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.

Whaaaaa....???

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..."

Oooookkkkkaaaayyy...

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."

::sigh::

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?

"Magical"??

"Mystical"??

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!

Priceless.

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

Really?

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!!!

Oh.

Joy.

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!

11 September 2009

Why do I drive an Electric Mini Cooper...?

Today, of all days, seems to be the day to answer (in part) this question:

Why did I choose to be a part of this Mini-E program?

It must be because I'm such a geek that has to have the latest technology, right?

Yeah, well... Maybe. Who else but a true geek would be happy driving a car that can go only 100 or so miles between fill-ups? Or, would be "ok" and otherwise accepting of the fact that it'll take more than a week to replace just one "faulty battery module #42?" (More on the pending repair in another, future post...)

Of course, that kind of attitude is to be expected of someone who's a dedicated "greenie," an "eco-warrior"... A person like me then, right?

::scoff:: As anyone who knows me well can tell you, I'm FAR from being a "crunchy granola, hemp-wearing, Wiccan-believing, 'Earth-child!'" Nope.

I still love my nearly 12-year old, gas-powered, CO2-emitting Honda CR-V. (Not as big of a gas suck as a GMC Suburban or a Hummer, say. But still, 20-MPG is on the low end of the mileage spectrum of "eco-friendly" vehicles!)

And if I use a Styrofoam cup for my coffee or soda or buy a disposable plastic bottle of water, I'm not whipping myself for "dissing Earth-mother Gaia" or feel I have to run out and plant 20 young sapling in remission of my "environmental sins."

Oh... well... Then, I must be the opposite! One of those rich snobs who have more money than sense and want to flaunt my "eco-ness" out of pure vanity...

"Lookit me! I'm elite!!! I have an electric Mini in this cute, distinctive livery... Available to ONLY 500 drivers... A select few who could afford to blow $850 a month on this so-very-rare, but so-very-Earthy-eco-chic car... for ONLY a year! I'm special!!!"

::scoff:: I wish... And as others remind me, for what I'm paying for #339 I could have gotten a really much-nicer, finely-equipped, lux mobile... a BMW 7-series... a Mercedes... But for a Mini Cooper??

("Boy, Mini must be/should be treating you like Royalty, then!" Hmmph!!! Another "I wish!!")

So why did I become a Mini-E pioneer?

In part: Because of Sept. 11, 2001.

I remember that day.

I worked (back then) for a news organization for one of the major TV networks. And I remember every single, horrid moment.

While many of us were glued to our TVs watching the news... It was "news gatherers" like I who were just flooded with information... TOO much information... And the sense of panic from some very "seasoned journalists" out in "the field" that day.

But of all the things I remember seeing... During those first 24 hours... And the days that seemed to drag on... Mostly, I remember:

The footage of people in certain OPEC nations... shouting... chanting... singing... celebrating what had happened to us Americans.

I also remember the week after 9/11, my sister picked up and drove home a brand new 2001 Toyota Prius.

Yes, my sister and I were "pioneers" back then too because we actually ordered the Prius back in April 2001 -- way before many folks thought hybrid technology was "ready for prime time" or worth the "extra cost." After all, gas wasn't even close to $2 a gallon!!! (Ahhh... the good old days!)

But, I was enthralled with the technology and wanted to show her how it worked by taking her to a Toyota dealership "just for a test drive" back then.

We weren't planning on buying a new car in April 2001. But after she drove it AND heard of all the advantages of (and dealer incentives for) the Prius... She was sold. ("How can I not buy this car?" I believe I remember her asking that day.)

And I certainly felt better because after Sept. 11, 2001, I truly believed in this simple equation:

Prius = less gas = less need for imported oil = less money to OPEC = less money to people who plan/carry out Sept. 11-like attacks = less need to send troops to said OPEC nations to secure flow of said imported oil = less "reasons" for people to blindly hate Americans!!!

Did we change the world? Maybe. (To say anything else would be pure hubris!)

I certainly know for a fact that for the weeks and months following 9/11/2001, we "Prius pioneers" were certainly stopped by a lot of people who asked us A LOT of questions... Does it really save a lot of gas? How does it work? Does it drive like a "real" car? Where do you plug it in? (Heh!)

And, I know for a fact that today hybrid car technology is much more prevalent among the minds of consumers and car-makers!

So, will I and the hundreds of other Mini-E pioneers "change the world?" Again, that would be pure hubris!

BUT, I do know that I'm being asked almost the same questions about #339 now as I was being asked about the Prius in 2001. (Only this time, they're asking, "Is that a hybrid? How come it doesn't have a gas cap?" Heh!)

Finally, in remembrance of this day, eight years ago...

A precious few -- despite over-whelming odds and impossible situations -- chose to stand and do what they believed was right. Even if, as was the case of United Flight 93, the outcome meant their death, that handful possibly prevented the death of thousands.

I don't know if Kennedy really said, "One man can make a difference."

But it certainly seems true.

So to all my fellow Mini-E Pioneers, electric car enthusiasts and friends... On this day, in the immortal words of Todd Beamer:

"Let's roll!"

Read more!

03 September 2009

And at the end of the day...

...The grand experiment to obtain the most-mileage-yet from Mini-E #339 comes to an end.

From work to Kew Gardens to pick up sis... From pick-up to home... through some very light stop-and-go traffic....

But... Finally... Home.

339's now sitting in the driveway, sucking down juice. Her fans are whirring quietly to keep her battery's temp (which never broke 90-degrees today, BTW) in line with the ambient temps -- around the 70s -- during the charging cycle.

And the verdict?

Take a look:

That's right... 339's home with the potential for 52 miles-worth of travel. Fifty-two miles...

Add that to the 63.6 miles she and I have actually done today and you have...

115 miles

One hundred-fifteen miles, boys and girls!!!

Wow.

Seriously.

I am impressed.

Sorta.

I mean, yeah. Traveling (or "potentially traveling") 115 miles still can't compare to the range (and convenience) you can get from a conventionally-powered car. No, not even close.

But it's more than enough range for my typical, daily needs. And probably more than enough capability for most (if not all) commuters who drive to work.

And then there's the "hidden" bonuses from an all-electric car... No fumes from tailpipes... Much simpler mechanics (less maintenance)... The instant torque... The silence when pulling into the driveway late at night... ("Super-stealth mode, 339! Make it so!")

Still...

At what cost???

Driving no faster than 60 miles an hour with no heavy-footed acceleration -- even though those wonderful German engineers and eggheads designed my baby to go faster than 95-MPH?? And to be able to do so with no emissions -- except maybe a smoking trail of rubber on asphalt?

(Well, 339 could do all of that if it weren't for those pesky electronics, the speed governor and the vehicle stability control/tire-slip limiters!!! But I digress...)

Still, does being environmentally-friendly have to mean the death of speed, excitement, and good-old-fashioned-unadulterated thrill of being behind the wheel of a finely-tuned and well-designed piece of machinary that just screams, "Drive me!"???

Must we all, in order to "save the planet," give up the true joy of driving?? (Oh, the humanity, ladies and gentlemen... the humanity!)

Maybe I just need to get behind the wheel of a Tesla? After all, it seemed to knock the socks off of BBC's Top Gear host, Jeremy Clarkson.



Almost.

::sigh::

Maybe just as I've learned to (re)adjust my right foot... Maybe my "need for speed" attitude will (re)adjust as well.

Maybe now that summer vacation season is over -- and highway traffic builds back to the usual bumper-to-bumper stand-still... thanks to all those school buses and SUVs driven by multi-tasking soccer moms who just have to drive with one-hand on the wheel, head turned back yelling at the kids while gabbing on the cellphone... (But I digress...)

Yeah... Maybe once I get back into "real," everyday, New York City traffic-driving where it becomes painfully obvious that having a car that can do 100+ MPH is pretty much pointless since all you're doing during the entire commute is just sit... crawl... sit... crawl...

Oh, and all that expensive gasoline... just constantly burning away... while you sit... then crawl... sit... then crawl...

But I digress...

Anyway... Maybe I will soon have a complete attitude adjustment since school after Labor Day.

Maybe I'll be wooed once again at how 339's silent and comfy "cockpit" magically transforms those maddeningly slow "rush" hour commutes into a Zen-like experience.

Maybe.

Thankfully, I'll have about 10 more months with 339 to find out! :-)

Maybe. (Still waiting to hear from BMW about "faulty battery module #42.") Read more!

A very "rewarding" (but b-o-o-r-r-r-ing) drive

I think I should probably really title today's post, "Learning a valuable lesson."

The lesson?

"Moderate right foot, go further in Mini-E."

I think. ;-)

You see, I haven't been in a "speedy" mood over the last couple of days... No compelling need or desire to get to work in a hurry. (Go figure!) Or, oddly enough, have I felt the need to rush home lately. (Very strange, indeed!)

Add to that nonchalance, yesterday's news about my Mini's "faulty battery module #42" and well... But let me start at the very beginning so you understand how I came to learn this "valuable" lesson in Mini-E energy economics.

You see, when I stepped outside of my house this morning, I was greeted with lovely 73-degree temperatures and slightly overcast skies.

Mmmm... The perfect autumn day. Too bad, we're technically still in "summer." (Autumnal equinox is still 19 days away, kids.) But I digress...

Anyway... Stepping into 339 this fine and lovely mornin' and starting her up, I was greeted with a lovely surprise.

Battery charge = 100%

Ok, that's good, Mini-E...

Estimated range = 104 miles

What?

Estimated range = 104 miles.

Huh?? I finally got triple-digit range on the battery? How did that happen? Was it the cooler weather? (The absence of the angry buzz of 339's battery fans during last night charging was a welcome relief.) The faulty battery module? The stars and planets all in perfect alignment? What could be causing this boost into this promised land of 100-miles (and more!) in 339?

Oh, wait... That's right... I drove home at a sedate pace of 60-MPH ("Snoozer-ville" for me...) last night.

Really.

After picking up sis from her Manhattan office late last night, I drove in the right-hand lane (the slowpoke lane) most of the way home, with only occasional "squirts" into the 70+ mile per hour range... You know, just to pass the lunkheads who think even 55-MPH is too fast! (At least those really, really, REALLY slow drivers were in the correct lane. After all, everyone KNOWS the road rule: "Slow traffic, KEEP RIGHT!" Right? But I digress...)

According to page 40 of 339's owner manual, that "cruising range" readout is "calculated on the basis of the way the car has been driven over the last 18 miles/30 km and current charge status." (In other words, 339's computer uses DOPE -- a military acronym, "Data On Previous Engagement," BTW. But I digress...)

Hmmmm.... Soooo... Since I drove the car so "conservatively" last night and now that she's fully charged.... I should get 104-miles out of her today?

Really? Let's just see about that....

Unplug from the wall charger.

Reset the trip odometer.

Reset the "average energy consumption" meter -- the readout that tells me how much juice I use for every 100 miles 339 and I travel.

Reset the average speed readout.

And off we go.

Drive local streets for 5 miles to drop sis off at the train station. Never went faster than 40-MPH. Coasted to each stop light to let the re-gen braking do all the work as much as possible. (Note: I even did not "speed through" yellow traffic lights, instead choosing -- nay, forcing myself -- to physically step on 339's brake pedal to stop at the intersection!)

Get on the highway. Here, I admit, I did put "pedal to metal" in order to get on the highway... But once "up to speed" (that lowly "60-MPH" benchmark).... That speedo needle never went north of that little mark next to "60."

Nope.

I stayed in that right lane, easing off 339's accelerator when I saw cars were trying to merge in... Yes, I actually slowed down... yielding to let others to get on the highway... to get IN FRONT of me (and 339)!!!!

Yes... I even let other cars and drivers pass me... on my left...

Other.

Drivers!

Even soccer moms
...

Soccer moms driving big, honkin' SUVs...

Soccer moms driving big, honkin' SUVs stuffed to the rafters with kids, dogs, beach umbrellas, and sleeping husbands/boyfriends/lovers...

Soccer moms putting on mascara, drinking their Splenda soy latte and talking on their Bluetooth headsets while driving big, honkin' SUVs stuffed to the rafters with kids, dogs...

Yessiree, Bob... I kept to the steady, 60-MPH cruising I promised I would do in this "experimental" morning commute to work just so I could prove and know for sure that "slow and steady" meant better driving range with 339.

Even if it meant I was getting passed by grandma in her 20 year old Buick... or getting bored to tears with how "mindless" this commute was getting.

(Note to BMW: Maybe it was wise that you did not put in cruise control because I certainly would've relied on it in this test -- and then allowed myself to fall asleep at the wheel because of the sheer boredom of driving at a constant 60-MPH for 20 miles! But I digress...)

Anyway... the end result? Look at this picture, taken with my cellphone camera once I pulled into the company parking lot and set 339 into rest easy mode.


Yes. That's right... After driving Mini-E "conservatively" for 31 miles this morning, 339 was telling me she was "good to go" for another 79 miles!!! A potential total of 110 miles!!!!!

On a single, 4-hour charge!!!

That is...

IF I was willing to tame my right foot!

AND endure the tediousness of life at 60-miles-per-hour in the right-hand lane!

AND accept that fact that driving at 60-MPH means practically every driver in New York will be zippin' by me on the left.

Honestly... The only thing that kept me awake during this morning's commute was that I was constantly scanning for the 1982 Yugo held together by Bondo, duct tape and baling wire that was inevitably coming to pass me! But I digress...

::sigh::

All joking and satirical comments aside... (Really... I have nothing against big honkin' SUVs, Yugos, fall weather, or "soccer moms." Well... Maybe I do have an "issue" with distracted drivers, be they soccer moms or corporate dweebs who feel the need to yak on their Bluetooth while behind the wheel. But I digress...)

Anyway... Putting all that aside...

Yes.

I know.

Driving 60-MPH (rather than the "reckless pace" I normally do) is just plain better. Better for the car. Better for the mileage. Better energy conservation. Better for the planet. Better (and safer!) for me... yada, yada, yada.

But dang it all if I can't for the life of me figure out why such "better" driving is such a mind-numbing, soul-sucking, joyless, heartless, sad experience? (Anyone care to weigh in??)

:-(

Needless to say.... Yeah, I'm looking forward to tonight's drive home.

'Til next time... Read more!

02 September 2009

My Mini's not 100%!!!

I realized I never posted what happened after Mini-E #339 went in for her check-up.

Well, nothing.

At least, I thought everything was fine until today!

I picked her up at the end of last Tuesday and Aleks, the Mini service dude at BMW Mini Manhattan, said she came back with a clean bill of health from the "flying doctors" who came in and physically checked her out.

"Just keep doing what you're doing and you'll be good to go," said Aleks. "Next check-up, by the way, is 5,000 miles later. 8,000 total."

"Super! " I said. "So, ummmm... You guys don't mind that I sometimes... ah... 'push' her a little hard??" I ask.

"No, we want you push. Drive like this Mini like you would any other."

"Really? Even if I'm a bit... ah... 'heavy-footed'?"

"Well... How 'heavy'?"

"Uhhhh... Well... I know the Mini's [speed] governor kicks in at 95 MPH... And ah, I'm not sayin' that I... uh... consciously go that fast all the time.... Or even that I really want to or need to go that fast... But..."

"Uh , yeah... Well, the car has a governor for a reason, you know," said Aleks. "Wait... Where in New York [City] do you drive where you can hit speeds of ninety-five miles an hour???"

"Uh... I'd rather not say." And I flashed him a sheepish grin. "And uh... Like I said... It's not like it's a habit for me or anything...." (at which point my sheepishness turned to a slightly mischievous smile.)

"Ummm... Ok... Well, I suppose you know you can't sustain that kind of speed for any length of time..."

(Oh boy... you don't have to tell me about that, brother! I found that out all too... ahh... "suddenly." But that's another story. Maybe.)

"Yeah, I know," I said. "But 70... 75 miles per hour... That's about normally where I cruise..."

"Oh... Well... You should be fine with that," he said. "Of course, you know, constant travel at that speed will impact range."

"Yeah, I suspect it's why I'm not getting anywhere close to the estimated 100-mile range." (Me and 339 are getting around 80- to 92-miles per charge.)

"Yep. That'll do it," said Aleks. "But if you're ok with that -- and as long as you can make it back home to charge -- there should be no problem with driving it as you have been. Just keep doing what you're doing cause BMW wants to know if these cars will handle various driving conditions."

"Super!! I'll see you in 5,000 miles, then!"

At least, that's what I thought.... Until I answered my cell phone just now.

"Paul? It's Aleks over at BMW Mini Manhattan."

"Oh. Hey. What's up?"

"When you bought your Mini over for servicing last week, the engineers did a full download... and they found a problem."

Ut oh. I haven't, for various reasons, driven her daily since I picked her up last week. And when I did (like today, to get to work), I really did do an easy commute. Really. (The fastest I drove her this morning was 60MPH. And boy... Was it The. Most. Boring. Commute. EVER. Ev-ah!!!)

"What kinda problem?"

"It seems battery module #42 is faulty."

"What? 'Battery module #42?' 42 out of how many?" I joked half-heartedly.

"I don't know. All I can say is this is what the field engineers are telling me."

"Oh, ok... So... How bad is it? I mean I drove it this morning and I didn't have a problem with it. But to be honest, I'm wondering if that's why I'm still not getting anywhere close to the 100-mile range per charge?"

"What are you getting?"

"Well, I practically left it constantly plugged in since Sunday night. And this morning, the gauge still only estimated 94 miles."

"Well, I don't know," said Aleks. "Could be. All it says in their [field engineer's] politely-worded e-mail is, 'Please advise customer to bring Mini-E in at earliest convenience to replace faulty battery module #42.' How they can tell exactly which module is 'faulty' and what's wrong with it is beyond me, but... anyway... So when can you bring it in?"

"Well, how long will it take to fix?"

"Well, we actually have to ship the car back to..." ("Uh oh," I thought. "Not back to Germany!")

"...We have to flat bed it back to them in Jersey where the engineers can take it apart and replace it and run diagnostic.... I'm told about a week."

Nuts!

"A week? Really?"

"Yes, unfortunately," he said. "But obviously, we'll arrange a loaner for you."

(Gee, swell... unlike last time?)

"I'll assume you'll want another Mini," said Aleks. "And depending on when you can bring it in, that shouldn't be a problem. But on the off-chance, I can't... I might have to give you just a BMW. I hope that will be ok?"

"Oh, well... If I have to.... I suppose I miiiight be 'ok' -- Juuuuuust 'ok,' mind you -- with a 'lowly BMW'... I mean, honestly... If that's alll you have..." I said with obvious good-natured ribbing.

"Hang on a sec," I said. "Could you find out how urgently this repair is needed? You see, I'm going on vacation soon.... And well, since I wouldn't need the car anyway...."

"Let me check and get back to you."

Needless to say... That's where things stand.

::sigh::

A whole week without 339! :-(

But maybe a whole week with a Beamer???? Hmmmm... I suppose a 128i coupe? Or a 328i sedan? dare I dream of a 5- or 7-series? Maybe an X3 or an X5?

Oooooh... How about a moto? Maybe a K 1200 LT!!! Read more!

25 August 2009

3,000 miles later...

Yes, I can't believe I. Just under two months (I picked up the Mini-E #339 back in June 25) and I've already logged just over 3,000 miles.

And I'm still lovin' every minute of it!!!!

What's more, the timing of 339's "scheduled servicing" was nearly impeccable! After driving into work yesterday morning, I logged about 9,983 miles. Since BMW of Manhattan is just under 17 miles from my work... Well... I arrived at the dealership after work with about 3,001 miles on 339's odo!!!

Near-perfect!!! :-D

Still, it meant I had to leave 339 in the "loving hands" of the BMW/Mini techs -- who are waiting for the "Flying Doctors" (the gang of specialized Mini-E techs from BMW in Germany who are servicing all the Mini-Es in the U.S.!) to do all the servicing. Fortunately, the Flying Docs were coming to BMW of Manhattan today anyway to take care of another Mini-E. (I didn't see which one, though.)

Of course, nothing in this world is ever completely perfect. :-(

Since Mini 339 had to stay with the dealer (her "parents"??), I had to drive my Honda CR-V to work today!

Don't get me wrong. I still love my 12-year old Honda. She's a good old girl and I still need her since she still does things -- haul a lot of stuff from Costco, takes me and more than one other family member to the store, goes on long trips, gets me and co-workers to lunch, etc. -- that my cute and environmentally-friendly Mini-E #339 can't do.

And driving my red CR-V to work this morning, I'm reminded of how I "missed" those traits and other little niceties. Things like cruise control (Nope, #339 doesn't have that!) which can really help me keep my heavy right foot in check. Sometimes.

Oh, and a right arm rest for the driver's seat. Even though my sister hates the arm rest and always tilts it up and out of the way when she drives my CR-V, I love it! (It really helps when you're cruisin' down the road at a nice steady clip and all you want to do is "kick back" with your left hand on the steering wheel and your right arm just... well, "resting" on the arm rest. Is that SO wrong???)

And finally... The radio. I love my CR-V's radio -- an after-market Sony ES-series AM/FM/CD/MP3-disc/Aux input head-unit with IR remote control. It's not RDS-capable like 339's audio gear. But the controls are so much simpler!! Not to mention that I have a full four-speaker set-up in my CR-V. (Oddly enough, there are "fader" controls on 339's radio. But adjust 339's audio from "front" or "balanced" to "all-rear" and... Surprise! No audio! Why? Because there's only front speakers on the Mini-E since the battery takes up all the space behind the front seats -- the place where rear speakers would normally go!)

Still, this morning was the ideal commute with conditions that I know I would've been just thrilled to drive 339 through: Sunny, yet not hot... hardly any cars on the road...

In other words, I was c-r-u-i-s-i-n' down the road... music blarin'... blue-mirrored Wiley-X shades on... windows down... cool breeze blowin' through my hair... Just enjoyin' the ride with a smile on my face -- even though I'm going to work! ;-)

Oh, if only 339 were with me this morning!! (Oh, and if only she had the double sunroof option that's available to "conventional" Minis! :-()

::sigh::

Hopefully I'll hear from the Flying Docs later this afternoon and I'll be able to post something about her "check-up." Read more!

21 August 2009

Le Parisien, Redux

So, my sister reminds me that I never posted the article on me and Mini-E #339.

My bad.

The reporter, Monsieur Pascal Giberné, was kind enough to send a PDF of the page of the Paris paper that had his article. If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can see the file here:

PDF of Le Parisiene.

But here's the snippet (a small section of the page) with me and Mini-E:



The translation (Thanks, Tara!):

Paul Eng is among just 500 people in the United States selected by BMJ to spend a year testing the Mini E, the first electric car from the German manufacturer. This 42-year-old web designer from Queens, New York, was interested in the technology behind it. Testers must still pay a monthly fee of $850. “This is the future,” points out Paul, who for that price could have rented a Lamborghini. “It’s my small contribution towards the tough challenge of reviving the automobile industry.” The Mini E (which would cost $50,000) can cover 161 km when filled up, powered by a 150 kilowatt (200 horsepower) engine. To charge his car, Paul Eng uses two lines of 220 volts and 32 amps that were installed by BMW technicians. At an estimated 18 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs just $5 to recharge the battery. “I no longer have to worry about the cost of gas,” explains Paul Eng, who covers 90 km a day to get to work. Icing on the cake: the Mini E is capable of reaching 150 km/hr. Read more!

20 August 2009

My Mini-E, my soul mate?

Things have been too busy for me to blog lately. (Hey, I said from the git-go that I "have a life" outside of the blog-o-sphere!)

Still, I'll admit it would be a bit of a "cop-out" if all I did for this short entry is write, "Still drivin' the Mini-E #339. Still lovin' it." (Even though both statements are 100% true!)

So, let me impart one piece of insight that has struck me over the last few days:

If Mini-E #339 truly was a flesh-and-bones "she" (and not the personified "she" that I've taken to using here) I believe she would be my "soul mate."

What?

Yeah, that's right. I said it and I'll say it again...

"My soul mate."

"My match."

"My equal."

"'The one' that 'understands me,' 'gets me,' and just 'completes me' on 'so many levels' -- just like I do for her (I hope)."

Now, before you go running to call for the padded wagon and the nice people who'll fit me for that very special jacket that makes me hug myself and ties in the back, lemme 'splain...

As those of you who live in the great city of New York (and surrounding 'burbs) know, the last few days have been scorchers.

Hazy, hot and humid days where temperatures have soared into the high-80s, low-90s -- but feel more like high-90s, low-100s.

Days in which spot thunder-showers (intense storms that turn the skies dark and send a flood of rain for like 5 or 10 minutes) seem to do nothing but just add more steam into the air... (Honestly, what else could happen but steam when "cool" water smacks into black, sticky asphalt that has been baked for hours under a bright, merciless sun??)

I hate days like that.

And so does my baby, #339.

And here's the proof!


Note the battery temperature -- that triple-digit(!) number just above the odometer reading of "002360mls" in that small display on the bottom. (I've logged more milage -- approximately 2,830 miles total -- since I took that pic, BTW.)

113 degrees Fahrenheit...

One. Hundred. Thirteen.

That's after driving only 40+ miles at highway speed (averaging about 50-MPH) for about 40 minutes... with the "ambient" (atmospheric) temperature was a "modest" 85-degrees Fahrenheit...

...AND, without using 339's air conditioning unit!!!

(Hey, if I'm going at a good clip on the highway, I love rollin' with the windows down and feelin' the wind in my hair and lettin' the tunes blare out and hearin' the electrical whine of 339's motor spool up and down!)

Anyway...

When 339's battery hits that level of temperature (113 degrees Fahrenheit...) "pioneer" driver like me get that funny warning symbol -- that gear thingy with the thermometer icon in the center -- just under the battery charge level's needle.

And what does that little symbol mean? According to page 101 of 339's owner's manual:

"Energy recovery limited due to hot high voltage battery. Be ready to brake at all times as the vehicle is not decelerated as is usual during energy recovery."

In other words, 339 looses its "regen" capability which turns the forward momentum (during "coasting") back into electrical energy -- and the ability to slow down without using the brakes!!

So, when that little symbol pops up, it basically means I've "lost" the "magic" that makes 339 "green" and "special."

In other words, it's 339's way of telling me:

"Hey, ease up!!! I don't like workin' in the heat either, buster!!!!!!"

I'm sorry, baby. (But thanks for telling it to me in a manner that I would understand! "Too hot... Must. Go. Easy!")

I'm even more sorry that even though I get to cool off in an air-conditioned office during the day, you're just sitting out there in the hot sun... your little battery fan whirring away, draining the battery even as you're trying to cool it!

And of course, these humid and muggy nights are not much better. Although you're plugged into "the grid" and charging, you're battery fan is going FULL-TILT (sounding like an angry restroom hand blower/dryer) trying to cool the battery down even quicker!

:-(

Note to BMW's engineers: Have you thought about "liquid cooling" or maybe adding some solar panels to run a fan to cool the battery (a la Toyota's 2010 Prius?) and possible provide some juice to run "standby" electronics (the receiver that "listens" for the key fob remote to unlock the doors and lower the windows, say)???

Read more!

13 August 2009

I'm FAMOUS... in France!(?)!


I've been so busy for the past couple of days that I haven't been able to blog. My bad.

But given that my last post was about how psyched I was to be interviewed for a French newspaper, Le Parisien, I thought well... Time to follow up!

The story about me and my Mini, #339, did get published!!!

See:
Les New-Yorkais testent la Mini E

The story's accessible only through subscription -- and in French, which I don't understand. (Well... Can't really blame them for that, eh? I'm just another "ugly American." Deal.)

Still, I'm in the lede (the first sentence) of the story!!! Whoooop!

I'll see if I can round up an actual copy of the story -- and a translation! After all, I provided the writer with quite a few pics of me and 339, so it would be good to see the entire page with (hopefully) a pic of me and her together. (Like the one above!) And to be honest, #339 really deserves all the limelight, not me.

And to Monsieur Giberné: I owe you one sweet ride in 339!!! So call me anytime!!! :-D
Read more!

06 August 2009

All charged up!!!

It's not just the Mini-E that's all juiced... But I am jazzed too!!!!!

I just got off the phone with a journalist for a French newspaper called, Le Parisien. He read my humble little blog and interviewed me for an article he's working on regarding Obama's massive $2.4 billion government grant for automotive battery development!!!

Check out the New York Times story:

$2 Billion in Grants to Bolster U.S. Manufacturing of Parts for Electric Cars

Anyway, I'm really PSYCHED!!

I didn't vote for Obama. But I like this move to push for battery development -- even though "the other guy" proposed the same thing during last year's campaign, too!
In general, I'm not a fan of most of the Prez's politics and thinking/direction... But I'm psyched that I'll be in a major newspaper (even if it is a foreign paper in a language I don't understand!), helping to push the Mini-E project. (That's my job as a "pioneer," yah?)

Moreover, anything that promotes/advances electric cars and revitalizes the U.S. auto industry (which, according to the NY Times article, has a big opportunity in this still-very-level playing field!) and lessen our dependency on fossil fuels from countries that hate and want to kill us....

That,
my friends, is a Good Thing™.

Now, excuse me while I run out to the company parking lot with a few of my friends/co-workers to take pictures of me and #339 to go with this fellow's article for Le Parisien!

Stay tuned!!! ;-) Read more!

04 August 2009

Spinning up 339 and bringin' on the grins!

Last night, my nephew (Dan) came down from his home in Conn. for a job interview here in the big city.

After a night out with his friends, he arrived at my house at midnight to spend the night rather than face a 2-hour drive back to his parents' home in Conn.

Needless to say, since it was the first time he met Mini-E #339, well... we just had to take her out for a late-night spin. And needless to say, we were both THRILLED to be zooming -- and I do mean ZOOMING!!!! -- down the highway after midnight, when there's no traffic!!!

"Whheeeeeeeeeee....!!!" went all three of us as we sped down the highway!!!

And like every other "guest rider" in 339, "I cannot believe how awesome this car is," said my nephew (who, BTW, will soon be taking delivery of a 2010 Prius).

He was also impressed that we were able to rocket down (about 60 MPH) a broad local road without the usual ICE-powered roadster racket that would've disturbed every one of the sleepy little houses that lined the street!

Even more impressive, we crept back in to my own home at about 12:30AM without disturbing a single soul on my block or in the house, thanks to 339's "silent stealth." (Ahhhh... the blissful peace of an all-electric car at 2 or 3 MPH. )

That little high-speed sprint of about 5 or 6 miles cost about 10% of 339's charge that night. But it was well worth it just to see the grin on my nephew's face. :-) Read more!

03 August 2009

Nissan's Electric "LEAF"

Two milestone have passed. It's been over a month since I've taken delivery of Mini-E #339. And last Monday was my 42nd birthday.

I could wax poetic, nostalgic or even philosophical about these two "milestone" dates. How amazing is it that I'm still part of "the future" when it comes to transportation? I mean, I can still remember when I was a kid and I thought the year 2000 seemed "so far away"... How I'd be "old" at 33!!! But of course, so optimistic about the future!!!

"By then, we'll be vacationing in space and driving flying cars," we all thought!

Well, #339 is far from a "Magic Carpet" ride... But she comes pretty close.

And while I still think "flying cars" (a la "The Jetsons") is still pretty much a pipe-dream, I can't help but still smile when I get in #339 and thihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifnk, "Yes, this is the future of cars! It HAS TO be!"

Don't believe me? Consider these links and pictures:

(LA Times) Nissan's greener-than-chlorophyll EV: The LEAF

(Pop Sci) Test Drive: Nissan’s Leaf, The Electric Car’s First Shot at the Mainstream

So, by "late 2010" Nissan will have a 5-door electric hatchback that seats 4 and gets about 100-miles tot he charge. (Highly encourage readers to follow the above links to get the full story and to see pics of the LEAF -- essentially a battery-powered Versa.)

Best part: Nissan thinks it'll street at just "under $30K" -- and that's BEFORE any government incentives!!!

Of course, this spurs a LOT of questions in my mind -- one of which, in light of this development, shouldn't BMW/Mini EXTEND the Mini-E program beyond the one-year lease to us "pioneers"??? (I mean, hey, you gotta stay competitive out there, no???? Keep the fact that THEY -- BMW -- had an electric car out there BEFORE the Nissan, right???)

IN any case, it certainly shows to me that "electric cars" will have a big(ger) presence in 2010 and hopefully "jump start" (sorry) the future of cars.

Now if we could only work on that "vacation in space," thing.... Read more!

23 July 2009

From 0 to 100% battery capacity... in TEN MINUTES?

Yeah, that's the goal of the egg-heads at MIT. Check this out:

From Engadget
Video: MIT working on rapid recharging for electric vehicles

Wow! I wish WE could charge the Mini-E in 10 minutes!!!

Here's the MIT blog on the project:

http://mit-evt.blogspot.com/

And here's their latest video!

Read more!

21 July 2009

Mini-E #339 and the rain

My morning commute this morning was the first time I've had to take my #339 through a steady driving rain. She came through with flying colors (a "rainbow?" ;-)), naturally. Still, in the back of my mind, there's always that "Electricity-and-water-don't-mix" kinda thinking.

One of the "nifty" things I discovered about 339 in the rain, the "quirkiness" of some of the controls is actually quite cool.

Take the wipers for instance. (Please! [drum roll: Ba dum dum dummm...])

It's not as high-tech as the "rain-sensing" wipers found on the luxo-mobiles from BMW, Infinity, Lexus or Acura. But there are still some niceties.

To turn on the front wipers in intermittent mode, just push in the button at the tip of the stalk.

Raining harder and need the wipers on permanently? Flick the stalk up once and the front wipers go at normal pace. Need speed? Tap the stalk up one more time and they go super-fast.

Need the rear wipers? Turn the "ring" on the middle of the stalk once and the rear wiper goes on intermittently only.

But here's the "cool" thing: The "intermittent" mode for the front wipers is sorta smart. How?

Let's say you start out with the wipers in intermittent mode. (Like I did this morning, because pulling out of say, just because it's only "misty" but not really raining big drops of rain.) But then you need to "switch" to a steady-on state, just tap the stalk up and let go. The wipers will go at "normal" speed -- until the car comes to a stop! That's when the wipers go back to their intermittent beat. Start moving forward, and the wipers pick up the pace and go back to constant on!

OK, so you might not think it's cool or a big deal. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this is "normal" operation for all wipers on all Minis. (But I have no idea since this is my first Mini.)

Still, it's a big deal for me since I have to deal with stop-and-go traffic -- especially when it rains here in NYC. (It's like a little water on the road and everyone forgets how to drive. Sheeesh....)

It was (almost) like having "speed-sensitive" wipers... Come to a stop and the wipers automatically slow down because you don't need the wipers slapping away (and make all that "chattering" noise) at just a few drops of water on the windshield. But pick up speed and the water is hitting the window at a faster pace (and it becomes more important that you're actually able to see the road and the cars in front of you) and the wipers pick up the pace.

They won't "kick up" a notch to super-fast speed... and they won't slow down until you come to a complete stop. (At least, as far as I know.) But still, the 339's front wipers are still "smarter" than the ones on my 12-year old CR-V!

Now, if only the rear wiper was as smart... (I really hate it when after sitting still in rain, all that water collected on the top of 339's flat roof comes pouring down the back window the minute I tap the accelerator to go forward!!!) :-( Read more!

17 July 2009

Over 1,000 miles!

Yup, sometime during this morning's commute to work -- probably as I was crossing over from da Bronx into Westchester on the lovely (and very rarely traffic-free) Hutchinson Parkway -- I hit that milestone.

1K today!

Wow!!! Just slightly over four weeks of "owning" Mini-E #339 and I've logged 1,009 miles.

Yea, yea ok... technically "I" didn't do all those miles since when 339 and I first met, she already had 30 miles on her. (I suppose someone had to drive her around the UK where she was "born." And then onto the cargo ship to get her across the Atlantic... then off the ship in Jersey... then onto the truck carrier to ferry her across the Hudson... and then into the BMW/Mini Mahattan dealership... Whoa... So how many people are we talkin' here who might've been behind 339's wheel before me?!?!? ;-))

Anyway... There's probably plenty I can write about on this momentous day with my Mini-E. But since I gotta do my "day job," really quickly:

PRO:
  • 339 is still very much fun to drive!!
  • Driving by the neighborhood gas stations and watching the price of gas fluctuate is now more "amusing" than "frustrating"
  • I'm remembering how a "small car" can be a super plus bonus when trying to fit in a NYC parking space
  • More people at work are noticing how quiet and "special" 339 is -- AND stopping me in the lot or in the hallways asking for more details... AND rides!
CONS:
  • No more "new car smell" (although that might be a "good thing.")
  • A month into my 12-month relationship with 339 and I still ha`ve to get use to some "quirky" controls
  • Have yet to see "100-mile" range on a 100% charge ("94 miles" was the best estimate I've seen on her gauge -- and then actually travel about 80, and still have the "estimate-to-empty" gauge read "22-miles." Go figure.)
  • I have only 48-weeks left in this grand "experiment" with Mini-E. (Could BMW/Mini really take these beautiful cars and destroy them after we've driven them for a year? My heart breaks at the thought!)
Oh and to "celebrate" our milestone achievement together, I may be getting some nifty shirts.
Robert Ballard, who runs a nifty Mini blog called TwistyBlitz, has set up a shop of nifty Mini-E "swag." (Is it really "swag" if you have to pay for it? ;-))

Still, they're very cool shirts -- made of "organic materials," too!

And what will 339 get out of it? Hmmm... Maybe a nice, professional (hand) car wash and detailing. (I'd have done it earlier, but it's been raining off and on most of the weeks here in NYC. And this weekend seems like it's going to be perfect, sunny days!) Read more!