Sunday Drive: Mini E Drivers Gather to Share EV Experiences

By John O'Dell November 9, 2009

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We took the Edmunds long-term Mini E over to Culver City on Sunday for a meeting of Southern California Mini- E drivers.

The venue was a stone's throw from the office in the People's Republic of Santa Monica, but 54 miles from home, and the freeway trip on a day when there wasn't much traffic showed two things - the car zips along quite nicely at speeds of 70-80 mph, and at those speeds sucks down a lot of energy.

When we left the house, the range indicator showed we had 82 miles of travel on a full battery pack. When we arrived - a trip of 42 miles - it showed just 34 miles of range, meaning we'd lost 6 miles, or 7 percent or our anticipated range, to high-speed driving.

Several of the regular drivers -who use their Mini E's as their primary vehicles - told us that ranges of 80-85 miles at freeway speeds is the norm, although one L.A. driver, Adam Weisman, said that when he first got his Mini E this summer he was pounding down juice like a dehydrated marathon man, regularly running out of battery after 60 miles of so of driving.

"I didn't know what I was doing," he said - a condition from which he has since recovered.MiniGatering.jpg

The trick with EVs is to make heavy use of the regenerative braking system, or "regen," which necessarily means lots of stop and go driving. A really crowded rush-hour freeway can add 20 miles to that 80 miles of high speed range.

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Mini Es, and drivers,  gather under solar canopy at EV charging station in Culver City, Calif.

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Regen and slow driving helped one driver, Matt Weston, log an amazing 141 miles on a single charge - he did it going up a local mountain and back down again, at a steady 25 mph on the way up.

Weston and other drivers said, though, that even when they are not hypermiling to see what kind of range they can eke out, the Mini E provides quite sufficient range for 90 to 95 percent of their driving.

"It turns out we all have to plug in," said driver Stefano Paris, who finds he uses his conventional gasoline car so little these days that he's had to hook up a trickle charger to keep the 12-volt battery ready to crank.

It's things like that we'll all have to learn as electric cars and extended-range plug-in hybrids start becoming more commonplace.

Slow-learners don't have to worry, though. You've got - unfortunately - a few years to study up.

You can read more about the Mini E and what Sunday's drivers group had to say about their cars five months into their year-long leases by checking our long-term road test blog at Edmunds Inside Line.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor

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