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Friday, March 9, 2012

Is That a Helicoptor In the Garage?

The guilty party

About a week after a got my ActiveE I heard an unusual noise coming from the front of the car while I was driving. Since the car is usually so quiet a noise doesn't have to be loud to be noticeable, but this was a really loud noise that sounded like a fan on really high speed. I was concerned for a bit, but as the car continued without a problem and the noise went away, I figured it was just a normal occurrence.

The MINI-E had a fan that cooled the electric motor and another fan that cooled the battery. When the battery temperature got higher than 90 degrees or so, the fan went on high speed and was quite loud itself, but not as loud as what I heard.  Then, as other people started getting their ActiveE's they too were startled when they first heard the fan. When one person heard it for the first time, they had just gotten in the car to go for a drive. They were so concerned by the noise they turned the car off, got out and used their other car! They then emailed me(knowing I've had the car for a while by then) to ask me if that was a normal noise they heard. A couple days later Todd Crook, one of the ActiveE drivers out in California emailed me about it. He had just heard it for the first time and was surprised how loud it was. He was inside his house and the car was charging in the garage when the fan suddenly went on. Todd said he thought a helicopter had landed in this driveway! Yeah- it's that loud!

Since I had only heard it once and for only a short time, I really didn't think much about it. It's cold here on the East Coast so the fan wouldn't need to come on much to cool the batteries like it may for the West Coast Electronauts. However, now that I've had a couple people call me and ask me if it was normal for the fan to be so loud, I reached out to the ActiveE technical maintenance team and was reassured that it was normal and that the fan goes on when the car detects the batteries need to be cooled.

Now that ActiveE deliveries are happening every day and more and more Electronauts are "blasting off" I'm sure many of them will be a bit surprised the first time they hear the fan. I know a lot of them check out this blog so hopefully many will read this first and be ready when the helicopter lands by them for the first time.


  1. LOL. Seriously though I wonder why it is as loud as you say

  2. Tom: I was surprised to read that with Active temp mgt, the Active-E still has reduced range in colder weather. I have been reading the same about Volt, although that amount of reduction seems to vary among drivers. Of course, I knew that the Mini-E didn't have this type of system. I had always thought that with an active system, there would be little or no range reduction. Any comments?

    1. Good question Bob. Even with thermal management, cold weather will reduce the cars range, there just isn't any way around it with the current battery chemistries used.

      I will say the range isn't nearly as reduced as it was in the MINI-E, which only had a simple passive thermal management system. Plus, by maintaining a more consistant battery temperature, the batter will definitely last much longer. Temperature extremes (mostly too much heat) will really reduce the usable life span of the pack.

      I'll give you an example that just happened to me today. It was 31 degrees and I have a 75 mile trip to take. I wouldn't have attempted it with the MINI-E, but I did it with the ActiveE and made it home (barely!). Then realize the ActiveE weighs 700lbs more than the MINI-E and has a battery that is about 10% smaller. That's progress!

    2. Thanks for the comments, Tom. By the way, doesn't the plug-in Prius coming out later this year also have a passive thermal mgt system? Will Toyota switch to the Li-ion battery for this or will they stay with Metal-Hydride?? Thanks again for your pro-active promotion of the electric car. You are truly an ambassador, helping a lot of people see the validity of another way to drive. - Bob J.

    3. I'm not really sure what the PIP has. They did switch to Li-ion for this car. I;m disappointed it will only have an 11mi AER. I think it should have had at lease 18-20 miles all electric to really make it worth it.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Tom. I know hybrid is not your idea of the way to go. As an early adoptor of all electric, you are doing invaluable service in educating all of us on the possibilities of really doing something to save energy. - Bob J.