Don't bother discussing range anxiety with New Jersey restaurant owner Tom Moloughney. He had a mild case of it when he first leased a Mini E, but has long since recovered. As of the fall of 2010, Moloughney had been driving the Mini E for 16 months and had put 43,000 miles on the car. He keeps meticulous records, charting the car's range performance under various conditions, and has been a guest blogger several times for the Long-Term Road Test blog at Inside Line, Edmunds' sister publication. In this article, which is based on some of the blog posts that Moloughney wrote when the Mini E reached 30,000 miles, he shares his insights on putting a plug-in electric car with a 100-mile range through real-world paces.
I applied for Mini's trial lease program because I was looking into the future of alternative-fuel vehicles. I like new technology and I believe America needs to become more energy independent for security and economic reasons. I wanted to be part of the beginning of the movement in that direction.
In my first three months with the car, I was using up every mile of the 100-120-mile range per charge, frequently driving the last 10 miles after the range indicator had hit zero. Many of us in the Mini E program soon realized you can drive the car about 20 miles more than the range gauge reads.
Then Mini offered additional 220-volt charging stations for anyone in the program who had a place to install one. I accepted and installed it at my restaurant (Nauna's Bella Casa in Montclair, New Jersey). Now, I could conceivably use up the 100-mile range, plug in for 3.5 hours at work and be ready for another 100 miles in the same day. Since then I've been averaging over 130 miles per day, seven days a week.
When Edmunds' Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds wrote that "the electronic leash and city-only suitability of the Mini E makes it unlikely that anyone could put more than 10,000 miles per year on this car," I was taken back a bit. At the time I had almost 18,000 miles on mine and knew of at least six others who already had over 10K on their cars.
However, I can understand his thoughts on this. While they do have a proper 220-volt charger at the Edmunds office, when the Long-Term Road Test editors take the car for a few days they have to use the 110-volt emergency charger, which takes forever to charge the car. This method is not practical and makes it very difficult to really drive the car much. All of the trial lease participants have 220-volt chargers at their homes and many others have a second charger at another location, like their place of work, as I do.
This wouldn't be possible for everyone, but I think a good number of people could make the arrangements to do something similar if they wanted to. I'm sure many employers, especially big corporations, would install chargers in their employee parking lots if there were a need for them. They don't cost much to install or use and the company would get good PR for supporting environmentally friendly transportation.
I believe having the ability to charge at work has increased my mileage by 20 percent. I could have lived with only the home charger, though, as my round-trip commute is between 65 and 85 miles depending on the route I take. With the second charger I can now plug in when I arrive at work, and in about an hour I'm back at 100 percent. So I can drive around all I want and not worry about the range at all.
When I first took possession of my Mini E, I really had no idea what to expect. Would it spend more time getting fixed than on the road? Would it lose power going up long inclines? Would the range decrease as time passed? Would I regret doing this?
Well, 11 months and 30,000 miles later I can answer those questions with a big NO. The car has seen its fair time being repaired. Twice it needed new battery modules and once I hit a famous New Jersey pothole and messed up a whole bunch of stuff in the front end, but I can hardly blame the car for that. I was going about 55 mph and practically tore the front right wheel off.
I use the car for everything: commuting, delivering pizza and packing it with restaurant supplies on a daily basis. I don't even use the restaurant's cargo van much anymore. I pack it (really over-pack it) with literally hundreds of pounds of supplies at a time. (I had 18 cases of Coke in it once.) Much of the cargo space is taken up by the batteries, but I use the passenger seat area and the area behind and on top of the modules. I have driven it to Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and routinely take it to Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York. The Mini E is capable of doing everything I need a car to do about 99 percent of the time.
I admit I was skeptical when I first got the car. I had all the concerns that I read about on Inside Line and other blogs, but the car has really won me over. I love how quiet it is, the regenerative braking, the power and great handling. But most of all I like not buying $40 in gas twice a week, which is what I was doing driving my 2009 Toyota Tacoma all the time.
It costs me about 3 cents per mile to operate and is fun to drive. I'm always amused when I read comments on blogs where people write how an EV would be such a hassle to own and they wouldn't want the bother. Everyone has the right to their opinion. But how many people have ever owned or even driven an EV? There's no hassle, believe me. It takes all of 15 seconds to plug in at night; that's it.
I'm averaging 88 miles per charge (about 105 in the warmer weather and about 80 now that it's cold), I don't stress about running out of charge, I don't worry about someone rear-ending me because of the regenerative braking, I don't worry about it at all. I just drive it like I would any other car. [The Mini E did face some challenges when temperatures soared in September 2010.]
Mini has offered the option of renewing our leases for another year for $600 per month and I accepted. The end of the second year will coincide with the beginning of a new program similar to this one. The car will be an all-electric BMW called the ActiveE and will be far more advanced than the Mini E in terms of technology. The Mini E drivers who continue for a second year will have the first option of getting an ActiveE and I plan to get one for sure. [To follow the current performance of Moloughney's Mini E, visit his blog.]
Finding the Cure for Range Anxiety