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BMW Mini E


Meet The Mini E Invitation
Mini Wings awarded after your test drive.

The BMW Mini E

Charger Installation
& Test Drive

The pace of things have been picking up as we get closer to actually getting a car. Today we had our charger box installed. It's the light gray box on the right side of the photo at right.

One bad thing is that it's the third charger for us for our third type of electric car. It would certainly be nice if the manufacturers would standardize things! It should go a long way towards reducing the cost of ownership of an electric car. At least our previous investment in EV charger infrastructure like our Time-Of-Use (TOU) Meter and charger power wiring pays off. Because existing circuits could be used, there was no additional charge to us to get the new charger added.

The other bad news is that the installed charger is lacking a cord to plug into the car! Next week is the word I heard from our installer. The cords are supposed to have been delayed by the UL approval process, which in turn delays the delivery of the cars!

The good news about the new charger is that the trend is toward a smaller, simpler box. The first charger (for the EV1) was an even bigger and heavier monster than the gray and blue Toyota RAV4 charger shown in the photo above.

In case you're wondering about the extra stuff in the photo of the charger setup, the small gray box at the top is a simple mechanical timer used in the EV1 days, and the next gray box down is a switch which allows only one of the chargers to be used at a time. Unfortunately the home power wiring hardware like the switch (left) lacks the design elegance of the chargers and cars!

The other big step forward today was a chance to test-drive the Mini E at the local dealer (Crevier).

While we were very confident that there would be no show-stoppers, it was nice to have a chance to actually drive the car around.

One immediately noticeable difference was the lack of "creep" in the car. Both the EV1 and the RAV4 EV had this "feature" implemented, presumably to make automatic transmission car drivers feel comfortable. This car just sits there (on a level surface), like a car in neutral. I'll have to drive the car more to see how I really feel in the long run, but I think this is an improvement over the previous EV's we've driven.

The other big difference compared to our previous EV's is the way regenerative braking is handled. In the Mini, it is always enabled, so as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, the car tends to slow down. Our previous cars had the feature (the RAV4 EV has two levels), but it could be turned off for freeway driving.

Again, I'll reserve judgement until I've driven the car more, but my preference is to have the option to turn off regen braking when cruising on the freeway. In normal use with the EV1's and RAV4 EV, we have regen braking off most of the time, and selectively enable it only when coming to a stop or going down a long downhill stretch.

Because there was only a single car for a crowd of potential drivers, I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to really poke around the car's displays and controls, but I did note that there was a power use display which should be useful for giving feedback for efficient driving.

Also, I noted that the "key" is an electronic type which needs to be inserted into the car and then a "start" button needs to be pressed while your foot is on the brake. This seems similar to another electric vehicle we've tried out — a Segway! I can just see that causing a problem when we have to use valet parking!

In general, acceleration and handling was what I have come to expect from a two-person sporty EV. There was not much of the gear whine which seemed to be a signature of the EV1's. Externally, of course, at low speed the car moves silently unless the A/C or cooling fan is running.

Looking forward to more time with the car!