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Transportation Power

Electric Mini Cooper Has Rough Start 308

Posted by timothy
from the no-room-for-extra-batteries dept.
TopSpin writes "BMW's limited roll out of the electric version of its Mini has met with complaints from early adopters including less than advertised range, cold weather charging problems, bulky batteries and connection issues. Richard Steinburg, BMW's manager of electric vehicle operations, assures everyone that the manufacturer is 'learning quite a bit as we go.' Drivers are paying $850/month for the privilege of helping BMW learn how to build EVs, while also helping BMW meet alternative fuel mandates so that other models can continue to be sold in select markets."
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Electric Mini Cooper Has Rough Start

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  • Regular coopers (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dyinobal (1427207)
    I always thought the regular minis were pretty cool looking, but I've never had a chance to sit down in one and see what they feel like on the road. As far as all electrical or even hybrid vehicles all my experiences with them tell me a few things, they don't have the same sort of get up and go power to them that a regular vehicle has in most cases and they are terribly expensive to repair. Good for the 'environment' or not I don't imagine I'll be moving trading my Tundra in for an alternate fuel source veh
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dokebi (624663)

      I don't imagine I'll be moving trading my Tundra in for an alternate fuel source vehicle any time soon.

      Would you say the same thing when gas cost $12/gallon?

      We are supposed to be in the worst economic recession in decades, and oil still costs $80/barrel. So where do you think oil price will be in a recovery?

      I'd learn to say, "Make my hybrid a plug-in, please."

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        So let's say you have a recent car that gets a crappy 22mpg highway. You decide you want to go for efficiency, and buy a $22,000 Prius. The '09 prius gets 50mpg highway.

        Your 60 month monthly payment on the Prius, at a 0% interest loan, is $366. You drive the typical 12,000 miles a year, which is 250 gallons of gas, or 21 gallons a month.. In your old car, that's 545 gallons of gas or 45 a month. . At a current price of $3/gallon...
        Prius: 63
        Old car: $135 a month.

        Total monthly cost of Prius at curre

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by iwoof (806811)

      As far as all electrical or even hybrid vehicles all my experiences with them tell me a few things, they don't have the same sort of get up and go power to them that a regular vehicle has in most cases and they are terribly expensive to repair.

      Hmm, your Tundra can do 0-60 in under 4 seconds, and a quarter mile in under 13? A stock Tesla roadster can http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/video/3068-tesla-roadster-sport-nedra-record-12-643-1-4-mile.html [teslamotorsclub.com]

      And a 1972 Datsun converted to pure electric is even faster. 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, quarter mile in 11.5 seconds. http://www.plasmaboyracing.com/whitezombie.php [plasmaboyracing.com]

      That's an awful lot of get up and go power.

      As for repairs, all indications are battery electric vehicles will be much cheaper to maintain

      • Those are Li ion batteries, no? I wonder what it costs to replace them every two years. My laptop costs 150.

        • by Chirs (87576)

          The batteries in the hybrid cars don't seem to need replacing every two years...

  • The dealer? (Score:5, Informative)

    by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:58PM (#30318078) Homepage
    Isn't it the car dealer who has to tell the client the charging specs? Then the client can have the right picture of how he is going to manage charging his car.

    Also, when you "try" your car's acceleration, it's obvious that you will get a shorter range. It's true with a gas powered car, and so it is with an EV.
  • $850 a month?? (Score:2, Interesting)

    This confirms what I've always suspected: the green fashion is for rich suckers first, then for the rest of us when oil runs out anyway.

    • Re:$850 a month?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:13PM (#30318286) Homepage Journal

      They prefer the term "early adopters" and without them we wouldn't see half the new risky products that appear on the market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by city (1189205)
        Right, we are talking about new BMWs here. The original "green fashion" has already been adopted by the poor. It's called walking.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          But there's a difference. Walking (or biking, public transit, etc) due to finances is not done for the sake of being "green." It's done because you can't afford anything else (or don't want to afford something else, i.e., you're saving it).

          The "green fashion," or as I call it, the green fad, seems to be a thing going on with rich people who feel that they are better than others because they are saving the planet. Ok, so maybe not the self-righteous bit, but they certainly aren't doing it because they hav

          • Re:$850 a month?? (Score:4, Informative)

            by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:11PM (#30318938) Homepage Journal

            If you can afford a $70k electric vehicle (or whatever Tesla things are going for nowadays), you qualify as being caught up in the "green fad" in my book... in more than one way, too.

            Ahh, another poor fool who thinks Tesla is about the environment. Hint: its a sports car with instant acceleration.

            • Ahh, another poor fool who thinks Tesla is about the environment. Hint: its a sports car with instant acceleration.

              Oh, I have no doubts about that. But it gets tossed to the "green is a fad" crowd now and then as an example of a successful electric vehicle that is good for the environment, etc. IMO, it's trying to take advantage of a fad: give a cool sports car that gives celebrities the image they want... which, right now, is a feel-good "I'm Green!" image while not losing their "I'm rich and drive a cool sports car!" image.

              But that may just be me. :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

            If you can afford a $70k electric vehicle (or whatever Tesla things are going for nowadays), you qualify as being caught up in the "green fad" in my book...

            So what? Is it not better that the people who can afford to subsidize the development of more efficient vehicles choose to do so instead of spending it on old tech like the infamous hummer or that $100K mercedes G-class suv that 99% of the buyers will never take off-road? And if if makes them feel better about themselves, isn't it deserved since they really are helping the rest of us out by paying for the development of tech that will eventually be useful to a much larger group of people?

    • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:36PM (#30318546) Journal

      Theater isn't limited to security. There's a lot of "green theater" out there, searching for rich suckers. One of the rich that sometimes gets suckered is the government. I regard hybrids and the Prius somewhat skeptically. It's fuel economy isn't all that great, actually. Manufacturers are still ignoring a lot of low hanging fruit. They haven't smoothed the undersides of their cars. The rims are not aerodynamic. Car bodies are closer to teardrop shapes than bricks, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. They're getting better with weight, but they're still using too much steel where lightweight composites or aluminum or lighter alloys could go. Until fairly recently, they wouldn't even use lighter oils (for instance, 5w20 instead of 10w30), one of the cheapest, easiest ways to get a little more fuel economy.

      Much better than the Prius is the Ford Fiesta Econetic, a turbodiesel that gets 65 MPG, and it still doesn't cover all the easy ways to increase fuel economy. It's not a hybrid. Proof that a lot more can be done, and that manufacturers have yet to get really serious about fuel economy.

      So where is the 100 MPG vehicle? I've heard of quite a few prototype vehicles that get over 200 MPG. It can be done, what's the hold up? Not enough competition in the automobile market, I guess.

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        So where is the 100 MPG vehicle? I've heard of quite a few prototype vehicles that get over 200 MPG. It can be done, what's the hold up? Not enough competition in the automobile market, I guess.

        So completely impractical as to be unsellable.

        MOST people aren't willing to buy a super-economy car if they can't haul kids, groceries, climb hills a 45 MPH, etc. In addition, those super-economy cars frequently fail to pass US safety testing. Crumple zones,

        The Smart Fourtwo is about as small as you can go to pass mu

      • by Marcika (1003625)
        You won't get to 100 mpg with the low-hanging fruit... Even the most advanced efforts like the VW Lupo or the small-engine Smart car only get 80 mpg -- and these are cars that people from the US are conditioned to reject because for them, only big is beautiful.

        And the most frequent complaint that I hear about cars that implement fuel saving without compromise like the Aptera is that they are "gay as hell". Supplying good cars isn't enough if the demand is not there; and the demand will only come once fuel i

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shermo (1284310)

        The price of an item already does a pretty good job at estimating its cost to the environment. With the introduction of a system that properly implements carbon/polution credits this will only become more accurate.

    • Pretty sure that when you say green fashion you really mean: All forms of new technology and products
  • by swanzilla (1458281) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:01PM (#30318108) Homepage
    FTA:

    BMW initially had to learn about infrastructure of houses and electrical-regulatory agencies in introducing the electric Mini to the U.S., Steinberg said. A key problem was getting approval for the recharging plug, which was originally designed for the European market, according to the executive.

    You Europeans and your superior plugs...you may have won this battle, but we will win the war.

  • Why invest a lot of money and time into an electric car that won't sell well when you can put money and time into the M series which already kicks ass and has a great image?
  • With product life cycle getting shorter all the time, products of late (in the past decade or two) are becoming less and less polished with successive generation.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:12PM (#30318270) Journal

    Call it a beta!

    Of course, BMW's demanding a lot of money, so maybe the Google example isn't the best.

    Do the Microsoft! Shell out your hard-earned money to be part of their QC team!

    Flameage and massive negative moderation in 3...2...1....

  • Diesels (Score:5, Insightful)

    by speedlaw (878924) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:23PM (#30318418) Homepage
    I'm still confused about this hybrid thing. Go to Europe, and you see the same Dodge minivan picking up kids in front of school, but with a turbodiesel. I know the market is manipulated there too, but I'd prefer the established 40- 45 mpg tech of a TD. The 335d is a great example. More Torque than the titans of Detroit of old. A Peugeot Diesel was my renta-car, and it feared no Berlin Taxi. I'd take a Jetta TDI over a Prius, etc.
    • Re:Diesels (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:43PM (#30318644) Journal

      I believe the major reason why you'll find more diesel engine powered cars in Europe has to do with the stronger emissions regulations in the United States. Ironic isn't it?

      • I think another factor is that farming and trucking lobbies in Europe push for tax advantages for diesel fuel.

      • Re:Diesels (Score:5, Informative)

        by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:57PM (#30318790)
        I believe the major reason why you'll find more diesel engine powered cars in Europe has to do with the stronger emissions regulations in the United States. Ironic isn't it?

        Not strict, just random. The US makes diesels in truck easier than diesels in cars, and the reason is that American makes made diesel trucks, and not diesel cars, to they made the requirements to help the US makers. The US had the worst fuel in the world (high sulfur) so that diesels would make more acid rain than anywhere else in the world, then regulated the sulfur out of the tailpipe after this was pointed out, but it was impossible to do because of all the sulfur going in. So then, the sulfur in the fuel was addressed.

        But gasoline? It's been pretty consistent since unleaded was introduced, with just minor tweaks lowering allowed emissions.

        Oh, and fuel is taxed and regulated differently around the world. In the US, diesel costs more than gasoline. In Europe, it's the other way around.
      • by nmos (25822)

        I believe the major reason why you'll find more diesel engine powered cars in Europe has to do with the stronger emissions regulations in the United States.

        Not so much stronger as just different. Also gas is usually 2X or more expensive in Europe so a few mpg (or km/L) makes a bigger difference.

      • Re:Diesels (Score:4, Informative)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:36PM (#30319696)

        No, the major reason is that taxes on diesel are significantly lower than on regular gasoline. In the US, diesel costs more than regular gas - sometimes more than premium. In Europe, diesel is the cheapest fuel available - by a significant margin.

    • Re:Diesels (Score:5, Informative)

      by Scyber (539694) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:03PM (#30318864)
      One reason is that the Hybrids spank TD's on city gas mileage. Sure TD's get 40-45mpg, but that is on the highway. In city driving the hybrid's usually beat the TD's. Here is an article comparing the Jetta TDI & The Prius:

      http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/4284188.html [popularmechanics.com]

      No doubt that the TD is a more established technology and has many benefits over hybrids, but it does lose out in mpg in a big way when driving in the city.

      • Re:Diesels (Score:4, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:37PM (#30319712)

        That's the beauty of a hybrid drive - it doesn't matter what powers the combustion engine. For all the hybrid system cares, it could be pink unicorns and care bears. I don't understand why there isn't a hybrid diesel on the market.... Probably cost.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)

          Maybe the startup time is worse. Hybrids need almost instant starting combustion engines. A steam engine, for example, would not work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chirs (87576)

      Diesel engines cost more. North American consumers aren't generally willing to pay a few thousand dollars more for a diesel engine.

      Europeans are.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by scorp1us (235526)

      Hell, even the E92 M3 (v8) gets better mileage than a Prius. [youtube.com]

  • Early adopters have to put up with the problems of an immature platform? Say it isn't so!

    • Charging a battery, in cold weather or otherwise, is hardly new tech. All of these problems sound like they could have been avoided with some decent QA, save for the bulky batteries, which the buyers should have noticed before purchasing the vehicle.

  • by spymagician (1303515) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:44PM (#30318660)
    For any interested- The article fails to mention that this is/was an evaluation program initiated by BMW. The electric Cooper is not available through standard channels. I received an invitation to evaluate one but because I rent an apartment I didn't meet the minimum requirements to participate. One of the stipulations was that you had to have an enclosed parking area (i.e. a garage) and were willing to have the required charging equipment installed in that garage. There were some other requirements as well, but that was the one that prevented me from considering it. FWIW the invitation was pretty explicit about the performance differences between the gas and electric models as well as your responsibility during the evaluation period. Anyway, I wound up leasing a 2009 Clubman and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner- 'Fun to drive' is a huge understatement.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:34PM (#30319218) Homepage Journal

    Shouldn't a beta program be free?

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