Mobility The Fully Electric MINI E Hits the Road Goodlifer

24 Фев 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Mobility The Fully Electric MINI E Hits the Road Goodlifer отключены

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Mobility: Fully Electric MINIs Hit the Road

Electric cars play an important role in any vision of a sustainable future. Even though one utopian ideal might be bright green sustainable cities designed for public transportation and human-powered mobility, the reality is that few people are ready to give up their cars tomorrow. Electric cars, however, are a good compromise. They produce zero direct emissions and are silent and zippy.

If renewables are sourced to fuel them, they are a very clean alternative as well.

The gas-powered standard MINI Cooper gets 37 miles to the gallon, which already is much better than many of the fancier hybrids out there (stats). The newly launched, fully electric MINI E will be powered by a 150 kW (204 hp) electric motor fed by a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery, transferring its power to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox nearly without a sound and entirely free of emissions. Specially engineered for automobile use, the battery technology will, under ideal conditions, have a range of more than 240 kilometers, or 150 miles, on one three-hour (240 volt, 48 Amps) charge, with a top speed of 95 mph (152 km/h).

The MINI E will initially be made available to select private and corporate customers as part of a pilot project in the US states of California, New York and New Jersey. Prospective mobility pioneers were invited to apply for a one-year lease, and a few of those who met the requirements and live in these states were selected to participate. The caveat, which turned out to be a problem in New York City especially, was that drivers needed to have a lockable garage with enough power supply to support charging through the wallbox (supplied by MINI).

No gas, just electricity. Make sure it comes from sustainable sources such as wind, hydro or solar.

The engine, made by AC Propulsion, takes up most of the space under the hood.

All 500 MINI E s manufactured are numbered and have been doled out; the majority leased to consumers, and the rest either to lent cities or kept for promotional purposes. Sporting a large logo on the roof, the dark gray car featuring Interchange Yellow trimmings will be surely noticed. At the recent NY/NJ area launch event, Marc Alt. environmental consultant and the evening s keynote speaker said be ready to spread the gospel, you are not only test drivers but pioneers that can show other people the way to the future. Alt also told these soon-to-be-drivers that they need to consider where their power comes from; if your electric car runs on electricity sourced from a coal-fired power plant, maybe it s time to finally sign up for green power. Even if you re not fortunate enough to have a MINI E you should ask your power supplier about your options; most provide some type of green power, be it wind, solar, low-impact hydro, landfill gas or a combination of sources.

You ll pay a tiny bit more, but the future will thank you.

A full recharge draws a maximum of 28 kilowatt hours of electricity from the grid. Based on the car s range, a kilowatt hour translates into 5.4 miles. Besides the benefit of zero-emissions driving, the MINI E thus offers significant economic advantages over a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine as well.

All 500 MINI E s made are numbered, on their front fenders. Who gets lucky number 001? Or 007?

Somber gray, zippy lime green and a plug-in roof graphic will get you noticed on the road.

A simple dashboard interface shows how many miles and minutes you have left before having to charge up.

According to parent company BMW. putting some 500 cars on the road under real daily traffic conditions will make it possible to gain widely applicable hands-on experience. Evaluating these findings will generate valuable know-how, which will be factored into the engineering of mass-produced vehicles. One would hope that this knowledge paves the way for wide-spread mass-production. BMW hopes so as well. The MINI E has already gone through the major phases of product development for mass-produced vehicles and passed numerous crash tests on the way.

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Aspects investigated besides passenger protection were the impact of collision forces on the lithium-ion battery and finding a non-hazardous location for it in the car. The MINI E s energy storage unit emerged completely unscathed from all of the crash tests mandated by US standards, which are especially high.

To make room for the specifically engineered lithium-ion battery, the back seat had to go. There is still room for some groceries or bags.

The trunk is the same size as a regular MINI, compact but sufficient for everyday use.

The main problem with electric cars is infrastructure, the lack of charging stations and qualified service personnel limits the range of these cars. One exciting thing that seemed to happen organically at the owner s launch, also encouraged by Alt, was the spontaneous networking; people offering up their homes and chargers to other MINI E owners and working together to find solutions to this challenge. One prospective owner mentioned he has an office building producing more solar electricity than he could ever use, and invited anyone who happened to be nearby to come by for a charge. A couple on Shelter Island, NY offered up their wallbox for potential Hamptons road trips. A man who owned a network of pay phones in New York City talked about his plans to try an convert these obsolete street phones to electric car charging stations.

It was great to see all these people so excited about their common cause that all barriers and limitations seem to have been eliminated. If people work together, change can come so much faster than if we wait for someone to do it for us.

Major consumer appeal never served as a barrier to success either. Ever since they relaunched the Cooper, MINI has been on the forefront of car design, and as ubiquitous an accessory for designers as Sharpies and thick-rimmed eyeglasses. I can make fun of this because I am one of these people. When buying a new car in late 2006, I did not even consider any other make, and the choice of model — Cooper, Cooper S, or Cooper convertible — was merely a matter of how much money the BMW bank would lend me (had I been approved the extra $7000 for the convertible I would have been happily zipping around roofless).

The design team made a smart choice in sticking to the original shape and design of the distinctive Coopers, while incorporating a number of visual cues that point to its uniqueness.

Electric cars seem to have redeemed their reputation after General Motor s EV debacle (watch Who Killed The Electric Car if you don t know what I m talking about). There certainly seems to be no lack of excitement for this new technology. And, if the charging station network challenge can be solved in the near future, I think this is the continuation of something big.

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