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Friday, July 12, 2013

Chasing Jack Brown

I hung a picture of Jack in my car during the 24 hour driving and charging marathon, just to keep me focused on the goal

Ever since the MINI-E program started back in 2009 the trial lease participants of that program and now the ActiveE program have had all kinds of informal competitions. Things like who could drive the furthest on a single charge, who could get the lowest consumption rate and even who could push their car the furthest past the electronically governed speed limit(Hint: You need a long, steep hill for this one).

4:00am: Getting juiced @ a Nissan dealer
I was the "most mileage" leader for the MINI-E program, driving over 73,000 miles in the 2 1/2 years months I had my MINI-E. That was one of the reasons BMW chose me to have the honor of being the first person to take delivery of an ActiveE. So when the ActiveE program started, there were plenty of people that came out saying they were gunning to dethrone me and be the ActiveE mileage king. Todd Crook, Dennis Pascual and Jack Brown in particular proclaimed they were going to do so and drive their ActiveE more than anyone else. There is still a lot of time left but they have a lot of ground to make up if they do want to pass me. I have 51,000 miles on my ActiveE with 6 months left and Dennis is the closest to me with 36,000 miles. They would have to significantly increase their driving and at the same time hope for my untimely demise to pass me at this point I'm afraid. :)

Jack was no match for Mariel's power
However total mileage isn't the only coveted driving "record" for the ActiveE drivers. The most miles driven in a 24 hour period recently became a challenge when Jack set out to drive his ActiveE from his home in the Bay area to Los Angelos in 24 hours. He even detailed his driving experience in a blog called "The Bay to LA in a Day in my BMW ActiveE" Jack completed his mission and in 24 hours drove his ActiveE 368 miles, more than anyone else had done in a 24 hour period. Then recently BMW started an online site for ActiveE owners that listed the leaders in total mileage and also in "most miles driven an a day". That's when the fame seemed to go to Jack's head. He started posting all over the internet how he's the 24 hour mileage king and how nobody can beat him. He even became uber-competitive now and always challenges the other ActiveE drivers to any competition he can think of whenever he meets up with them. At a recent ActiveE meet he even challenged Electronaut Mariel Knoll to an arm wrestling match. Now Jack's a big man but Mariel's a tough cookie and fortunately for the rest of us, she aptly pinned Jack down for the win and quieted him for a while.

1st stop: 1:30am at Nauna's to plug in
So I figured if I could beat his 24 hour mileage record that might be enough to really put him in his place. I set out with a fully charged car at 12:00am exactly. I did the math and while I figured it is possible, it would be tough for a couple reasons. First it was going to be a hot day, above 90 degrees in fact so I'd have to use the air conditioning. Normally that doesn't matter because it doesn't have a huge impact on my range, but in this case I'd be trying to squeeze out every mile so any loss would hurt. Also, now that I have over 50,000 miles and have charged the car 1,200 times, my battery capacity has shrunk by about 10% so my range isn't as good as Jack's was when accomplished the feat. Still I figured if I drove efficiently I would have a chance to beat him.

Lots of coffee was consumed
It didn't happen. After driving, charging, driving, charging for 24 hours, I rolled into my garage at 11:59pm with 353.6 miles on the trip computer. I had a few setbacks like needing to work a bit while the car was finished charging and having to stop for a short time at my parents house to help them with something, so I think if I did it again I could add another 20 miles or so and beat him. However I'm not sure I want to do that again. Driving just for the sake of driving can be a bit boring, I can assure you!

Is this really who we want representing us?
So for the time being Jack's record is safe and the rest of the Electronauts will likely be subject to his continued boasting. If I get the motivation back up perhaps I'll try it again in September when I won't need the air conditioning, but maybe someone else will have beaten it by then and I won't feel the need to subject myself to this grueling effort again.


My trip computer data. I drove for 7 hours and 44 minutes so the car was charging for 16 hours and 16 minutes. If the ActiveE could quick charge on direct current it would have been a totally different story and we could probably drive close to 800 miles in a day. I'm looking forward to that as an option in the i3.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Independence: Plug Into The Sun

My ActiveE with the rooftop solar array that produces all the energy I need to power it in the background
Independence Day as defined by Wikipedia: "Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain."

Independent as defined by Merriam Webster: "Not subject to control by others; Not requiring or relying on something else"

Personal transportation energy independence as defined by me: Driving a fully electric car that is powered by sunlight captured on your rooftop solar array. 

For over three years now I've been powering my electric cars with electricity generated by my rooftop solar array. Alone, both electric cars and solar electric are worth while on their own merits, but once you combine them the synergy created really makes them both better and even more worth the investment. Using solar electric to power your car makes it truly a zero emission vehicle, while using the electric you produce to displace purchasing gasoline gives it an even greater value than if you simply used it to power lights in your home.


A typical electric car can drive about 4 miles per kWh used. My solar array produces an average of about 30kWh's every day of the year. That will power an EV about 120 miles. If you have a gas car that gets 30mpg, which is much higher than the average car gets, it would need 4 gallons of gas to drive 120 miles. At today's gas prices that would cost about $15.00. That's $5,500 worth of gas per year at today's price. Gas prices fluctuate, but eventually they always go up. The sun will always be free. Sure, there was an initial investment for the solar array, but with my savings I'll be cash positive in about 8 years and the array's lifespan is about 30 years.

Then there is a great feeling knowing you are not dependent on big oil for your personal transportation. This Independence Day when I sit down to a nicely grilled steak, some farm fresh corn and open a bottle of beer, I'll certainly be celebrating our nations Independence as I always do. However for the third year now I'll also be celebrating my independence from oil. I'll take a second to reflect on that as I plug in my ActiveE tomorrow at about noon, just as my array will be generating peak power and the first of friends and family arrive at my house to celebrate the holiday(s). I hope everyone reading this has the opportunity to drive an electric car that is powered by the sun sometime soon, it's a combination you will love, I promise you. Happy Independence Day everyone!