zero-emissions vehicle. Robert’s Mini E Field Trial blog, for example, addresses a subject that’s long been a curiosity for battery engineers (see his October 19th entry). When temperatures plummeted in late October, Robert wrote, “At first it seemed like a problem with the heater drawing too much energy, but it has become apparent that even with minimal or no usage of the heater, the MINI E’s range has been severely reduced.”
His experience mirrors that of Timothy Gill, a New Jersey-based software engineer who’s also field testing a Mini E. On December 29, Gill wrote about the relationship between his region’s cold weather and the varying rates of battery energy used per mile. In one entry, (“Towed! After only 87.8 miles…Sheesh!”), Gill discusses his experience of having the Mini run out of juice while he was driving home from work.
Those blogs, and those of others who are driving Mini Es, give some insight into the subject of so-called “range anxiety.” Robert wonders how his use of the car’s heater is affecting his driving range, while Gill mentions that at one point he had to drive home to get his cell phone, “in case I ran out of juice today.”
Both drivers, who are essentially serving as guinea pigs in the early days of the EV, provide valuable insight into the issues that will face manufacturers as they bring the technology to market.
For me, the most intriguing part of the Mini E Field Trial was my phone discussion with Timothy Gill. Clearly, Gill views this as a learning experience, and he’s keeping an open mind about electrics. Despite having had the unpleasant experience of being towed, Gill is upbeat about electrics. “You get this pleasant sensation that you’re not using oil from OPEC,” he says. “And if somebody comes up behind you, flashing their brights at you, you can leave them in the dust, which is a real pleasure.”
Moreover, Gill says that when his field trial is over, he’ll consider buying an electric vehicle. “If they came out with a car that got 300 miles of range and could be charged quickly on a 110V outlet, I would be happy to have it as my primary car,” he says.