31 December 2009

To better (warmer) days...

So here we are at the end of 2009 and I realize that it's been over a month since I last blogged about my exploits with Mini-E #339. Well, with the holidays and all... (Did Thanksgiving and Christmas really go by so fast?)

And then there was work... Don't even get me started on that! (Why is it my job always seems to get worse when the year-end holidays roll around?)

What's worse, December here in NYC has been typical: COLD! And one of the things that I haven't been blogging about is how this cold weather has really curtailed my enjoyment of #339.

But that's part of the problem. I haven't really been driving her all that much this past month.

You see, I really do love the cold. I love the fresh exhilarating feeling of a brisk wind. Not to mention SNOW! (Hey, it's "Christmas time." It's suppose to be cold and snowy!)

But while I love the snow and cold... The Mini?

Not so much.

You see when it gets cold, the Mini-E uses a wee bit more power. Running the heater during the commutes when the temps are in the 20s drains the battery faster -- much like running the A/C in summer.

So, I've been using about 60 to 70% of the battery just to get to work in the morning when I've used 339's heater. Not much of a problem, thankfully, since I've gotten permission to plug in to the 120-volt outlets at work during the day.

But even then, coming out after a long day in the office, getting into a cold Mini and "booting up"... The battery gauge that after sitting on a 120-volt line at 12-amps for 8-hours (in the cold), I'd only go from 40% of charge left (after my morning commute) to about 80% of charge.

Sure, that's more than enough to get me home -- even with the heat on and "speeding" at 70 or 75 MPH. But don't expect me to make any side trips or run errands on the way home.

What's more, connecting at the 220-volt/32-amp charger at home wasn't all that much different -- mainly because it too, is an "outside" charger.

Case in point: I left the #339 charging on the 220-volt at home for 2 days -- the coldest days just before the snowstorm that left us with 16-inches of snow on December 20th. Overnight temperatures on those two days were something like 10 or 15 degrees below 0 when you took into account the wind chill factor.

With the cold and coming snow, I knew I wasn't going to drive #339 for the next couple of days. (And I never got the chance to bring her in to the dealer to swap her regular "run-flat tires" for snow tires -- all part of the "free maintenance" for us "Mini-E Pioneers.") So, I decided to move her into the garage.

I disconnected her from the juice and booted her up on the 19th -- the night before the storm, and....

Her battery gauge read "15%" charge.


After two days on 220-volt, she wasn't even fully charged?

But with the coming storm, I had no choice. I immediately stuck her in the garage and left her there -- unconnected to any electrical supply since the 120-volt outlets inside the garage can't handle the 12-amp constant draw of power.

Last Sunday, I did check up on her. I guess a week inside the garage and out of the cold elements "readjusted" her sensors because when I booted her back up, #339s's battery gauge read "58%" -- and that WITHOUT being connected to any juice whatsoever.

So, for now, Mini-E #339 has become a "garage queen."

At least until the weather warms up.

Still, I really would love to see what she does in the snow.

Maybe I'll still get the chance.

Not counting on it. But... Who knows?

Anyway, six months with Mini-E #339. (It was six months to the day on Christmas!) Six months left... And I'm still learning so much about her -- even when I'm NOT driving her! :-(
Read more!

13 November 2009

Plug in payoff!

I was too tired last night to post this. But plugging in Mini-E #339 at work yesterday morning really helped!!!

Take a look at these pics I snapped (with the camera on my cell phone) last night when I left work.

This is completely AMAZING!

A 100% refill!!!

Again, not that I had any doubts I'd make it home even if I didn't plug it in at work.

And I seriously doubt that 339's battery really was "100%" since the orange "battery charging light" on her dashboard was still blinking before I untethered her from that lamppost. (It's amazing how DARK it gets now, eh? And it's nearly as dark if I had left work at 5PM last night! Blech!)

Still, I cruised home smiling. I had all this "juice to spare," that I actually took a route that was a bit further out of my way to pick up my sis. Oh, and then I went to pick up some prescription drugs at Walgreens...

Again, I could have still done this without having to plug in at work. But most likely 339's (mildly annoying) "gong gong gong" chime would've gone off sometime during that evening commute, warning me, "Hey, lookit me!!! I'm only going to go another 30 miles if you keep driving like this!"

No... The ride home was pleasantly smooth, quiet (except for the radio) and yes... Even well-paced. (Wasn't madly dashing home at 60 or 70 or 80 MPH like I sometimes do. Even though, with a "full charge" and all that juice to spare... I could've torn down the highways and byways like a small, silent, stealth mini-jet fighter. Could've. But didn't. :-D)

The results when I finally pulled into the driveway at home:

Talk about going from cold-weather "Range Anxiety" to cold-weather "Range Comfort!"

Let's see what happens when it gets REALLY cold -- like 20 or 30 degrees cold!
Read more!

11 November 2009

She drinks while I work

One of the things I was able to accomplish during my "radio silence" (the month of October): Arranging Mini-E #339 to be recharged here at work.

After signing a "memorandum of understanding" (MoU) with the managers who oversee the "facilities" (including the two employee parking lots) -- and showing off the car to the guys who do the actual work and maintenance -- I got official permission to plug in to one of the outdoor 120-volt outlets on the parking lot lampposts.

That's a "big" change, in a way, from when I was already jacking 339 in on the sly. (Not by much though, since the MoU basically doesn't guarantee me a spot next to one of those rare outdoor outlets. Nor can I hold the company liable if something happens to 339 when she's jacked-in.)

I no longer feel guilty about plugging 399 into "the grid" and sucking down precious electricity -- all on the company's dime... And without their knowledge. Nope. It's all "legit" now.

But why would I "need" to plug Mini-E in now anyway? After all, unlike before, I have a 220-volt charger at home now, right? My commute distance (about 30-miles each way) is still the same and with a high-voltage charger at home, "Range Anxiety" shouldn't be a problem anymore, right?

Not really.

You see, with the colder weather setting in here in New York, I've been noticing that 339's estimated range falls well below the 100-miles per charge that I got over the summer months!!

For example, on one particularly cold day in early October, 339's "warning chime" that I had less than 30-miles range went off after she and I had gone just 45 miles!!! I was on my way home from work anyway, so I wasn't really worried. (Not much, anyway.) Still....

78-miles?? Even though I had started the day with a FULL charge and didn't go any where else but to work??? Really??? C'mon....!!!

So, having 339 connected and sucking down juice while I slave away in the office might be a good thing -- especially on a day like today, where the temps are in the 50's... But it's overcast and drizzly and the wind's blowing so it feels a LOT less warmer!!! If I didn't plug in 339 during the day, who knows how far I'll be able to go at the end of the day? Or, even if I'd make it home? (Yikes!)

So, today would be a good day to mark just what plugging in 339 while at work might yield during the next few cold and wintry months!

Here's the info about my commute in to work this morning.

Started with 100% charge and 339's meter said I had "93-miles" to empty. (Huh. Well, I guess it was a bit cold last night, too!)

I drove my usual route to work -- a mix of highway and local roads. But... I never drove faster than 60 MPH. Ok, maybe one or two brief "squirts" of 80 MPH to merge onto a highway and/or pass a truck... But I never did a sustained 70 or 80 MPH. Really. I just stuck in the right-hand lane letting everyone else pass me on the left. (I've come to realize, why am I rushing to work in the mornings???)

Here are the pictures (captured by my cell phone) of 339's relevant dashboard data screens once I've pulled into the lot and parked next to my much-appreciated, work-supplied jack-in point.

This shows that I've traveled 29 miles this morning and went from a "93-mls" reading when I left home to "68-mls" reading when I got to work:

93 miles minus 29 miles does NOT equal 68 miles to empty. I'm guessing that some regen braking added some power back to the battery. Also note the temp (49-degrees F) and that I've gone over 5,770 miles since picking up 339 back in June!

This next image shows the estimated percentage of battery I have left 'til empty: 71%!!!!

And finally, this last shot shows how much efficient I was at driving to work:

From what I remember in the manual, this means that if I was to travel 100 miles at th same "pace" that I did in the last 29 miles, I would need 67-amps per hour to recharge 339's battery. (Don't quote me on that... I'm still confused at this number! But I do know that "lower" is supposedly "more efficient.")

Anyway... That was this morning.

I've now pulled in more than my 8-hours here in the office... So it's time for me to go and see what 8+ hours jacked into a 120-volt line at 12-amps has done for 339's battery!

Stay tuned!!!
Read more!

08 November 2009

Back in the saddle, again...

Wow... I can't believe it's been almost TWO months since I last posted something about my Mini-E #339!!! When I first started this blog back in June (when I picked up #339), I knew there would be times like these when I just didn't have anything interesting to post—or even time to post any thing!!

Still... Has the entire month of October passed already?

Hmmm... Let's see... The Yankees won another World Series... Bloomberg has been elected Mayor of New York for another four years... All the tree leaves in Queens are dying and littering the streets... Yeah, I guess October has come and gone!

So, quick recap!! Since I last posted back in September....

  1. Mini-E #339 went back in to have a faulty battery module replaced. The "Flying Docs" did their job and repaired everything for FREE under this "pioneer" program! And it seems like the Docs did it right. Haven't had any "bad experiences" (yet) with 339's over-night battery charging or driving range—although that last spate of "cold" weather in New York back in late September and early-October... (More on that later.)

    The best thing: I had some major problems in getting 339 towed (flat-bedded, really) to BMW/Mini of Manhattan. But once again, this pioneering program really stepped up to the plate. I got several calls from BMW corporate on the day my 339 had to go back to the dealer for repairs. And the day after, I got a few calls too. Every call was to apologize for my unfortunate situation and "to re-assure" me that BMW/Mini strives "for the most excellent service" to their customers: ME!

    Just "customer service" talk, you'd think, right? More "public relations" spin? Keep up a good face? Maybe... But one of the reps (I forget his name, now) ended his call with, "Well, Paul... We want to thank you for being so understanding over this whole ordeal, so please expect something in the mail soon." I didn't think much of it because...

  2. I went on vacation the day after they finally flat-bedded 339 back to HQ in Jersey to fix her battery.

    Vacation. For 10 days. To Hawaii!! Via cruise ship! From Vancouver!

    Needless to say, that's why I didn't blog at all after my last post, "My Baby's gone..." Being out at sea for five days from Vancouver to Hawaii... I didn't really think much about "driving." (Although I did spend some "quality time" with her owner's manual.)

    And when I did "land" on the Hawaiian islands, I really thought of--and deeply missed--Mini-E #339 on one particular occasion. On the island of Maui, I took the "Road to Hana" in a rented Mazda 6 sedan and let me tell you... The Mazda 6 is a nice car, BUT...

    The Hana Highway is just a 68-mile long, two-lane road (one lane each way) with 59 bridges (49 of 'em ONE LANE only!) and 620 curves and switchbacks that passes through some of the most awesome scenery of waterfalls and coastlines and mountain rock faces...

    It takes over 3 hours to drive that highway end-to-end because it's so twisty and narrow and steep up and down the old extinct Maui volcanoes!!! In other words, it's the perfect twisty, bendy to take a Mini Cooper or (better yet) a Mini Cooper Convertible! OR best still, a Mini-E Cooper convertible!!!! (Nothing like driving on a curvaceous, narrow road through some absolutely stunning natural beauty... in a tight-handling, fast, fun and eco-friendly, open-topped car!! At least that's what I was dreamin' of while working the Mazda 6's electronic gear shifter up and down during my drive! Nice!)

    Seriously... If you're ever in Maui and you really really really REALLY LOVE driving... And I mean driving as in NOT "got to drop off the kids, pick up the dry cleaning, get to work, go grocery shopping, then pick up the kids" kind of driving... But real driving...

    You MUST "do" the Hana Highway!!!!

    I'm not one to spout deep philosophical thoughts, but... I'm convinced that whoever said, "Life isn't about the destination but the journey," must've come up with that gem after a trek on the Road to Hana!!! :-D

  3. When I finally landed home in NYC after my high-seas and Hawaiian adventure, I picked up 339 at the dealer... Drove her home fine... And waiting in that pile of mail at home was an envelope from BMW/Mini "Roadside Assistance." Inside? Nothing but a $150 check!!! Thank you, BMW!!! Thank you, Pioneer program!! I see we're of the same mind-frame: "Talk is cheap. Action costs!" (And I didn't even ask for any type of "compensation" for that miserable tow experience!)

  4. The first few weeks "back to reality" after that Hawaiian adventure, the weather in New York turned unseasonably colder!! As such, my battery and driving range took hits. There's no way to protect 339 from the low over-night temperatures (they fell to the 20s and 30 degree Fahrenheit at times!) since her charging station is located at the side of my house next to the driveway and NOT in a garage like many others', I suspect. Some mornings, I got in and her driving range read only "84 miles."

    Another "fun" cold-weather dealing... Her TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) went off during one of my morning commutes. At first I thought I got a flat tire! (Great... and I didn't take the $300 insurance against the run-flats!!) But co-workers who own the conventionally-powered Minis said the cold temps probably affected the tire pressure.

    After topping off all her tires to the correct PSI ratings and resetting the TPMS, all is well again. So far.

    Winter should be fun! (Stay tuned!)

  5. I met with and got "permission" from the facilities manager(s) at work. I can now park 339 and jack her into the 120-volt outdoor outlets on the lamp posts in my company's outdoor parking lot! So while I "slave away for The Man," 339 can get topped off with the juice being paid for by The Man!

    Of course, it means I have to remember to switch 339's charge setting to "12-amps" when I get to work. (Last thing I want is to "blow" the work circuits... Or 339's portable "emergency" charger... or damage 339's internal circuitry!) And it means I have to remember to "switch back" to the "32-amps" setting once I get home, otherwise I won't have her ready to go in the morning!

    So far, that's been going well, though. (More on that in future posts.)

    And finally...

  6. There's going to be a meet-up with other Mini-E owners today. One of the other "pioneers" has an Italian restaurant in Montclair, NJ. I apparently missed the first "gathering of the East Coast drivers. So, this should be fun! Stay tuned!
That's it. Sorry for the long post. But you're now all caught up.

I think.

Read more!

17 September 2009

My baby's gone...

The second tow guy...("Orhan"[sp?] from Crossfire Towing, in New Hyde Park, NY) showed up... as promised at 4:30 PM.

He just left... So... After waiting almost all day...

My baby's gone... :-(

::sniff, sniff::

But we'll be together soon... One week, for your "fix"... Another week and I'll be there to pick you up!!

Feel better, 339!!

Final notes: TWICE during Orhan's visit to pick up 339, BMW called. One was an automated system. Called within the first two or three minutes to see if the tow had arrived. Five minutes after that, "Rick," the BWM Roadside manager who initially handled my call at 9 AM this morning called and made sure everything was now on track -- and to confirm that the original tow contractor ("JD Towing") is "being canceled."

Now, THAT'S what I call "customer service!!!!" Good on ya BMW!! (Finally!)

Anyway... I may... or may not enter into "radio silence" for the next two weeks. Since Mini-E #339's off "at her parents' place" (in New Jersey!) and being fussed over by the "Flying Docs"... I really might not have much to blog about. After all, this blog is about living with and driving her.

But then again, maybe in her absence I'll be able to reminisce fondly about her... and not other things. :-)

One last thought: Orhan (from Turkey) was a nice guy... Really was impressed with the car. (And naturally, while he's bummed that it only goes 100 miles between charges... was impressed with my tales of.. ah... "speed." :-)) Read more!

Waiting for a tow...

(As opposed to "Waiting for Gadot")

Forgive me for being a bit snarky, but...

I've got tons of things to do today before I take a two-week hiatus... From blogging... From work.

Yes, I'm taking some "down time."

And I thought this would be, then, the most opportune time for BMW/Mini to take #339 back and get her "faulty battery module #42" fixed.

But, I didn't want BMW of Manhattan to be out a loaner BWM for a WHOLE two weeks -- especially since I didn't really need a car during the next two weeks.

And, I also didn't want to go through the hassle of driving two of my cars (ok, the Mini and my sis' Prius.... Or my CR-V) into Manhattan.

So, taking a page out of my sister's book ("You know, you're paying all that money per month... BMW should be doing something to make being a 'Pioneer' worth the experience...") I asked BMW if they could just dispatch a flat bed?

It took some doing, but Aleks at BMW said, (essentially) "Yeah, shouldn't be a problem... It'll be covered under the 24/7 Roadside Assistance that BMW set up for you guys."

Hmmm... Even though there's nothing operationally wrong with 339?? I mean, I've been able to drive her and all. (Although I have noticed over the past few days that I've been getting less than 100-mile driving range readouts... Even though I've been driving "lightly" -- i.e. no faster than 60-MPH -- and giving her a full charge every night... and the "range-to-empty" meter starts the day off at "108" or "109"....)

Anyway... We "arranged" last week for a flatbed to come to my house today, Thursday 17 September.

I checked and reconfirmed with Aleks at BMW yesterday via e-mail.

We were all set.

'Round about 9 or 10 A.M., I get a call from BMW Roadside assistance.

"Hi, we're just calling to see if the tow has arrived..."

"Uh.. No..."

"Oh... Well... the tow company said they'd be there in about 15 minutes... Please feel free to call me if they don't show..."

11:30 comes and goes... I call back the BMW Roadside tech who called me initially... Got his voice mail. Left a message. "Tow's a no show. Gonna call the tow company directly (Thanks for giving it to me before!)"

Call the tow company. They answer (without even identifying themselves)... "Oh yeah.. I got a guy in near-by Elmont, NY... He should be there in like 15 minutes...."

Noon... 1 PM...

Call the tow company.

"Hey, what's going on?"

"Oh sorry... My guy got a little hung up.... (Tow "humor???") "

"So?? How much longer do I have to wait??"

"Oh well, I can say an hour, but I don't know.. I don't want you calling me in an hour if he's not there. So, let's say an hour-and-a-half? And you don't have to be there, you know... Just leave the keys in a mailbox or something... You're at a house, right??"

Needless to say... it's 3:30 and they're STILL NOT here.

"Hello, BMW?" [STILL voicemail!] "I'm really... and I mean REALLY 'disappointed' with the tow service you guys are using..."

Five minutes later, the guy who first called my at 10-something...

"We're soooo sooo soooo sorry that you're still waiting... TO be sure, we will not be using this company anyore. And we'll get another company on it right away... BUT, we're also going to leave this order with the current company open... Sooo... SOMEBODY's going to get your Mini for us..."


Five minutes later, another call.. This time from another BMM roadside rep...

"Sir, we have a new tow company responding..." She gives me the details... 70-minutes.. 4:30 PM... Latest... And "Again, we are soo, sooo, sooo sorry to leave out in the lurch like that... Usually these things work much, much, much more smoothly... and unfortunately, this is one of the rare times that something slipped up."


Needless to say...

It's 3:45 PM... And I'm still waiting for a tow. :-( Read more!

15 September 2009

When silence isn't golden

Silent running...

It's one of the things about #339 that I haven't really decided how I feel about exactly.

On the one hand, I think it's a hoot!

How do I fully convey what it's like to be able to pull out of my driveway early in the morning -- or come home really late, like at oh-dark-thirty hour -- and not make a sound?



Or when I cruise through a parking lot and the people walking in the lot that I drive by or follow (to get their parking space, of course) are just startled that this "car" is just there and moving -- and they just had no clue!


But then I started hearing/reading that people are complaining about all these "silent hybrid and electric cars."


OK. I can understand why blind pedestrians would be concerned about silent cars like 339. So, maybe it is a Good Thing(tm) that they're training guide dogs for the silent dangers. (Seriously!! Click the link!!!!)

And maybe under that pretense, I can understand why Japanese car-makers are considering "noisier" hybrids.

BUT... Why can't I help think this is a Stupid Idea?? I mean just look at Lotus' plan for external speakers on hybrid cars -- just so they can make noise to warn pedestrians when the car's in electric mode.

Seems extremely silly to me!!! Not to mention, an added expense and complexity 'cause now you have to program the computer to switch on the speaker only when the hybrid's gas engine shuts off.

And, oh, then you have to program it so the sounds that come out of the external speaker are loud enough at the right speeds...

And let's not forget about being able to program the "right" sounds...

Hmmm... The rumble of a V8 engine? The whine of a jet engine? Or should it be just a "beep-beep-beep-beep"?? Oh, I know... let's make it customer adjustable... You know, like cell phone ring tones!!!



Yet another annoying bit of noise that I would need to shut out mentally!

AND, it might come to next-gen electric cars. Fisker's already planning on it.

Still, it does seem REALLY STUPID to me. And, I'll admit, maybe that's because I'm such a "pioneer" and use to the idea of "silent running?"

I mean, I'm pretty much conditioned to rolling down my window and cranking up my radio when I pull into a crowded shopping mall parking lot. You know, so I can "make noise" as 339 rolls "silently" among the rows of cars and mindless shoppers -- those who are more intent on looking for their cars or struggling with their packages or yakking away on their cell phones or flirting and having fun with their girl friends rather than actually, you know, pay attention to where they're walking? (Honestly, you could be driving a big, rumbling, yellow, blue-smoke-belching school bus and they would be clueless that you're behind them!)

And I gotta question.. What's the point?

I mean, wouldn't a QUIETER world be an Even Better Thing(tm)?? Shouldn't we be working toward making ALL cars and other vehicles into electrical or hybrid vehicles? (You know, turning all those MILLIONS of vehicles in the U.S. into Earth-friendly transportation systems -- and "silent killers?")

And in all honesty, I can't wait for the day when I'm sitting in silence in stop-and-go-traffic because MY car isn't making noise idling (and wasting fuel!!!) AND because ALL the cars around me -- including that stupidly big, slow and ugly school bus filled with noisy brats! -- are ALSO silent because they're NOT idling and wasting fuel!!

And just try and imagine this: You're standing on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street in Manhattan on a bright, sunny work day afternoon waiting to cross the street. And when traffic stops all you would hear is.... Silence!! No idling engines... No rumble of trucks and buses. I mean, they're there. But... SILENT!

Wouldn't New York... The WORLD... Be a MUCH nicer place???

So why are we still conditioning people to EXPECT cars to MAKE "noise"??? Why should something that is wonderful -- and wonderfully different -- be made "ordinary"??? Shouldn't we be doing the exact opposite??

But then, on the other hand... After all this "tirade" against adding noise to the silent-running electric car.... I gotta admit. I do sometimes miss the roar of a throaty V8 engine.

And to be honest, the geek in me is right now SCREAMING: "DUDE....!!! How cool would it be to be able to download a 'car tone' that makes 339 sounds like a Battlestar Galactica Viper?!?!?!?! Or maybe even like a UFO or a stealth fighter or an X-wing??? "

To make noise or not make noise??? Silent running or not-so-silent running???

I'm still torn....

Vive la difference!!!! Read more!