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Showing posts with label AeroVironment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AeroVironment. Show all posts

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's All About The Range....Extender

Now that I have the added hardware, I've re-badged the car as well. 

One of the differences in the MINI-E and ActiveE trial lease programs is the ActiveE lease is more of a traditional automobile lease, where the MINI-E lease was specifically crafted as a beta test program and there were very strict rules. We were not allowed any modifications, we even had to get permission if we wanted to tint the windows. One person was actually thrown out for adding a simple modification that BMW didn't approve of. Now with the ActiveE, we can basically do what we want to as long as we return the car in good condition, and undo whatever modification we have done. Of course we can't do anything that is unsafe or that would be permanently installed so that you couldn't uninstall it, but short of that we pretty much have the green light to have fun.

You can see how much room is up there
I like that BMW is going to offer a small gasoline engine as an option on the i3 to extend the range. It won't be something everyone wants, but those that do can now buy the car without worrying about ever running out of charge and getting stuck somewhere. It will also help in the winter months in cold climate areas where the range drops and make it possible for the owner to complete trips that they wouldn't  otherwise be able to. I've been kicking around the idea of installing a small gas generator to my ActiveE for a while now, basically for emergencies but also for those occasional days where I need a little more range. I then stumbled on a small affordable generator that looked like it would fit perfectly in the empty space under the hood of the ActiveE, in between the front battery block and the fan. It's basically a huge empty space up there, big enough to fit a small suitcase.

The manual is a must for any modifications
So after I confirmed the dimensions would work, I picked up the Ryobi 2200 generator and the project began. Everything was very straight forward, the unit fit perfectly in the space up front and all I had to do was secure it so it wouldn't bounce around and damage anything. The only hard part (and it wasn't really hard) was I had to connect it directly the the KLE(onboard charger) above the power electronics and motor because if I didn't the car wouldn't run while it was charging. There is a safety feature in today's electric cars that don't allow them from turning on if it's plugged in, whether or not it's charging. By circumventing the whole J1772 charging port and connecting the power supply directly the the onboard charger, the car would start and run while it is charging without any issues. I happen to have the full technical manual for the ActiveE so this was not a problem. In fact, I offer the manual for sale on my ActiveE Modification website. It's $19.99 and can be downloaded directly from the site upon payment. The manual is a must for anyone that wishes to modify their ActiveE.

Running the feed from the generator to the KLE
I'm not going to show detailed pictures of the completed set-up or offer instructions on how to do this because I'm concerned about liability(and BMW coming after me for instruction people how to modify their cars) but if somebody is really serious about doing this then contact me directly and I can offer advice on what not to do. All you really need to do is run your supply line from the generator to the KLE and figure out how to connect it. It's literally a three hour job if you know what to do.

I had to install a carbon monoxide detector
I've had it installed for about a month now and it's been working perfectly. Since it's a small generator, it only adds about 6 miles of range per hour. It helps, but certainly doesn't allow for continuous driving. What it does do well is charge the battery while I'm parked for a while. If there are no chargers around and I go shopping or to a movie I can just leave it running and it will charge the car up. That has two minor problems though. First, it's really loud! People walking by really stop to try to figure out why the car is running and way it's sounds like a lawn mower. Secondly, I didn't route the exhaust out anywhere, figuring it would just escape through the seams and underneath the car. When it's on while I'm driving it's no problem, but if I leave it charging while the car is parked for a while, the cabin does get infiltrated with a fair share of fumes. Just to be safe, I installed a carbon monoxide detector inside the cabin so I can monitor it. It is quite startling when it goes off as it's only inches from my head but all I need to do is open the windows for a few minutes and it shuts off. 

Running the genset before permanent install
It really is doing exactly what I had hoped. By running it for a couple hours while the car is parked I can easily drive 110 - 120 miles per day. I know it's kind of cheating using gas and all, but sometimes you just need a little more range. I wish I had this last year when I ran out of charge a couple miles from my house and had to plug in at a Burger King and wait there a hour! Now that I've conquered this I've begun to experiment with a larger generator, one that could add 20-25 miles of range per hour. Of course this large of a generator wouldn't fit under the hood, and would need to be towed on a trailer behind the car but would allow for much longer drives if I wanted to. So I went out and bought a big generator and began to tinker with it. Surprisingly it didn't work instantly like the smaller generator did and I'm not sure why. I even broke out some EVSE's to test the generator charging the car and using a (supposedly) wall mounted EVSE. It got even more interesting when the ClipperCreek EVSE wouldn't charge the car but if I hooked it up to an AeroVironment unit it would. I'm still working on this but I'm sure I'll figure it out. Then all I need to do is get a small trailer to pull the generator. I've already welded a tow hook to the frame of the car behind the rear bumper so it's good to go.

Testing the larger genset with two EVSE's

I figure I'll have this done in a couple weeks and will do a post on it along with video of me driving the car with the trailer and the generator running. Feel free to post questions and comments below but please don't ask me anything specific about installation here, I can't post that publicly. Below are some assorted pictures of the REx experiment:

The ActiveE trunk once you remove the carpeting. The KLE is directly behind the shiny metal door in the center. You simply remove the eight Torx screws and it's sitting right there to connect your supply to.
Snaking the yellow cable from the engine bay to the KLE took the most time. I used a heavy duty 10 gauge outdoor wire and made sure it didn't interfere with anything. 
When I connected the large generator directly to the KLE I used a very heavy gauge high voltage outdoor cable. I'll eventually route this under the car up into the power electronics area before attaching the trailer.
The lighting isn't good, but this view is looking up into the motor assembly. I routed the cable up through here.

The tow hook is ready to go, all I need is a trailer now!

The REx tags are all over the car. If you got it, flaunt it!
UPDATE: For those that haven't figured it out yet, this was an April Fools post. I haven't added a range extender and I don't have an ActiveE modification website. I hope you all had fun with it - be well!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My AeroVironment EVSE is Installed

The one on the left is the new AeroVironment EVSE. The one on the right is the Clipper Creek chargers that were used for the MINI-E trial. I have retrofitted it with a J1772 connector so it can now charge the ActiveE also.

Today was the day I had my EVSE swapped with the AeroVironment unit that BMW is using for the ActiveE program. The MINI-E pioneers, as an added bonus get the EVSE for free provided we have it installed in the exact same place that we had our MINI-E charger. That way the swap is quick and easy. The electricians came today and completed the swap in about an hour. So I'm good to go now, I just need my ActiveE. I haven't had any official word yet, but the rumors swirling around point to next week sometime, we'll see..

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Current MINI-E Lessees Get The Facts on The BMW ActiveE

ActiveE @ NY Auto Show--note the name on the screen behind the car : )

One of the incentives that BMW offered the MINI-E pioneers in an effort to entice us to renew our leases for a second year, was that we would have priority placement to lease the BMW ActiveE when the program began. That was a big carrot, and one that no doubt made some people that might have been on the fence about renewing, do just that. 

Now that the ActiveE program is about six months from launching, and applications to apply for the program will begin sometime in the next few months or so, BMW reached out to the MINI-E lessees and organized private showings of the ActiveE, one for the East Coast, and West Coast. The private showings allowed all who attended to sit in the car and ask questions about it and the lease program and were followed by dinners hosted by BMW.

It was great to check out the car in person and Richard Steinberg and Aaron Singer of BMW spoke to the crowd for a bit and then answered questions from all of us. 

The car looks even better in person and I was really happy to see how the center stack information center displayed all the data electric car drivers want to see including state of charge represented in a percentage, unlike the Nissan LEAF's gas-gauge like bar system that doesn't give you the actual state of charge in a number, just 12 bars that reduce to 0 as you deplete the battery. I couldn't live with that, I want to see a number that I can easily translate to how many miles remaining I can drive.
Now the really great news. As part of the showings, BMW asked all of us to put our names in a hat and they picked a winner at each of the two events. The winner will get an ActiveE to drive for a week this summer, months before the program starts and the customers get their cars. I didn't win, but I still won. Huh? Well, before the drawing, I was told not to put my name in the hat, and that as a thank you for all I have been doing to help promote the ActiveE (like the live Facebook Q&A with Rich Steinberg) they are going to give me an ActiveE for a week this summer anyway and that I didn't need to enter the contest! Thank you Rich, Aaron, Marian & Hugo! It's really nice to be appreciated and I can't wait to get the car!

Anyway, here are some details for the MINI-E lessees. These do not apply to others that are applying for the ActiveE, just the current MINI-E lessees that are transitioning into an ActiveE. Additional details for everyone else, along with how to apply for the ActiveE program will be announced soon.

Current MINI-E Leases will be extended until the launch of the ActiveE so that MINI-E pioneers can continue to enjoy uninterrupted zero emission driving. You do not have to extend your lease past the two year mark to qualify for primary positioning to lease an ActiveE if you do not want to.


The ActiveE program will have NO MILEAGE restriction for any of the participants. You will be able to drive the car as much as you want to without any mileage penalty.

Unlike the MINI-E program, insurance WILL NOT be included. This lease is more like a traditional lease, except for the unlimited mileage and the fact that it is closed-end, meaning you cannot purchase the car when the lease is over.

MINI-E pioneers will be supplied and installed the new AeroVironment EVSE's for NO CHARGE and we can keep our existing Clipper Creek EVSE's.

While the lease price was announced at $2,250 down, and $499/month, you can put down more or less as you wish and the monthly payment will be adjusted accordingly. This means if you didn't wan to put down any money, your monthly payment would be $592.75. In NJ there is no sales tax on EV's so the $592.75 would be the actual payment, in other states, sales tax may apply.

BMW is using the $7,500 federal tax credit as a capitol cost reduction, meaning they took the tax credit and applied it to our payments to lower the overall cost to the lessees. Therefore we do not get to deduct it from our taxes, because we already got it in lower payments.

Wear & tear items like tires will not be covered in the lease like they were in the MINI-E program. All regular maintenance and repairs are covered, like they would be for any regular BMW.
The ActiveE can be ordered without the circuit graphics if desired. 

The car has a top speed of 90mph and is expected to have a similar 100mile range as the MINI-E, if not slightly more.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

AeroVironment to Supply EVSE for the BMW ActiveE

For a while many of the MINI-E pioneers wondered what wall charger(EVSE) would the ActiveE use. For the MINI-E trial lease program, BMW installed Clipper Creek EVSE's in the participants garages and that was one of the biggest challenges BMW faced in the whole MINI-E program, resulting from a combination of a lack of information and understanding by local electrical inspectors and the fact that the cables came separately from the wall units themselves, bringing into question whether or not the unit was still UL approved.

Now that more than two years have passed since the MINI-E program was conceived, a lot has changed in the EV world. One of the biggest things is that there is now an accepted connector standard adopted by the SAE which will be used on all new Electric Vehicles and it's called the J1772 connector. The MINI-E used a connector made by ODU, that would only work on the MINI-E and obviously that isn't the right way to do it, but BMW really had no choice back then because there was no accepted standard.

Now that we have a standard that the ActiveE will use, the MINI-E connector won't work so even the MINI-E pioneers transitioning into an ActiveE like myself need to either have their current clipper Creek equipment upgraded to include a J1772 connector, or have a entire new EVSE installed. BMW has decided to use AeroVironment for the ActiveE EVSE equipment and installations, in particular the EVSE-RS model. The good news is that once this is done, this new EVSE will then work on any future EV that they get, and there will be no need to do anymore upgrades. I think this is one of the reasons that BMW is going to pass the cost of the new EVSE onto the customers as opposed to including it in the lease price like they did with the MINI-E. They knew that after the MINI-E program ended, the equipment would be useless to us so they really couldn't charge us for it, that is not the case now as we can continue to use the new chargers long after the ActiveE program is over.

It would have been a nice bonus to get the EVSE for free, but I for one didn't expect it to be that way.