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Monday, June 18, 2012

Three Years Of Driving Electric

It's really hard to believe it has been three years since I picked up MINI-E #250 from Morristown MINI on June 12th, 2009. I distinctly remember driving out of the dealership with a grin across my face that wouldn't go away. It was so cool to be driving around in a fully electric car. At the time nobody in New Jersey was driving an electric car other maybe than a couple Tesla Roadster owners and some home conversion EV's. The exclusivity of it was as appealing as driving the car itself. As I would drive down the road I would often look around me at all the other cars, knowing that mine was the only one without a tailpipe spewing all kinds of harmful pollution as I drove along.

That's changed now and while electric vehicles are still a very small minority, quite frequently I drive up next to a Nissan LEAF or a Chevy volt and I even saw a Mitsubishi iMiEV and a Fisker Karma on consecutive days last week. I'm sure it won't be long before I spot a Tesla Model S and a Ford Focus EV either. Yes, electric cars are coming. It's a slow progression but as more and more models get introduced, offering different ranges and levels of utility, seeing electric cars on the road will become more a normal occurrence than a rare occasion.

When I turned in my MINI-E it had 72,531 miles on it. I've driven my ActiveE 15,260 miles so far which means I've driven about 88,000 electric miles in the three years I've been in BMW's electric vehicle trial lease program. Most of those miles were powered by electricity produced by my home solar array making it truly zero emission driving. I like to think the EV + PV combination will be mainstream in the near future. It works so well for me I wish everyone could be enjoying the benefits of the synergy between the two technologies. As prices continue to drop and the efficiencies of both technologies improve, hopefully just like there are more EV's on the roads now then when I got mine three years ago, more people will join me and drive a solar powered electric car!

I still have the Toyota Tacoma pick up truck I used to drive daily when I got my MINI-E three years ago. I use it to drive in the snow and to haul heavy things around when necessary. Had I never decided to apply for the MINI-E program I'm sure I'd still be driving the Tacoma every day. Here are some of what I missed out on:

~Somewhere in an underground gasoline storage tank in Morristown, NJ there are about 4,888 gallons of gasoline that I didn't need to buy.(My Tacoma gets 18mpg) That gas would have cost me about $17,000.

~I would have had to stop for gas 300 times! If I averaged only 7 minutes to fill up each time I would have spent 35 hours of my life sitting in my car waiting for gas to fill up my gas tank! What a waste of time! And people say plugging in is inconvenient. It takes me about 10 seconds to plug in and also unplug each day.

~I didn't need about 20 oil changes. At $50-$70 a pop that's another $1,000 I didn't spend on oil.

~I didn't need to do a full tune up. Plugs, filters, timing belt, etc. All of which aren't necessary with an EV.

 I did however get to experience the pleasure of driving electric, meet lots of interesting people, make dozens of new friends and do it all without sending any of my money to the Benevolent Overlords of big oil.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Peaceful Drive Through The Delaware Water Gap

Here the Delaware River divides New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This picture is from the Pennsylvania side.

The Delaware Water Gap is a National Recreation area that encompasses roughly 70,000 acres of land in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. At one point the Delaware River passes by  Mt. Minsi in Pennsylvania and Mt. Tammany in New Jersey and is the dividing line between the two states. It's about a 43 mile drive from my house in Chester, NJ which gives me just enough range to get there, drive around a bit and make it home without recharging. When I had the MINI-E I would visit the area every now and again because it's such a beautiful area.

There are tours, hiking, canoeing and historic places to visit there, but my favorite thing to do is just lower the windows turn off the radio and cruise around in my quiet AE. The roads are windy and usually empty so all I hear are my tires on the pavement and the sounds of nature as I roll along slowly and take in the views.  BMW may tell you that EV's are better suited for inner city driving - hell, they even gave the i3 the codename 'megacity car' but I still say the most enjoyable place to drive them is in windy rural roads. There is no other noise to interfere with your driving pleasure other than birds, rushing river water and crickets at night.

We stopped a few times for some pictures and to get some coffee and then headed home. The trip odometer said we drove 91 miles and the state of charge was at 8%, pretty much right on a 100 mile range which is pretty good since about 80% of the driving was at highway (70-75mph) speeds. Unfortunately I don't think many other ActiveE drivers could make it to the Gap because of the range. There probably aren't many electronauts that live as far West in New Jersey as I do. I know Chris Neff and Rory Cupen, fellow electronauts who live near me could also make it, but that's all I can think of that live far enough West to do it. It's too bad because in my opinion it's a great place to drive around in an EV. Hopefully they will put a couple charging stations up there and then others could make the trip and enjoy it as I do. In fact, thinking about it now I'm going to contact the tourism department there and see if I can help inspire them to do just that!