• Dec 28th 2009 at 6:29PM
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MINI E - Click above for high-res image gallery

Our friend Dr. Lyle Dennis of GM-Volt.com is one of 450 privateers in the regions of New York or Southern California who managed to get on the list of lessees for the battery-powered Mini E. Dennis has been driving his Mini E for the past six months, although it has not been ideal. This past week in particular has been trying as the northeastern part of the United States got slammed by heavy winter weather and cold temperatures.

As we learned recently from the guys at Consumer Reports with the Mitsubishi i MiEV, winter and battery cars are a less than perfect pair. All cars loose efficiency for a number of reasons when the mercury drops, but EVs are particularly problematic. When outside of their optimum temperature range, batteries become reluctant to release their electrons.

Dr. Dennis has a daily commute into Manhattan of about 27 miles each way, which we don't consider an unusual distance in the U.S. As the thermometer read 23 degrees Fahrenheit last week, the battery level gauge was on 0 after a 55-mile round trip to the office that included two hours on the plug while there.

The temperature affects not only the battery directly but also adds load to the entire electrical system. The car's heater is driven directly off the battery so staying warm cuts range as well. In warmer weather, Dennis has been getting about 75-80 miles out of the same car. Perhaps General Motors really is onto something with the extended-range Volt.

[Source: GM-Volt]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      And this is why gas is good.
      Hybrids with gas and electric make sense.
      All electric does not.
      Not interested in getting stranded or being limited to where I can travel.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It doesn't say, but I'm assuming this guy had the car plugged in all night, right? Isn't that the idea? Then he drives 27 miles, plugs the car in for another two hours, drives 27 miles home and his battery is dead? "I find myself regularly drving for the last several miles with the battery meter measuring zero miles and zero percent. It is disconcerting." What do all these EV-loving Autoblog Green posters have to say about that? Is this our future?
        • 5 Years Ago
        all night, yes, i'm not sure how he could have returned to 27 mi range in two hours though 'at work' - if we're talking colloquially and not in the 'super special GM charging station because I work at GM' sense. The average american drives 33ish miles a day, round trip, I think he tripped himself up a bit (like when leno is poking fun at the stick for the hood). I don't think we'll be seeing anyone managing a 60 mile round trip on a 2 hour 110 charge at work without engaging the ICE up front.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Forget about the cold's effect on the battery, think of the massive battery draw of running the heater, the wipers, the seat warmers, and the head lights from 5 pm onward. All of that juice demand cutting your already short range. In Canada, this thing would get you one third of your way to work on a January morning.

      And in the summer, the air conditioner would decimate the battery. Air conditioners require massive amounts of electrical current.
      • 5 Years Ago
      LOSE efficiency! Ughhhhhhhhh!
      • 5 Years Ago
      We are over looking that the Volt is being developed in Detroit, Michigan... I know for a fact its pretty cold up there for a few months. They aren't that stupid to not notice issues with cold.

      Give GM a little more credit than that!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      "All cars loose efficiency..."

      Lose! Lose! *bangs head against wall*

      In any case, this topic should be applied to the Volt in a realistic light, too--not just the MINI E. That is, while the Volt's ICE will certainly pick up the slack of its sleepy batteries during the cold months, Volt buyers should not be surprised when their mileage drops 50% at those times--the gasoline engine will be fired up and revving quite a bit more.

      Still, not relying totally on batteries does put hybrid-electric vehicles at a distinct advantage, at least until battery technology improves.
        • 5 Years Ago
        correct, and the engineer in leno's garage knowingly sidesteps that issue. Volt, electric car, any conventional hybrid - I'm getting 23.5 combined in the highlander now due to winter, was getting around 27.5 before hand.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Volt heats the battery in cold conditions to compensate for the lower voltage, so you won't lose as much range (the energy used for heating is more than made up for by higher voltage and longer range, though it will still be lower than it would be in 70F). It sounds like the Mini-E has no battery heater which compounds things (shorter range because of lowered voltage + more draw from the cabin heater).
      • 5 Years Ago
      What kind of battery is in the Mini?
      - As mentioned in previous blog posts, Panasonic already has newer batteries out with more power and capacity. None, of the rumored breakthru's in battery's has hit production. The guys commute is 60 miles, giving him a battery range of 120 solves the problem. 200 mile range is even better. This isn't going to take 10 years.

      - ICE engines also drop in efficiency in cold weather as well, typically losing 4-5 mpg.
      - But, I can see the Volt's benefits, short term.
      - But, at the Volt's price level I salute the round one buyers, they are the True HERO's of America. Of course, version 1.0 of the Volt will also be a collector's item.

      • 5 Years Ago
      This is why I generally sneer at people who are baffled as to the fact not all cars are electric and there is not world peace (and rainbows). Battery technology is still evolving, and there are still issues which need to be worked on further before this is the idiot-proof, no-thought technology consumers will actually BUY. Trust me, if I could have something like the Tesla Roadster with a 1000 mile battery that worked in the same conditions as a normal car could, I would be all for it. As it is today, no thank you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Correct, or people who want to have their cake (electric) and eat it too (performance and range). The technology, quite simply, is not there yet. There haven't been many huge advances which have lead to commercially viable options yet.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Imagine the strain on the power grid in...Duluth, for example, when everyone plugs their cars in overnight in February instead of just their block heaters. There will be brown-outs in the winter.

      Crazy! And all because the earth is getting closer to the sun in its normal 10,000 year orbital variance.
        • 5 Years Ago
        People don't plug in their cars overnight in Duluth. Instead they put the car in the garage.

        Grid loading in residential areas at night just isn't a big issue. It won't reach the same level it does in the daytime unless something like half of the people buy an electric car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That may be - not that fact counts for much in the e-car world anyhow.

        Never-the-less, if we can create panic about the strain on the electric grid due to the electric cars that we must all have to offset global warming, then we can have a MASSIVE federal program to rebuild America's electric grid, increase jobs and provide executive-level, non-taxed health care for all...who are union members.

        That - my friends - is how this works.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yeah, but this is a non-issue, right?

      I mean the Earth is WARMING uncontrollably and the ocean will soon be at Al Gore's doorstep in Tennessee, right?

      Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

      I bet he has millions invested in nickel mines!
        • 5 Years Ago
        No, but their navy will be able to dock in Las Vegas!

      • 5 Years Ago
      I am not surprised. Even in DC, the mileage goes down significantly on my hybrid Escape when the winter comes on. The straight EV folks are in for a surprise, if the don't live in sunny California.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Even in sunny california mileage takes a good hit in winter.

        For my mostly hwy commute with a 3.2 6 cyl:

        Summer ~28
        Winter ~24

        Looks to be much worse for an EV vehicle. For the near term I'd take the serial hybrid over the straight EV.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why does this article sound like a GM advert?

      When is the volt hitting the market by the way? They're kinda overly late to the game anyway - merc, bmw, penkse, vw and peugeot are all testing diesel-electric hybrids, which makes petrol-electric (serial or range-extending) hybrids pretty useless
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