28 June 2009

Day 2: How NOT to feed 339 on 110-Volts @ 12 Amp

Mini-E electric Mini Cooper #339 My Mini-E field trial
This is my Mini-E's "scuttle," or "badge on the side of the car, showing it's #339 of the 500 Mini-E's built in Germany and assembled in the UK. Mini-E #339 and it's all mine!!! (Click to enlarge.)

I was really psyched on Friday. It was going to be the first full day where I'd be able to test my 339 in its abilities (and capabilities) as a daily, zero-emissions, commuter car. I mean, my "first day" was fun. But is navigating the mean streets of Manhattan or sitting in infamous NYC rush hour traffic a true test of 339's capabilities?

I. Don't. Think. So.

First, the data:

The numbers, in short

Odometer mileage, start: ~ 66 miles

State of Charge (SoCs), start: 80%

Odometer mileage, end: ~124 miles

State of Charge (SoCe), end: ~8% (Yes... That's right... Eight percent! Read on!)


Mini-E field trial 110-volt charging cable standard gear Mini-E pioneers battery charger Clipper Creek
This is the 110-Volt charging "cable" Mini provides to all of its pioneers. Does anyone else think this looks a bit clugey(sp)?"
Click to enlarge.

OK, so Mini tells us pioneers that it'll take over 26-hours to fully recharge a depleted battery using the 110-Volt charger. Unfortunately, that's all I have. (I'm still waiting for the contractor to come and install the wall-box.) And while I haven't completely drained 339's battery, I did drop it down to less than half (47%) capacity. Worse yet, I had less than 12-hours of charge time -- came home @ after 8 p.m. Thursday and I need to leave ay 7 a.m. or so for my usual commute to Westchester.

Surely, even using the 110- charger for 11 or so hours, I'll be able to get a decent amount of juice into 339 for my 60-mile round-trip commute, right? Well... Sorta.

First off, 339's feeding (which pulls 12 amps of juice) popped the circuit breaker twice during the night. Apparently, the outlet outside my garage wasn't an isolated circuit, but a shared one... Shared with my home entertainment gear! (And a dehumidifier in the basement.) But thankfully, much of my more sensitive gear is on an uninterruptible power supply so there was no harm done to my 57-inch HDTV. (At least I hope not!)

But watch TV... Or feed the Mini? Wow... tough choice! (How do you parents decide among your favorite children?? ;-))

Mini-E electric Mini Cooper #339 My Mini-E field trial fuel door charging port
This is what's behind the Mini-E's gas cap. And the "port" where you plug in the cable (see next picture) is HUGE. And take a look at the plug in the next picture. (Doc Brown of Back to the Future would be so proud! Also, check out the "No fuel" sign. Ha! If Electricity isn't a "fuel," I don't know what it is! (Click to enlarge.)

Well, it was getting late... And it was going to be a big day for me and my Mini-E #339!! Our first true test... What will it be like driving 339 at highway speeds -- maybe even faster, given my condition: pes pedis plumbum ("lead foot")? What will my friends and co-workers think? This will be both our "trial by fire!" Ooo... Big day indeed.

Little did I know just how "big" a day me and my little 339 would have!

First, on Friday morning, I discovered that despite the overnight feeding, my 339 got only an 80% charge! That's barely double the capacity I had before connecting her up!! I guess 339 really got about only 7- or 8-hours of uninterupted feeding the night before. (And no, she didn't trip a circuit while I was sleeping. The UPS would've woke me up if 339 was "fighting" my other "children" for juice in the middle of the night!)

A bit disappointing, but the "range-to-empty" gauge still read "78 miles" -- more than enough power to get me through my commute.

So, I thought.

The first five or so miles were on major (traffic light controlled) local roads, taking my sis to the Jamaica subway terminal. And again, 339 was still all smooth, all quiet. BUT it was a humid day... again! And since neither my sis or I love oppressive "stickiness," the A/C was back on. By the time I dropped sis off, "range-to-empty" dropped to 70-miles.

"Ok," I thought. "Still enough power to get me there and back -- with a 10-mile 'safety net.' And maybe I'll catch some serious re-gen once I get up on the highway."

And the next 30 miles were mostly highway, although I did a small local road detour to pick up a summer college intern who lives nearby.

And here's where the 339 really passed its first test: The "wow factor."

We spent the entire 35-minute ride discussing the "green" factor of the car and how cool it was to be driving/riding a car that "sounded" and acted so high-tech. And since he was a computer science major, we talked a lot about laptops (lithium batteries) and programming -- how "smart" is my Mini that it does all the range calculations... on-the-fly?

Speaking of which... By the time I parked my 339 in the company lot, range-to-empty was just a shocking 32-miles! Huh?

Oh yeah, I forgot how "hilly" some spots are on my daily commuting route. And we ran into a "spot shower" that morning... So, I had to "cycle" the A/C rather than leave it on. (Note to Mini: How come you didn't equip the "E" version with a smart climate control system? One that keeps cabin temperature constant?) But then again, I also had to use the defogger (which uses the A/C, right?) and wipers because we ran into a "spot shower."

Anyway, so there was a real danger that now that I got to work, 339 might -- just might -- leave me and the intern "high and dry." (The irony of this phrase will hit you as you read on.)

I ran into one of our "car guys" (one who knew I was becoming a "pioneer") and explained the situation to him. He hooked me up with one of his "engineers" who was very much interested in seeing my 339. So, after a brief "peek-under-the-hood" -- Sorry, I mean "a peek under 339's bonnet and boot" (boy, that sounds "dirty!" ;-)) -- the engineer says, "Well, if you need a charge, let's see if I can hook you up at the Utility shed."

So, we take 339 all the way to the far end of the parking lot, toward the back of the company property where most of the "support facilities" are located. And my Mini-E finds an outlet and jacks in. (Good thing I packed the 110 charger!)

All is well, I thought... Except after lunch, I find out from the engineer that he had to unplug 339 from the outlet because other engineers had to use the Utilities shed's power. And, I had to move 339 out of Facilities' way. Great...

So, I move 339 back into the employee lot... and as I'm driving (very quiet, again thanks to the all-electric nature of Mini-E) I noticed that practically all the lamp posts in the employee lot have an outdoor outlet!!! Hmmm...

I park 339 near a lamp post at the farthest, most inconspicuous part of the lot. I jump out with the charger and jack in 339. Success!! And I walk away at 3 p.m., happy yet a bit anxious. Will even just 2 hours or so on 110-Volts @ 12 amp give my 339 enough juice to make it home? Or will I be testing the special roadside assistance number?

I lose myself in work, until I noticed the ambient lighting in my office waning. Ut oh... Did the forecasters predict rain today? I hurried to finish my work. But the skies got darker and just as I shut down my computer...

Mini-E field trial 110-volt charging cable plug standard gear Mini-E pioneers battery charger Clipper Creek
This is the plug on the 100-Volt charger that goes into the Mini-E. This thing is GIANORMOUS and looks like something Dr. Frakenstein would've loved! Still, it feels VERY solid (like I could kill somebody with it!) and that's probably a "Good Thing!"
Click to enlarge.

Crash! Boom!! And the skies opened up in a massive summer thunderstorm! And right on cue at 5 p.m.!!! Great...

Oh wait, is the 110-charger water-proof? Will the downpour of water short out the charger? 339? Is the lamp posts properly grounded against lightning? Will I be zapped trying to unplug 339 from the lamp post? How much juice is coming out of that connector into the Mini-E anyway? Will I be safe touching it while standing in, say a flood of rain water?

Well, only one way to find all this out, I thought. That, and why didn't I bring an umbrella into the office today?

A mad dash to the far end of the lot. I'm soaked. I unplug the connector to 339. Good! No mind-numbing, death-inducing electrical shock!! I unplug the other end. Again, no shock. GREAT! I throw everything back into the Mini, unfortunately on top of the battery cover inside -- where you're NOT suppose to put anything. (Safety hazard. If you stop short, anything on top will slam right into your head. Tough. I'm soaked and not gonna stand out in the rain to properly pack everything.)

I call the intern on my cell ("Bring towels... I'm soaked!"), pick him up and off we go.

Range-to-empty: 40 miles. The wipers are slapping out a ten-fold of water... The A/C (defroster, actually) is humming cuz our soaked condition is pumping out the humidity to fog all the 339's windows.

Will we make it home under these conditions?

We hit the highway near work and just five minutes into the commute home... It stops raining!! It even looks like the skies clearing! Even better, it looks like there's not a lot of traffic -- amazing because, typically, once water hits NY-area highways, traffic just comes to a crawl!

The result: I got home, after dropping off the intern, with just 8% battery charge capacity left!! Getting the big red "!" on the dash was not fun. (Practically, "Danger, danger! Warning Will Robinson! Danger, danger!")

Still, 399 "passed." Barely! :-(

In summary:

Talk about having "Range Anxiety!"

  • Mini-E 339 is a "head-turner" among the geeks. (Ahhh... My peeps!)
  • Good, quiet near-immediate acceleration on the highway. (Passing cars on the highway was a breeze!)
  • "Stealthy" driving in parking lots
  • "Range anxiety"
  • Wiper controls. (Although I suspect if I spent more time reading the manual...)
  • Clunky 110-V charger
Yet undecided:
  • When will I get my 220-Volt wall charger???


  1. Nice coverage. I could feel the tension. Would you make it home? Looking forward to seeing how the 220 wall charger works.

  2. Thanks, DK! Although this post is way long and probably way late. (I must be suffering from the long-windedness of certain other people.. ;-))

    Tons of new stuff "revealed" over the weekend and today... Let me get to it now while I have the memory! (Maybe I should get a Twitter account... And force myself to be more brief! :-D)