Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mini-E #183, 2 years, 30,000 miles.

What a powerful little car.
The single best car in my 33 years of driving experiences.

The fundamentals of our family’s life have not changed at all the past two years, the way we drive our car, historically averaging 12k-15k a year, has not changed at all the past two years. How we drive, primarily with one pedal in an electric Mini-E powered by renewable energy, detours in a radical way from the previous 32 years of driving.

A little over two years ago, I drove up to Irvine for my first test drive of the BMW Mini-E as an inquisitive skeptical Mini-E Pioneer. Would it go slow up the hills? Would it be safe to drive in the wet? Would I be able to get to where I wanted to go? Would I fit in the car? Will it always turn on? Would the batteries wear out prematurely? Would living with the car be too complicated? Would my wife, family and friends think I was crazy? Oh my, the questions!

I drove the Mini-E that day with Huw John, my Mini-E rep, both of us 6’3” and in that short 10 minute drive, a match was struck creating a flame that continues to grow within me. I was stunned at the performance and fun of driving the Mini-E and at the possibilities of living and driving with electricity.

The past two years with Mini-E # 183 has done no less than alter my opinion, my imagination, creativity and hopefulness that we as a family or a city or a nation can become energy independent, that we can become wealthier, that we can clean our air and live a healthier life, That we can have global energy equity with electricity, standing in stark contrast to the have and have not’s of an energy source that is in the protected hands of the few.

For those that are fearful or for outright opponents of the electric car, ( Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh I’m calling you out ) replace your fear with imagination and curiosity for the future, while maintaining a dose of healthy skepticism. The electric car or any car for that matter, won’t work for everyone, but they will work for a majority of American households.

As I have written before, "Our greatest roadblock to our future, is the inertia of the status quo."

I believe, fear is rooted in the lack of knowledge or experience in a subject matter. Nature abhors a vacuum, so we fill that vacuum with the comforts and knowledge of the status quo and with the comfort that 99% of the population understands us when we support the status quo, (especially if we are a talk show host or a radio personality.) It amazes me, the lethargy of our population, and the desire of folks to offer inane comments about electric cars. It reminds me of the awkward times in classrooms a few decades ago when the students knew more about computer technology than the teachers did, so to hide their lack of knowledge the teachers just banned the calculators and computers from school, lest they be thought of as less than the students.

Those of you over forty can perhaps remember being in awe over a neighbor who installed one of the first garage door openers and who actually had a magic “genie” in their car to open the garage door remotely. We would stand in their garage and gaze up at this transformational device while our neighbor drove around the block remotely opening and closing the garage door. Today, nobody builds those old fashion heavy garage doors anymore; we have evolved thankfully to lightweight rollup electric garage doors powered by genies.

After two years our Clipper Creek EVSE, or charging station, is as exciting to us as your garage door opener is to you. Both are electric devices about the same size, located in the garage. It’s just another appliance running off of house electricity similar to your oven, cook-top, dryer, air conditioner or garage door opener.

A daily drive in the Mini-E is about as exciting for me, as a drive in your exciting car is for you, It really is no different. In the two years we have had the car, the Mini-E has been able to make all our trips except two, both trips to Napa Ca, where we would take the Ford Escape, even prior to getting the Mini-E.

In two years and 30,000 miles I have not gone to a gas station. My sympathies are with the owners of the gas stations as I know their future is fairly short lived. I’ve noticed more and more of them are closing, perhaps investors are sensing the same thing. In less than a year from now my own personal solar fueling station located on my roof will be paid off entirely simply by the savings of not buying gasoline for three years ($7,000) For the rest of my life, I will be paying $0.00 to drive 15,000 miles a year. What will you be paying for gasoline for the next 25 years?

A few decades ago many of us began to recoil when being in close proximity to a smoker. At first we would find a table away from the smoker, and later we would ban smoking all together in most restaurants and places where the public gathers. Second hand smoke is disgusting to me and I am sure it was for the food service worker who was inhaling all day. If you smoke that’s fine but keep it away from me because its unhealthy.

As a Mini-E driver I am beginning to look at tail pipes the same way. Why are we polluting our air? In major urban areas, 70% of the man made emissions come from our transportation tail pipes. Imagine a world of electric mobility powered by renewable energy and those emissions turn from 70% into a big fat zero. Imagine those that are living by freeways and heavily trafficked roads breathing clean air once again. I would present an argument that there are as many cars as there are people, and that breathing second hand smoke from 300 million cars is a far greater national health threat than second hand smoke from smokers.

So here is my summary from two years of driving a solar powered BMW Mine-E.
It’s better, it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it’s more fun, It last longer, It’s better for my neighbor and I continue to have a blast and love Mini-E #183.
You can live and drive powered by sunshine.

Whether the first sunny and warm spring day, or your two year anniversary with an electric car powered with renewable energy, sunshine always makes you smile:)

Mini-E #183


  1. Hi mvoorberg,

    The cost of the Solar PV is determined by 15,000 miles multiplied by .25kwhs per mile for a total of 3750 khw per year to power the car. A 1.7 kw solar pv system in sunny states like California will produce 2635kwh a year. As part of our larger sytem to power the home and car the per kw system price was $4,000 for a total cost of our gas station of $6,800.

    In our case this production is at peak time when we are at work and we are paid $0.29 per kwh produced. We plug in and power our car at super off peak times between midnight and 7am for $0.14 per kwh hour. The net result is that the 2635 kwh produced at peak time is the same cost as 3750kwh used at off peak. This is called time of use metering.

    My prior car was a volvo s60 and averaged 20 miles per galon or $3,000 a year for gas. Three year total $9,000 a year.


  2. This is so awesome! Do you have a guide that could help me figure out what you are doing? I live in Tucson, AZ where we have the Leaf. I would rather have a Mini-E though. How long do you get to keep the Mini? What do you plan to do after you have to give it up or has that changed now? Thanks for being a pioneer!

  3. Peder,
    Great, reflective and thought-provoking entry. I am inspired by your example, and jealous that it's taking so long for us to be able to follow it, thanks to Nissan's foot-draggingly slow rollout of the LEAF, especially in the so-called "forgotten 36" states like Colorado.

    In terms of the anti-EVers, their "America can't do it" attitude is completely, and totally, anti-American.

    Wish someone with much more stature than me would hit the anti-EVers on this, many of whom are Rush Limbaugh type conservatives who claim to be the "most American" Americans out there. Not true, so not true!

  4. Hi Chris,
    I have thought much about the cost of batteries/electric motors and the cost of a traditional drive train. I agree that the role of batteries is fuel storage.

    Comparing that fuel storage to a fuel tank the ice car is way cheaper. However if you then factor the drive train between gas and electric the electric car with it’s simple and small motor and controller is far cheaper that the ice engine/transmission/exhaust of an ice car.

    Considering the ice car is warranted for 5 years and 60-70 k miles typically, and the electric car is 7 years and 100k typically, I don’t think we can yet say which car is going to be cheaper to repair or replace either the battery for the electric car or the engine/transmission of a gas car. I really think you could make strong arguments for both cases.

    My guess is that by 2013-2015 a drive train combo including the batteries for both cars will be about the same cost, with the electric cars warranty growing in miles and years as the tech continues to improve.

    So for me I tend to lump the battery in as a drive train cost and I think over the long haul (25 years and the warranted life of the solar PV system) it will be as cheap to repair or replace, and last just as long or longer than an ice drive train.

    Certainly for the next few years there is a significant entry cost for the electric car.