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Monday, October 22, 2012

40 Months & 100,000 EV Miles

I picked up my MINI-E on June 12th, 2009. When I handed it back to BMW on January 13th of this year it had 72,531 miles on the odometer. On that day I drove home with my ActiveE and a couple days ago I passed 27,469 miles on my ActiveE. That’s 100,000 all electric miles in a little over 40 months.

My MINI-E & my solar array
So much for “Electric cars aren’t viable” and “Electric cars are an idea whose time has not yet come”. Malarkey. I’ve driven my MINI-E and ActiveE basically every day, and they have satisfied just about all of my driving needs. I’ve proven to myself that an electric car with a 100 mile range fits perfectly into my life. I don’t worry about range anxiety, I don’t worry about it running out of charge of leaving me stranded and I certainly don’t have to worry about stopping at gas stations. The only time I need to do that now is to get a cup of coffee or some air for my tires. I just drive and live my life like I always did, only the driving part in now better!

The concept i3
It’s been a great ride so far and it’s just the beginning. The two cars I’ve been driving aren’t even production EV’s, they are test cars. The real BMW electric cars will be introduced next year with the i3 being the first EV to launch under BMW’s new ‘i’ sub brand. So as good as these cars have been it only gets better from here. I certainly plan to get an i3 as soon as they become available late next year.

Less than a year from getting my MINI-E I installed a rooftop solar array for my home. Solar is a great addition to any home, provided you have the right orientation and exposure. However when you then use the electric the array makes to power your automobile, the synergy and savings is even greater. On a good day my array will generate over 50kWh’s of electricity. That can power my ActiveE for about 175 miles of normal driving. The BMW i3 will be much more efficient than my ActiveE is (as well as faster!) and 50 kWh’s will be enough electricity to power it for about 250 miles! So let’s say I had a comparable gas car that got 25 miles per gallon. One good day of sunshine will displace 10 gallons of gas! That’s about $30 to $40 of gas at today’s prices. How about five years from now? How about ten years from now? Ten gallons may cost $100 or more. It practically cost that now in most of Europe. At $10/gallon it would then cost $40,000 to drive 100,000 miles. You could install a large solar array like I did for less than that and make your own fuel for 25 or 30 years. The best thing is the sun never raises its price – it’s always free.

Energy independence, BMW style!
There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome for mass adoption. Lack of public charging infrastructure, the high cost of lithium ion batteries, The limited range and long charging time of most of today’s ‘affordable’ electric cars. However the biggest hurdle I believe we face today is something that fellow MINI-E and ActiveE driver Peder Norby likes to say, and that is: “The inertia of the status quo, is a powerful foe of progress”. For over 100 years we have been using gasoline to power our automobiles. We have built out a vast network of gasoline refueling stations and people are conditioned to drive for a few days and then fill up and drive for a few days, fill up and repeat the cycle again and again. Even though nobody actually likes buying gas, for some reason they are initially very reluctant to consider something that will allow them to never need to do it again. Plugging in your car to refuel it disrupts the process that they are comfortable with(even if they don’t like it) and whether or not it’s better isn’t the point; it’s different and that’s the problem. Most people don’t like change and will automatically say something like “Oh, that’s not for me” when they are asked about how they feel about electric cars. I know this all too well because I have spent over three years now talking to hundreds, maybe even thousands of people about electric cars. Just about everybody I speak to initially has a very negative view about how a plug car would fit into their life. However after talking to them for a while (at least the ones that are willing to listen) I can see them warm up to the possibility of owning an EV. It doesn’t take much to get them interested once I tell them that I’ve been living with an electric car for three years now and never go to gas stations anymore. I have done this so often that I can tell by the look in their faces the moment they go from “What’s this guy trying to feed me” to “Hey, maybe he’s onto something” I know at that point I’ve overcome the inertia of the status quo in that persons mind and now they are open to really think about plug in cars.
Past & present. I took my MINI-E to check out an ActiveE before I got mine
It didn’t take 100,000 miles to convince me I prefer driving electric. However it’s also important to note that after 100,000 miles I haven’t changed my mind. After the newness of driving an alternative fuel vehicle wore off I didn’t come to my senses and realize I was just kidding myself and that gas cars are indeed better. In fact as time goes on I am more and more convinced that electric drive is superior and it is an inevitable evolution of the automobile. Resistance is futile.


  1. That's fantastic Tom. You lead by example and others are now following because of your efforts. Congratulations

  2. Congrats Tom, what a great milestone! Thanks for the shout out in the post. We're changing the future of transportation, car by car driver by driver. It will be a very interesting next few years for BMW.


  3. Tom -- well done! I'm just around the corner to my first 10,000 miles of driving electric and like you, the more I drive, the more I'm convinced that it's the right solution. I think your status quo point is spot on. I hear that very same comment ("not for me") from many of my colleagues and take the opportunity to let them test drive my Active E whenever possible. In almost every case, they are blown away once they experienced it and can start to visualize driving electric.

    Keep up the good work!



  4. Thanks guys. You are all doing your part also. Reminds me of something a really smart guy once said:

    "Those that have the privilege to know, have the duty to act." - Albert Einstein

    We know. We need to tell others.

  5. Tom,

    Awesome! If only I knew about the Mini-E program, the race to 100,000 would have been a fun one to try to get to! As it is... 18k in a day or two, then off to 20k for me!

    Why do I have to work! If only I could drive my ActiveE ALL DAY (and have the time to hang and wait for it to charge.) Perhaps I should move further away from work so that I can drive farther to get here!

    Thanks for putting up the challenge!


  6. Hi Tom,

    So inspiring! Can't wait until I get my first electric car. I've been debating whether I should buy a plug in hybrid like a Volt or Prius or a total electric car. I think I'm beginning to lean towards a totally electric car though, with a little help from reading this blog! Thank you :)

  7. Tom, congratulations on your 100,000 miles...milestone. By reading all your blogs I feel as if I have driven them with you. Thanks for the ride. Keep rolling, I will keep reading!

  8. There could be a lot more EV miles if this new battery technology meets its promised three times capacity at up to 70% lower cost, and commercially available within the next 2-3 years:

  9. We will see extreme advances in battery tech in the coming years Chris, I'm certain of it. There is so much investment in this now it's bound to happen. Lithium Air batteries are also very promising. MIT is working on one they say could be commercially viable in 5-7 years.
    The thing is we can all wait until the battery breakthrough is here, if we do it may never come. We need to show there is demand for plug in electric cars now so the funding and research continues. The industry is in a very fragile position now.

  10. I agree completely, Tom. And I certainly agree that if we all planned on waiting until 2020 before buying a BEV, their future would be dire. We had the same situation with HDTVs--wait for bigger/better/cheaper, or take the plunge and enjoy the new technology now. I did not adopt at the outset, when 36" HDTVs cost $22,000, but I bought as soon as I could afford a set that was good enough. Today it's amazing what you can get for so little money.

    What was encouraging about this latest battery development was its 2-3 year time horizon. For people with tighter budgets with discriminating tastes (like me) who cannot afford to be early adopters, better to wait until 2015 and buy a BEV we can really love, than to settle for another ICE car because BEVs available in 2014 are too costly. Unless my situation changes, I can't realistically rationalize spending $45k for an i3 or $50k+ for a Tesla, even though the money might be in the bank (a matter of priorities). But I'm hoping a lot of people who have the discretionary funds will buy them early, and I'm hoping BMW will reduce its prices as soon as battery costs drop (instead of adding excessive range--I would not begrudge some of your other readers a 120-mile car, but keeping the i3 price high just to have it go 200 miles would also limit its uptake).

  11. Hi Tom - Can you clarify how the ActiveE's (and presumably the i3's) regenerative braking is implemented? I've been assuming that the level of regen is controlled by the speed controller (a.k.a. gas pedal, accelerator, ?), that as you let up on the pedal, reducing power, you reach the small amount of travel where the power is decoupled (coasting), and that further letting up of the pedal will gradually increase regen from nothing to max regen when the pedal is fully released. Is that correct? I've also been assuming that the brake pedal would therefore control only the hydraulic/friction brakes.

    I know in some other BEVs regen is controlled only by the brake pedal. In those cases is regen activated by pedal translation (movement), or by pressure?


  12. Yes, Chris you have it correct. BMW is keeping the regen exclusively on the 'go' pedal. The friction brakes are ONLY friction brakes. I prefer this approach. Having uncomplicated friction brakes are better in my opinion.

    1. Hi Tom,
      I have been an EV proponent since 1997 when I was number two to receive the Honda EV Plus in So Cal. Later I leased a Toyota RAV 4 (my mistake) and currently drive both the Nissan Leaf and the Active E. I also have a Tesla Model S in production and am quite excited to get on board with the i3 next year. In fact, I'm heading to LA today to view the i3 and look forward to talking to BMW about the future.

      I wanted to reach out to you because everywhere I go on the web, it seems you are the leading voice in the EV world. I'd love to exchange email addresses and carry on an ongoing conversation about the present and future of the EV world as events pop up. I own a marketing and advertising company, and honestly, the "brand" for EV's is askew. The manufacturers have done a poor job in creating the correct image for these vehicles. So that leaves all of us and I think we've dropped the ball somewhat also. I'll leave it at that for now but I think you understand exactly where I'm coming from in regards to this.

      I love the Active E. It has been the most fun of my EV's to drive... by far. (I will say my Tesla test drive was amazing... that car is a rocket!) The Active E rides like a BMW, handles like a BMW and even smells like a BMW! I only hope that the i3 provides the true BMW driving experience. I'm sure it will but we shall see!