• Dec 29th 2009 at 2:58PM
  • 36
Mini E - click above for high-res image gallery

Our friend Dr. Lyle Dennis of GM-Volt.com is one of the 450-odd privateers in the New York and Southern California areas that managed to get on the list of lessees for the battery-powered Mini E. Dennis has been driving his Mini mostly pretty happily for the past six months although it has not been ideal. This past week, in particular, it's been a bit 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 ideal mix. All cars lose efficiency for a number of reasons when the mercury drops, but EVs seem to be particularly problematic. When outside of their optimum temperature range, batteries become reluctant to release their electrons. Dennis has a commute into Manhattan that consists of about 27 miles each way, not an unusual circumstance 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 electrical system. The car's heater is also driven directly off the battery, so using it cuts range as well. In warmer weather, Dennis has been getting about 75-80 miles out of the same car. Perhaps GM really is onto something with the extended range Volt.


[Source: GM-Volt]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      A battery warmer is a good idea, Jake. I was curious where you were going to get the energy for the battery warmer, from the battery? Or maybe a little fossil fuel burner.
      • 5 Years Ago
      GM is on to the extended-range EVs because they have the experience of doing pure EVs 10-15 years back. BMW are 15 years behind in this arena and learning their lessons as they go. In fact, they were bad-mouthing EVs the last time and if it weren't for the ZEV regulation in California and so much competitive pressure in Europe from Daimler and VW, they would still be sitting on the sidelines.
      • 5 Years Ago
      A battery heater should solve the problem. That's what the Tesla has. It's esp useful when you have access to a plug (you can have the batteries warm while charging). There are some cells that can handle colder conditions (the laptop cells aren't the best in terms of weather performance).

      I don't consider the MINIE a particularly well engineered car so it's not a surprise either.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Another thing to consider is that with a 27 mile commute, this guy is probably spending a lot of time on the highway, which while normal, isn't optimal for a BEV in the first place...
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Lose", not "loose". Sorry, but it's a fingernails-on-chalkboard thing for me.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No, no, this is evidence of incredibly sophisticated use of language. You see, when you "loose" something, you set it free. Sam is accurately reporting that in the winter all cars set "efficiency" free - presumably to go play in the snow. Once the snow melts, "efficiency" can't build snowmen any more, so it grudgingly decides to get back in the car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      A battery heating/cooling system should be included during a recharge (to keep it at the right temp). Look my diesel performs worse during winter it is just a matter of degrees. These are problems that will be over come by the learning curve, it is a natural progression and does not spell death to EVs.
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      Another reason our next car might not be an EV, they are next to useless in the Winter! Some people can't afford an additional car for "Summer only".
      Surely it's not an insurmountable engineering problem, but I guess I will have use a little more patience. Thanks for the heads up.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Good point. Don't need a spring and autumn car(AC in the summer), or a short commute car that needs an 8 hour recharge. I think that with current battery technology hybrids are the solution right now.
        harlanx6
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        I agree completely, WINCROS. It's proven technology and it saves fuel. I would buy a Prius if my wife would let me. I think we will soon see the Germans selling small hybrids with a clean diesel, and pushing milage out beyond 60 MPG, possibly 70 MPG. I have spoken with Jetta TDI owners that claim they are pushing 50 MPG and those aren't hybrids (yet). Competition between the major auto manufacturers for fuel economy is brutal! You snooze, you lose!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Surprise, surprise. BMW discovers that EVs really suck and are not as good as the diesel cars they are pushing down our throats.

      Too bad AC Propulsion got sucked into helping them. I hope they were paid in full *before* delivering the cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        AC propulsion E Box would have made these Mini E's look like a POS. BMW through the Mini E together at the last minute to conform to CARB. Battery warmers are cheap. If BMW did not design them in their build it is because they through the car together at the last minute. AC Propulsion is the only reason the Mini E it is as good as it is but it is no E Box. Battery warmers, such a small inexpensive thing. Yes they do use energy, I have not had a chance to see how much range I loose over nights when temps are in the teens with out it being plugged in so I can not say. (My prototype is still at the shop, must be waiting for group shipping or something?) My max range 133 miles 4th July mostly hwy. Winter It drops to approx 120 miles maybe 115. In winter time you will loose approx 2-3 miles over night if not plugged in (battery warmers), I am not sure, if my car was here I would run a test and reveal that info. You can shut the battery warmers off and let the batteries freeze. The warmers will need to be operated about 15 mins before you drive.

        It is good this guy is fully disclosing issues with these cars and I am happy to hear these issues. Wish other Mini E drivers would put their car on the EV Album and tell about them, the good and the bad. There is not one Mini E from BMW in the EV Album.

        Yes, call me paranoid but it seems as if BMW killed two birds with one stone. 1 They took full advantage of a loop hole. 2 By hastily building a incomplete mishmash of a car they can show the many short comings of the EV.

        Then you have companies like Daimler that put out 60 mile range EV's to let the public know that is the best they can do. It is to expensive to make them go further, ok Daimler thank you. Then you have Audi, supposedly making a super EV that no one will ever own. Bring on the Leaf! If the Leaf hits 200 mile range in the next 5 years, game over for these pretenders. My generation has to die before range anxiety will be quelled.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's a good thing the Volt battery has a heating AND cooling system!

      It's also a good thing that when a car company releases a rushed, untested, unrefined "beta" kind of car to 500 or however many people got to lease one, that i take it with a grain of salt when it's drivers report problems, because i would consider it rediculous to base my judgement of EVs as a whole on the performance of the rushed, unrefined, beta style production run that is the mini-e
        • 5 Years Ago
        The whole point of this sort of a test is to expose faults and problems. BMW and Mini want to discover as many issues as they can so that they can be dealt with before putting the Mini E into actual production.




        • 5 Years Ago
        Ding Ding Ding: Someone remembered it's a Beta program!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yes but how much energy does it take to keep a battery warm whenever the car isn't driving (i.e. for 23 hours out of the day)? Batteries have a good bit of surface area to radiate heat, keeping it warm in cold weather won't be free.

      Perhaps we can see some indication about why places with cold climates (say Japan and Germany) are still interested in fuel cells. FC's seem to do better in cold (although they have their limits as well, but I can't imagine how a battery would work in -20 degree weather).
        • 5 Years Ago
        There must be organics or chemicals that can be used as a coating which would keep the temp up?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Some battery chemistries do a lot better than others in the cold.
        Altairnano's lithium titanate batteries have very good performance down to very low temperatures.
        Unfortunately they are rather expensive and have around half the energy density of some other chemistries, and so are being put in larger vehicles such as buses at the moment.
        All engineering is about trade-offs, and it is unlikely that there will be a single solution to fit all different circumstances.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wouldn't you want to keep the battery cool when it isn't being used in order to minimize self-discharge?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder how the Nissan Leaf will fare. The batteries are inside the cabin under the driver's seat so they should be able to be kept warm by a trickle of electricity from the plug, and then when you get going the cabin will be warm so the batteries will stay warm. And another issue is that I believe the battery discharge / motor efficiency is around 90% or so, which means that 10% is lost, and I imagine a good portion of that is as heat at the batteries. I wonder how well EV manufacturers are using this heat to do things like heat up the air vents and windshield. If they did, then an electric car could be seen as a cogeneration device, like ICE's using engine heat. This amounts to a reasonable amount of heat -- at 25 kW cruising power, 10% of that is 2500 watts, so let's assume that the batteries are releasing 1000 W, well that's equivalent to one of those small portable electric heaters that you can buy to heat up a room.

      If EV manufacturers don't do a good job of managing this now, I think it will only be a short time before they have it taken care of. Good logical management of ambient air flow and heat from the battery pack, and good placement of the battery pack in an insulated chamber inside the cabin that can accommodate active management of heat shunted to where it is needed or not, will be able to maintain good battery performance in cold weather. Insulating a battery pack inside the cabin would do two good things: make it easier to keep it warm in winter, and in summer it will make it easier to keep the cabin cool from battery heat.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Um, I doubt an EV would be consuming 25 Kw while cruising, unless they were cruising well over the legal speed limit. At a 25 Kw consumption rate, the 53 Kwh Tesla Roadster battery would be drained in just over 2 hours, or 150 miles at 75 mph, but since it gets well over 200 miles cruising at that speed, power consumption must be less than 25 kw.

        Now, acceleration can draw much higher power, but only for short periods. After all, it doesn't take long to reach freeway cruising speeds in a Tesla!
        • 5 Years Ago
        "...at 25 kW cruising power, 10% of that is 2500 watts, so let's assume that the batteries are releasing 1000 W, well that's equivalent to one of those small portable electric heaters that you can buy to heat up a room."

        It's just that I think your numbers are a little off here. I agree that the discharge cycle of the battery produces a large amount of heat - we all acknowledge that's why some laptop batteries had the, erm, issues, that they did. OEMs try to keep the temperature of their batteries under control with cooling systems to prevent thermal runaway.

        But I'm not sure that they produce as much heat as a 1000 watt heater, not for any length of time anyway. I'm getting ready to go out for dinner, anyone want to scale up the results of heat produced from a single cell to that of an entire battery pack?

        http://www.nrel.gov/vehiclesandfuels/energystorage/pdfs/plastic_lith_ion.pdf

        Hey, I'm willing to learn, but I'm horrible at maths.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Wow... I actually learned a lot from this thread. Thanks guys!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I thought about applying for Tesla but it doesn't fit into my life goals right now. Plus I doubt I have enough specific automotive experience.

        I guess it's not a good thing to learn about technical issues. Information and intellect is bad. Ignorance is better. That's why Fox News is good. Don't question established authority because authority has everyone's best interest at heart. Decisions in the automotive industry regarding which products will be developed and offered to the public are made by engineers who understand technical issues and the best ways of getting things done.... (LOL)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thanks for the link, on page 14 it gives some numbers. For the C/5 discharge the ratio of heat to electricity produced is about 5% (95% efficiency), and under a C/1 discharge it is 15% (83.6 %), so on average that is about 10%. So it would seem that taking the heat from the battery pack could produce a significant amount of heat for heating the cabin that would otherwise be wasted, based on this battery and experiment but I'd like to hear about other measurements. Laptops aren't a good comparison because the heat from them also includes all the CPU activity and screen, which isn't related to heat from battery discharge.
        • 5 Years Ago
        OK, so it seems I'm backed up, thanks Chris. Not enough heat from the battery to be the sole source of heat for the cabin.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You should apply to help out with the USABC program mentioned a few articles back. You seem to have an amazing grasp of what the problem is and how to fix it.

        (LOL)
      • 5 Years Ago
      Mark B_C

      The Leaf batteries are air cooled. They shut off at 50 degrees Celsius. They operate at -20 degrees F, below that they should be plugged in. 6.05 in the video Mark Perry tells about the battery at 50 degrees C.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VB3cUp0XFA
        • 5 Years Ago
        It shuts off at 50 C? What if it's 35 C outside and you park in the sun? It would easily hit 50 C. That's why I think EV's should have solar panels on their roof to run a fan to keep the battery ventilated when parked in the sun. Maybe they do this using the battery's own power, I don't know.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No problem.

      Capacitors are nearly immune to cold temperature concerns.

      EEStor said the would be demonstrating in 2009, so today or tomorrow, and they wouldn't lie again, would they? ;)

      Have a happy new year folks...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I for one will not sleep until I receive word that a Zenn will go 300 miles from a 220 lbs ESU. They said... They said it would weigh 220 lbs and have 53kwh density. They said they were filing patents, grid load leveling patents, that is what they said. Dick Weir worked for the CIA, they are not allowed to lie to the public. Come on Eestor you have got one day left. Some one call Dick Weir! He is probably just waiting for his patents to be properly filed. He can't help that the government is moving slow to get his patents through. I talked with some one from Zenn last summer. He asked me if I herd of Eestor? I said, "yeah I herd of it, seems kind of pie in the sky". He said it is realy going to happen.

        How can the CEO lie this long and have any credibility. Oh I guess he can't and he doesn't. Whole thing is comical. The CEO should be jailed.

        Lockheed Martin could find no reason why it would not work. Theirs a ringing endorsement. LOL
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