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.


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