Mini E tests highlights electric vehicle roadblocks


Woodcliff Lake, NJ, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — November 17, 2009 – Infrastructure issues represent one of the biggest hurdles towards the mass acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs), with public infrastructure playing a crucial role in alleviating range anxiety.

These are among the preliminary findings from the Mini E test program in the United States. In the program 450 all-electric Mini Es are undergoing tests in the U.S. – 250 in Southern California and 200 in New York and New Jersey.

In a presentation Richard Steinberg, manager, electric vehicle operations and strategy at BMW North America, said the rollout of these vehicles had proven more difficult than expected.

Apart from the infrastructure issue, another issue was that there is no worldwide standardization of connectors, and standardization of charging equipment is crucial. In the case of the Mini E its plug solution was not compatible with previous generation chargers.

Another issue is that inspection/permitting standards vary widely from state to state, as do utility options and requirements.

Wallbox installation delays also have been experienced. Furthermore, post installation servicing and troubleshooting is a murky area. For example if the car isn’t charging properly, is it the car, the charger, a ground fault indicator (GFI) on the 110 V cable, a GFI on the outlet, or the circuit breaker?  And if there is a service to the home from the utility, who pays for the visit?

According to Steinberg, public infrastructure will be prioritized with next generation products, assuming connector standards are harmonized. Vehicle to grid communications also will play a bigger role, with the availability of subscription plans, smart phone reservation apps and load leveling.

The Mini E has a 35 kWh battery with more than 5,000 individual cells, requiring a charging time of up to 5 hours from a 40 A residential wallbox and up to 24 hours from a 110 V, 12 A wall outlet. The vehicle has an acceleration time from 0 to 62 mph of 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 95 mph, and a typical range of 100 to 120 miles.

The aim of the Mini E program, which has been running with all the vehicles in the field since the end of June, is to evaluate the vehicles in real world conditions, including the effects of temperature, weather conditions and differing driving behaviors on range, reliability and charging status, and the driver perceptions of living with an EV.

The test customers appear to be passionate about the experience, but “range anxiety” is a major hurdle that needs to be cleared, said Steinberg.