Two months into its pioneering field trials of electric-powered automobiles, MINI USA is gathering valuable, real-world data from 450 drivers of MINI E electric-powered vehicles.
These vehicles are now in daily use in metropolitan New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles, where they are being driven by private customers, municipalities, universities, public utilities, non-profit and commercial organizations.
Since the field trials began in June, these experiences have been fed back to MINI USA, with users describing what it is like to live with, and to drive a vehicle that has a purely electric drivetrain. Initial responses include a wide variety of input including:
— Optimization of the energy consumption through brake regeneration
— Managing the trip to the amount of range available
— Feedback on continued development regarding on-board efficiencies
A research partnership between the BMW Group and the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) has been established to further focus on real-world experiences with the MINI E, and is expected to provide valuable insights into real-life usage and perceptions about electric vehicles during the trial period. The study is gathering information from 50 voluntary participants, a subset of the 450 MINI E customers in the US, through online travel diaries, written questionnaires and a series of interviews conducted throughout the one-year study.
Several MINI E pioneers have started blogging about their experiences on the web, reporting on detailed aspects of their day-to-day experiences of their plug-in MINI.
“The feedback and data provided by these early users is valuable because it comes from real-world, everyday use and not some laboratory experiment,” said Jim McDowell, Vice President, MINI USA. “Whether it’s coming from the UC Davis research, consumer blog sites or from direct feedback to our company, this trial is giving us an important insight into the practicalities of using an electric powered vehicle in this country.”
Residential charging stations have been installed in the garages of MINI E drivers. There are two high voltage charging systems — the 220 volt 32 amp system allows a full charge in three to five hours, while a 48 amp system allows a full charge in two to three hours. Every MINI E comes with a 110 volt cable that allows MINI E drivers to also charge the car at locations away from home charging points.
MINI customers have always had a unique sense of camaraderie and this project has taken it to the next level. One group of customers has created a web site to share their charging stations with other MINI E pioneers for “charging on the go”: http://www.waterway4.com/mini-e/.