2009 Mini E: 141 Miles, Rusty Rotors, Happy Drivers
Just back from a meet-up of Southern California Mini E drivers - 10 cars were there, including Edmunds' No. 116.
Took the opportunity while gathered around the EV charger in the parking lot of the old Helms Bakery complex in Culver City (about 10 miles west of downtown L.A.) to ask the group some questions that might shed a little more light on the electric car experience for those of you who don't drive 'em.
Q: Who drove the farthest to get here?
A: Stan Sadorf, an optometrist from Victorville, Calif., who logged 98 miles on car No. 59 his way in this morning. He said he stopped for a 1.5-hour battery top- up at a friendly cafe (with a free plug) and would be doing the same on his way home.
Q: Longest daily commute using the Mini E?
A: 85 miles, the round-trip that Long Beach-based driver Todd Crook (car 140) puts in to go to and frim his job at NBC Universal in Burbank.
Q: Least range anyone's chalked up?.
A: Los Angeles Driver Adam Weisman said he only got "60 or so" miles per charge when he first started driving his Mini E. "I didn't know what I was doing." He now does considerably better.
[Wimbledon edit: Tiki frame? :nuts:]
Q: How many of the group considered themselves early adopters who wanted the experimental Mini E even though it has only two seats and a hefty $850 monthly lease payment?
A: Everyone here.
Q: How many owned an electric car before getting the Mini E?
A: No one.
Q: Owned a hybrid previous to the electric Mini?
A: Two of the drivers.
Q: Who's ever run out of juice and had to be taken to the nearest charger on a flat-bed tow truck?
A: No one.
Q: The stated range for the Mini E is 100 miles. What's the farthest anyone in the group has driven on a single charge?
A: An astounding 141 miles. Driver Matt Walton, who lives in Moorpark, Ca. (45 miles north of the Culver city gathering spot), said he took a very leisurely trip up into the mountains, keeping to 25 miles an hour most of the way and making heavy use of the Mini's regenerative braking on the way back down (plus some judicious coasting, we imagine).
Q: The most anyone's gone after the battery range indicator shows "Zero?"
A: Seems quite a few of the drivers have tempted fate - no one enough, though, to actually run out of power. But the most miles logged after the "0" showed up was 20, a figure offered by several of the drivers.
MiniEelectric.jpgQ: Some of the Mini E's have the word "Electric" spelled out in chrome letters on the front fenders, one has huge "MINI-E" decals on the door. Are those factory embellishments?
A: There's already an aftermarket cropping uo, offering custom "electric," "hybrid" and other signs that people can put on their cars to show they are powered buy something other than a gas engine. The big Mini-E decal, though, did come from a dealer.
Q: Silly questions people ask when they see a Mini E for the first time?
A: 1) Is it electric? 2) What's wrong with the brakes? They're all rusty! (Because the regenerative braking system pretty much stops the car without use of the brakes, some of the cars have rusty rotors because they're rarely scoured by brake pads.
Q: What kinds of problems have people experienced?
A: Not many, apparently. A few of the drivers have head of warning lights coming on to indicate that there's a problem with one or more of the battery cells - which results in the faulty cells being replaced; a few of the power electronics control boxes also have been replaced, a practice, driver Jeff Lander suggests, that is likely because it's easier for a dealer to swap out the whole box and send it to the manufacturer (AC Propulsion) than it is to try to track down which component is acting up.
Landers, who arrived at the meeting driving a standard gasoline Mini, said his high voltage warning light came on Friday afternoon and when he called his dealership a flat-bed was immediately dispatched, the car was picked up and he was plunked into the bright yellow loaner "all in about two hours." He's still waiting to see hear the diagnosis.
Q: How many of the drivers would sign up to renew their leases, or, better, to buy the Mini Es - even with just two seats and the battery box filling up most of the space behind them?
A: Everyone raised a hand.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Edmunds Green Car Advisor