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.