Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“Yes, Grasshopper. But can any man afford such arrogance?” – Master Po

Before taking delivery of our ActiveE, I voraciously read everything I could find from the Mini-E Pioneers.  I read the Facebook posts; I read the forums, and most of all I read the blogs.  Mini-E blogs as well as ActiveE blogs.  Since the Mini-E Pioneers were the first to take delivery of ActiveEs, their blogs were a great place to get information about the EV we would soon be receiving.  I just couldn’t get enough.

'93 VW Corrado
In retrospect, I should have known better.  These were folks with a wealth of experience in the realm of EVs, and I respected that.  But I was a car guy – my garage has housed a Dark Green Metallic Corrado, a Red Autumn Metallic A4 Quattro as well as cars that were Bright Caramel Metallic, California Sky Blue, and Kasan Red, so I must know about some things that these Pioneers do not. 

By the time we took delivery of our ActiveE, Electra Girl had washed her ActiveE 11 times.  Eleven times in 3333.3 miles.  Once every 303 miles.  How could a car need to be washed that often?  My Dark Green Metallic VW didn’t need washing that often, and I was meticulous about keeping that car clean.  If a car that’s almost black doesn’t show dirt that badly, there’s no way a white car, electric or ICE (see EV Acronym definitions here courtesy of Keith Davidson) would show dirt worse than a black car, right?

250 miles behind the wheel of the ActiveE and I owe Electra Girl an apology.  We’ve never met, and I’d only thought she was crazy for washing her car that often - I’d never even shared my thoughts on the topic with anyone, until now.  Due to my arrogance, I owe her that apology.  It’s been a lot of years since I labored to keep that Corrado clean, and I’m not as diligent or meticulous about my cars as I was back then.  But clearly the ActiveE needs to be washed. 

At this rate I’ll be washing it 20% more often than Electra Girl – and as such, this grasshopper bows to the wisdom of Master Po – a.k.a. Electra Girl.

It's a Dirt Magnet

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Inverse Range Anxiety – Seriously?

We took delivery of our ActiveE yesterday evening from New Country BMW in Hartford.  After delivery we went out to dinner in West Hartford, then began the journey home.  The total trip was just over 70 miles that were almost exclusively highway. 

Sidebar – we still don’t have our EVSE yet (the Clipper Creek CS-40 is scheduled to be delivered next Monday), so we’re relying on 120v charging for the time being.

Upon arriving home, the remaining range was 14 miles.  I was scheduled to be in Manhattan today, and a certain someone had decided that she wanted to drive the car to a luncheon today to show it off to the girls.  I wasn’t sure that was a good idea without a road test first.  That way we could go over the important stuff – like starting the car and getting it in gear, not to mention regen braking.  So we took it out for a spin with her behind the wheel and returned to the house with 8 miles of range left. 

After the drive a discussion ensued as to whether she could make it to work, then to lunch.  “But there’s still eight miles of range left”, she said, “and it’s going to charge all night.”  “We need to understand how far the car will go before we push it to the end of the batteries”, I countered.  Not knowing how much range would be available after charging overnight, I recommended that if she went to work that she should probably go with her Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), then pick up the ActiveE on the way to lunch.

As it turned out there was enough range this morning to drop me off at the train station and do all the driving she wanted to today.  As we drove to the train station at some ungodly hour this morning, we discussed the seemingly rapid change in her driving philosophy.  You see, this is someone who would panic when the low fuel warning light would come on in the ICE – even though there were two gallons of gas and 40 miles of range left.  And now after almost 10 minutes behind the wheel it’s turned into “but there’s still eight miles of range left”.

Clearly this will change the more she drives the ActiveE, but for now, range anxiety?  Somebody don’t got no stinkin’ range anxiety.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bad Karma for Consumer Reports

As the ActiveE is a field trial of BMW’s Project i, its not surprising that there are bumps in the road.  Electronauts are finding a variety of issues that are being reported back to BMW, and that’s the point – all of the bugs need to be worked out prior to the roll out of the i3. 

One of the issues that has been occurring is a fault that renders the vehicle undriveable.  In most cases the fault can be cleared by letting the vehicle sit for a few minutes to an hour after cycling the key on and off.  In a small percentage of the cases, the fault did not clear and the vehicles had to be towed back to BMW to clear the fault.

As I mentioned earlier, situations like this aren’t surprising and should be expected – especially in the first few months that the cars are on the streets – it’ll take some time for BMW to work out fixes for the issues that come up.

Having said that, we’d be a lot less forgiving of the issues if this was a $110k production car.  Turns out that Fisker, the maker of the Karma may be having similar issues.  Here’s guessing that the folks at Fisker wished that it was any other Karma that had the problem…

Friday, March 9, 2012

“In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far...”

It was the summer of 1979 – The Buggles went to number 1 in the UK with the song that eventually launched MTV in 1981, and CT Governor Ella Grasso instituted a gas rationing system based on license plate numbers to reduce long lines and minimize hoarding of gas.  I was 12 years old that summer, and sat in my father’s ’66 Pontiac Grand Prix on more than one occasion waiting in line to fill up.  Sitting there I wondered how I would ever afford gas when I finally had my own car.  Fortunately by the time I could drive things had turned around and availability and prices met with the gas budget of a 16 year old.  The experience of sitting in those lines, however, had begun to shape my beliefs in ways that I wouldn’t have guessed back then. 

Fast forward to 2009 – it’s been 30 years since I had to sit in those lines with my father, and my daily driver was 16+ years old and showing its age.  I’ve been a car enthusiast for most of my life and have even owned an exotic, and definitely wanted a ‘driver’s car’.  But looking at the cars that were available, I struggled to find a car that was a ‘fit’.  While I wanted a vehicle that was a driver’s car, I also wanted one that was green.  The Prius had been widely available for years and the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt were in development and ahead of the pack for EVs.  None of these cars would ever be mistaken for a driver’s car though.  The only car that was out there that seemed to meet my requirements was the Mini Cooper, but I wasn’t sold.  36 mpg was nice, but I was hoping for something better.  Had the Mini-E had been available in my area, I would have jumped on it, but sadly it wasn’t.

Three years later the Mini-E field trial was finally coming to an end, and the second phase of BMW’s Project i was starting.  The BMW ActiveE is a 1 Series that has been configured to be electric.  The search for my next vehicle was over.  Now I just had to get one of the 700 cars that would be available in the US.  So I went through the process, and then waited to see if I made the cut.  On Valentine’s day I received what everyone who wants one of these cars was waiting for – an email from BMW indicating “Congratulations on being assigned your all-new BMW ActiveE. You are officially confirmed as one of 700 BMW Electronauts.” 

Sidebar – yeah the ‘Electronaut’ thing is a bit geeky, but being a bit of a geek myself I guess I can live with it.

Back to the story – So it was confirmed that I was getting a car, but when?  Mini-E Pioneers (yep – BMW definitely was playing up the ‘geek’ factor for Project i) were being assigned cars first, then their friends and family who wanted ActiveEs and finally us noobies.  As the days ticked by and people began receiving their cars, it became apparent that it was taking about 4-5 weeks for the cars to show up after receipt of the confirmation letter.  So I continued to wait.

Today that wait is finally over.  I received word that my ActiveE will arrive at the dealer on Monday.

Please join me as I document via this blog my two year journey with the all-electric BMW ActiveE.  Video [may have] Killed the Radio Star, but unlike GM, the Oil companies, and everyone else who conspired to kill the EV1, they can no longer rewind because the electric car has come too far (I mentioned I was a geek right?).