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



  1. As I think you know Peder, our goal is to have one pure EV that would 90% of the time cover the distances we actually drive, and one PHEV, perhaps a Volt, to use for the other 10%. Both would be used regularly as commuting cars, and would rarely go more than 30 miles per day, but the PHEV would get us from, say, Denver to the Mountains and back, etc. And we would power both nearly 100 percent with solar. Of course, a better scenario would be a 300 mile range pure EV with quick charge capability. Then there's no need for a PHEV at all.

  2. Christof,

    I agree.

    We're looking at one bev and one phev for the next few years for our garage.

    For me the range anxiety is overplayed and is leading many folks who could do well with a bev, especially two car families, away from them.

    Great news this week Ford on both bev and phev fronts!


  3. The swiss army knife is a great analogy. It's not the greatest knife in the world (or the greatest scissors, or corkscrew, or toothpick). But if you're only going to carry one tool...