I have just completed my first week of driving the MINI E electric car. I am one of 450 nationwide participants who have agreed to lease the vehicle from BMW/MINI for a one-year close-ended term. The cars, as we've explained, are converted MINI Coopers that run purely on electricity.

My daily commute is about 30 miles each way mostly on the highway. The car has a 35 kwh battery pack and a "real-world" estimated riving range of up to 100 miles. Only 28 kwh of the lithium-ion pack is usable.

The car was supposed to come with a 240V, 32 amp home charging unit that would allow a full charge from empty in 4 hours. However, the cord connecting the car to the charger is yet to have UL approval, so BMW has given me a 110V, 12 amp charger. Though BMW says this system should allow a full charge in 24 hours, I have found it to be closer to 30 hours. Thus if I could only charge at home, 12 hours each day, I would not have enough energy to get to and from work. Fortunately, to counter that I convinced the management company of my parking garage at work to install an outlet next to my assigned space. I had to split the cost of $300 for the installation but I am getting the electricity for free. As such, I can travel to work and back without a problem.

The car is fantastic and fun, and I grin every day I get into it. It isn't a practical multipurpose car but it is a suitable commuter car. BMW went a little chinsy on the stereo system but other than that, the creature comforts are reasonable.

Acceleration and passing ability are big pluses. Handling and visibility are appropriate.

The car has very strong deceleration from regenerative braking that takes place as soon as one's foot if lifted of the accelerator. The rear brake lights do go on in this circumstance, alerting other drivers, even though the brake pedal is not being depressed. Although it takes getting used to, over the long run its a plus. Moreover, the car can recover energy even while the throttle is lightly pressed.

I have found energy consumption by the vehicle of course varies significantly depending on how aggressively one drives. On high speed highway drives I have found energy usage varies from 2.7 miles/kwh to 3.8 miles/kwh. With moderate air conditioning this decreased to 2.5 miles/kwh. At that rate, the effective range would be 70 miles. MINI itself reports the car uses 33 kwh/100 miles city (92.4 mile range) and 36 kwh/100 miles highway (78 mile range.

All in all I haven't had any problems with the MINI E and am greatly enjoying the ride, especially past the gas stations. Apparently other "pioneers" as MINI calls us are running into little bits of trouble, though the mood cloud is clearly quite positive. Here are some excerpts from the MINI E page on Facebook:

"Two miles from here I drove through a puddle (big) and it splashed all around the car and probably under it (for sure). The car immediately slipped into NEUTRAL GEAR. I pulled over. Repeated attempts to put it in park and then back to drive failed."

"When I got to Devore at the base of the Cajon Pass the outside temp was 92 degrees. Highway 15 climbs to the top of the 4100 ft pass over about 15 miles. Just before the top of the pass two warning lights on the dash went on. The first was the "energy recovery limited due to hot high voltage battery" which means the regen braking is off. The second was the yellow "motor power is noticeably reduced" lamp. The manual says "you can continue your journey with limited motor power" so I did. The battery temp was 104 degrees, outside temp was 96 degrees. I don't know what the battery temp was earlier as I didn't have that screen up on the info center.

I didn't notice the reduced power on the freeway for the next 15 miles to Victorville, but once I got off the freeway I could feel a definite lack of oomph. I could still get up to the speed limit on surface streets but it took some time. When I finally pulled into my neighborhood, battery temp was still 104 degrees, outside temp was 96 degrees. About 2 blocks from home the 10 mph restricted speed kicked in and I crawled the rest of the way. No more warnings had appeared, just the two mentioned above. I had 32% charge left when I shut it down in my garage around 3pm."

"Torque steer - the one time I floored it, it was more squirrely than Rocky (of the & the Bullwinkle fame). It pulled left and right - as if I were playing golf! Perhaps it's the coating on the tires"

"Talking about range anxiety. I was on zero percent today and still had 20 miles to get home. Somehow - I did it. I am not sure how accurate the battery meter is."

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.