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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.


  1. Great Post Tom! While I have been dedicating my life to EVs over the last 3 years, I only got one to drive in these last 2 months. Everything you wrote is spot on.

  2. Thanks Jack, welcome to the electric world! You won't ever want to go back!

  3. Tom,
    You're an inspiration! Keep on plugging in -- and plugging away for EVs and EV + PV!

  4. Great write up! I'm 2 years and 11 months behind :-)

  5. Christof: You are also an inspiration. I just realized I didn't ad your Solar Charged Driving link to this blog like I did on my MINI-E blog. I'll fix that soon!

  6. Fantastic! I look forward to getting my own BMW e-car some day

  7. How have the batteries held up under all your driving? 88,000 miles in three years is a lot of driving and a lot of charging. I'm sure BMW has monitored your battery performance very closely. Also, I assume you have no mileage limit or has BMW waived it for you because of all you do for them?


  8. Tom,

    Awesome, love the experience you have written about. I am in Vermont and we are just starting to see electric cars up here. Even though I am a huge fan of the BMW's and the engine "sound" I am excited to see how I go about getting into a ActiveE..I applied and never heard anything ...since I am in the wrong state, city!! Hope there will be an option for me in the near future. I have a charging station available but no available active E for me yet..still searching..and any info would be helpful! Thanks!

    1. Hey Kaz,

      Unfortunately you won't be able to get an ActiveE so you'll have to focus on another electric car if you want to drive electric.

      The ActiveE program is a small pilot program that was only available for select areas of NY, NJ, CT, MA and CA. Plus, all the 700 cars are already leased. BMW isn't going to expand or re-lease the cars in the US after the 24 month leases we have are up. It's possible they may take them to other countries for similar testing but not here. Next fall BMW will begin selling electric cars so the 'testing' programs will have little importance. You should look into the BMW i3 that will be available next year. That is the car the ActiveE program was created for. The i3 will be a purpose-built electric vehicle, not a conversion like the ActiveE and will be a much better vehicle by all means. Here's a link to the i3 website:

  9. Electric powered vehicles are a very great modern day innovation. Aside from being very eco-friendly, you’ll be able to save a lot of money if you will use solar panels frequently in charging the battery. I hope that more people would prefer to use these cars to participate in protecting nature and for them to save a lot of money, not just on gas, but on the usual car maintenance routines as well. Imagine all that dough!

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