National Drive Electric Week – A Week Full of Electric Vehicles

Saturday 22nd August 2015

This year National Drive Electric Week will take place from the 12th – 20th September 2015 across the US, Canada and even Hong Kong. Most of the events are mainly organised by volunteers like me. This year there are currently 147 events being held during the week – a number that is still climbing.

We partake in National Drive Electric Week as we become part of a nationwide event to highlight the availability of Electric Vehicles. National Drive Electric Week is all about plug in Electric Vehicles, it’s about showing them off to the public, taking the public out for test drives and talking – make that a lot of talking!

Test drives has become ever more important. Plug In America recently reported that 12% of people that took test drives in cars last year went on to purchase an electric car later in the year. That’s huge and, it goes to show that all of our efforts are starting to pay off.

We love talking to people about how much fun Electric Vehicles are to drive, how easy they are to own and how it’s great waking up every morning to a full battery and never having to visit a petrol station – ever.

This year we have two events organised. One in Madison, NJ and one in Morristown, NJ. Should you find yourself in the area then please do stop by and say hello and if you know in advance that you can attend then please sign up here: Madison, NJ or Morristown, NJ

National Drive Electric Week first began in 2011 and was originally called National Plug In Day.
My sidekick attended National Plug in Day back in 2011 with his Tesla Roadster. Back then the closet event was in NYC on Pier 54.

Checking out the EnerTrac Electric Bike

Checking out the EnerTrac Electric Bike

Fast forward to 2015 and the number of events being organised has increased significantly. In 2013 we organised one event and in 2014 two events. I’d actually like to organise more events for the week but my time is, unfortunately limited.

These events do take a lot of work and organisation but they are always fun. We get to talk to a lot of people and hopefully change at least one mind or two on the reasons why their next car purchase should be an electric one. I mean after all why wouldn’t you? They are just so much fun to drive as we zoom, zoom, zoom around town, ever so quietly!

It needs to be Symmetrical

Saturday 15th August 2015

Dear Blogette…

The long, lazy days of summer – Ooh, that does sound like it would be lovely, if only we ever had the opportunity to be lazy!

2015 Smart Electric Drive seats from above AnotatedThis week nothing much is happening at all but, anyway, in amongst the non-laziness, we found ourselves taking the Smart Electric Drive on an errand the other day and unusually my sidekick let me drive!!! While I enjoy driving, I do tend to find him a little annoying as a passenger. This is because he uses being a passenger to investigate the car, opening everything, twisting and turning in his seat, finding things that were obviously not there before. I mean how could they have been? He has only just found them so they surely were not there before. It’s all a little distracting as the car wobbles from side to side and then the sudden proclamations of ‘Look what I just found!’ Yes, yes, that was always there.

Well, anyway the other day as we were driving along he proclaimed that the Smart Electric Drive is not symmetrical. Well – what to say? All of our other cars are symmetrical but not the Smart Electric Drive, apparently, the doors are different on the inside and the grab-handle for the passenger is further back. Hmm, this does seem rather odd.

After a little investigating, it would seem that the car is actually, symmetrical. It would appear that there were two issues that my sidekick was experiencing. The first was the interior handles on the Smart Electric Drive are different which probably also led to him to thinking things were not right. The drivers side handle has been changed slightly compared to the passenger side, which does seem odd even though all it has is an extra button and the twirly whirly knob for the door mirrors. But they do match up position wise on the doors. The second was that the passenger seat was slightly further back than the drivers side. We always have the seats in line with each other, apart from the day my son   passenger and feeling that he needed a bit more leg room, moved the seat back.

2015 Smart Electric Drive Passenger door2015 Smart Electric Drive Drivers doorAll that was needed to fix his ‘problem’ was to move the passenger seat forwards an inch and a half!!

I’m so glad that it’s all sorted and that the car is not wonky!

Electric Drive Holiday in California? DriveNow Car Sharing Program Offers a Solution

Saturday 8th August 2015

Last week we left for a trip to California, it was a little bit for work and a little bit of a holiday – although the holiday part was on the edge as work always seems to get in the way. As we don’t have a Tesla Model S we were left with having to fly from New Jersey to California – taking the BMW i3 just didn’t seem practical but the Drive-Now car sharing program from BMWi looked like it just might be.

The BMW program is primarily designed as an intercity one-way short term need-a-car solution but, they encourage you to keep the car for as long as you like and, whilst $60/day isn’t the cheapest option, it does come with a premium grade car, fully loaded and able to seat four. We wondered, as a holiday rental for seven days, could we enjoy a week without sacrificing the enjoyment of driving electric?

Uber - Airton with teh Rav4EV

Not wanting to sacrifice a moment of our time by driving a petrol car, we were lucky to find that the trip from our house to the airport could be electric too. Normally, we would have to take a taxi, which would be some crazy sloppy limousine’ that bounced all over the place with a suspension so soft that one pothole in our street would see it bouncing all the way to the airport! However, we are fortunate to know someone who recently signed up to be an UBER driver with his electric Rav4 EV – our friend Airton. We were able to book him for the trip to the airport, oh my goodness – how nice to drive to the airport in an electric car. Take note Toyota – this is the car we want, not some silly hydrogen powered thing that has no performance and no where to fill up!

Hopefully one day there will be an electric aeroplane and that would be just wonderful. But until then… we are stuck with fossil fuels and a donation to offset the carbon.

BMWi DriveNow App beta testing warning

The plan was to fly into San Francisco International Airport and try out the DriveNow Car Sharing Program from BMWi that uses a fleet of BMW i3. To use the service, we had signed up for an account in plenty of time before we left but, just a day or too late to receive our personal DriveNow Access card in the post – the importance of that mistake will become apparent soon but for now, if you use the service, do sign up at least two weeks in advance to make sure you have the card in hand. In the absence of the card, we decided to chance it and use the Smartphone App alone. The app warned us that the service via the app is still in a trial phase but we pressed on!

We were told that they always had plenty of cars at their pick-up location at Sky Park just off the airport property so, after we’d got off the aeroplane we pulled up the app to locate a car. First it showed us ones quite a distance from the airport… hmm that’s not right. We called the DriveNow helpline to see if they could help us find a car at the airport. I would say that the customer service at DriveNow is excellent, and the guy on the other end of the phone was really helpful in locating a car at the airport. After relaunching the app, we checked for cars again and we found that there were three cars near to the airport – the app even showed us the battery charge level to help us pick the right one.

BMWi DriveNow App 3 seconds remaining on the reservation

Feeling nervous that we might trek out to the location and find them all gone, we reserved one called Fuji (I believe that there was a competition launched for people to enter names to call the cars), which was then held for us for 15 minutes, which seems a little ridiculous when you are at the airport and have to get to the pick up location. With the car reserved we just had to find out how we got to the car. We went to the Information Desk located within the airport and asked where we needed to go to pick up a bus for Sky Park. Apparently that was up a level so we headed up the escalator and then outside. Gosh – there are so many signs, where is the one for Sky Park?

Finally, heading in the right direction we walked to the sign that had Sky Park on and waited for a bus to show up. One arrived a few seconds later but wasn’t the one we needed, apparently we had to wait for a blue and white bus. Four more buses arrived and left as they weren’t blue and white. While waiting our reservation expired so we reserved again, giving us another 15 minutes. When the correct bus arrived, we got on and headed to the offsite parking area for the DriveNow cars. The bus was extremely bouncy and not good for my delicate insides. Even the aeroplane journey had been a lot better. As we entered the Sky Park parking area, our fifteen minutes expired again, so once again, we reserved the car – see what I mean about 15 minute reservations? It just doesn’t work for the airport cars.

Anyway, after getting off the bus, the bus driver brought the car around to us and we found ourselves stood in front of the car. First impressions of the car – well I already have a BMW i3 so it looks just like mine but with a huge difference – it’s white – Noooooooo!!!

We tried to unlock the car by using the app as we didn’t have our DriveNow access card. The car wouldn’t unlock, mainly because there was nothing showing on the app anywhere that said unlock the car. Apparently, to stop people hogging cars, you can only reserve them a couple of times. Time for another phone call to DriveNow and with another helpful chappy on the other end, we found ourselves, about 20 minutes later, able to get the car unlocked. Apparently, if we had a DriveNow card then life would have been a whole lot easier, the app, is not perfect yet.

Finally, we were in the car, which is good as it was a little chilly in San Francisco and we were dressed for 30℃ weather. The DriveNow system is fully integrated into the cars on-board infotainment system – this is no aftermarket hack with the ignition key chained to the dash! Unfortunately though, the car was a REx – it had the range extending petrol engine, a huge downside for me, especially over here in California where there are so many public chargers. Probably a sensible choice for most people and, indeed, the petrol gauge was showing 75% so someone had miscalculated a trip!

BMWi DriveNow Euro Spec interior dash

Euro-Spec interior features dark colours

The interior was the European Standard specification which is similar to the US Mega Interior with one big difference; it is dark grey rather than the pale grey that we have. It also had the dark grey steering wheel, and silver aluminium accents where ours is dark plastic. I like this interior – a lot.

With our destination plugged into the navigation we set off to the hotel in Cupertino. The car was charged to 98% so we made it down there easily.

Our first attempt at a CCS fast charge was interesting. We drove to the local WholeFoods as they have a CCS charger operated by NRG. We were in luck and the chargers – Two CHAdeMO, one CCS and a pair of Level 2 – weren’t blocked. We parked up and plugged into the CCS charger and success, the car started charging. We left the car to charge while we went into WholeFoods to get something to eat. The car had reckoned it would take about 10 minutes to get to 80% so as we were walking around we thought we would check the car before getting food as if it had reached 80% then we felt we should move it to a Level 2 to finish off the charging as we didn’t want to be taking up a fast charging space if we were no longer charging at the faster rate. We went back to the car and decided to move it, but unfortunately both of the Level 2 chargers that were there, were both not working! We then thought we would move back to the CCS charger, but a Nissan LEAF had also plugged into the CHAdeMO side of the combo CHAdeMO/CCS which meant that we couldn’t continue to charge until the LEAF had finished…Ugh! So we gave up and decided to return early the next morning.

Charging at WholeFoods Market in Cupertino

Free 30 min. Charging at WholeFoods Market in Cupertino courtesy of eVg0

The next morning we returned to WholeFoods and plugged into the CCS charger. It charged to 95.5% then just cut off saying it couldn’t fast charge anymore… in other words game over and please leave. We left with 95.5% charge and went to our next destination with a quick 10 minute stop at another CCS fast charger station along our route.

The DriveNow idea is really good. Our biggest downside at the moment is not having a card. The app to lock and unlock the car is okay and it does work but it is very slow. We feel we waste a few minutes each time we go out waiting for the app to send to the car the message to unlock and the same again to lock.

We were really enjoying driving around on electric, so glad that there are so many public chargers around that we could always find a place to charge and avoid the engine coming on – for me, I really dread that happening. The amount of chargers to be found around the bay area is great, especially compared to the East Coast of America and especially where we are in New Jersey. The next hotel we stayed at in Sonoma had two Level 2 chargers free for us to use. This would always ensure we had a full charge each morning.

On our way up to Sonoma we decided to stop for a quick charge to prevent the engine from coming on. There was a Prius plugged into the Level 2 and we plugged into the CCS. In the 15 minutes we were stopped there, the Prius owner never returned and a LEAF turned up to use the CHAdeMO charger.

Ample opportunities to charge

Ample opportunities to charge in Calif. give 80mile EVs freedom

Arriving at the hotel in Sonoma we located the Level 2 chargers and plugged in only to be told at reception that we had to wait until 8pm before charging. That is a little frustrating but I guess we shan’t be complaining as it was free for us to use and still meant we had a full charge each morning. It really was becoming a pain trying to operate the car using the app. The app is not really ready for solitary use and it added time to our day that we didn’t particularly want to waste. However, that was nothing compared to the realisation that cell phone reception in the region might not be perfect – no signal means no locking/unlocking the doors so we thought we’d better do something about it.

On the Monday we got a call from Dana at DriveNow who offered to overnight a card to the hotel that we could use with the car and the next day, the card arrived – Yay. We are so excited that we went straight to the car to test it out – But… Nothing, just nothing, it didn’t work. The car stayed locked. Ugh, ugh and ugh – this is beyond frustrating now!

We hadn’t ‘properly’ locked the car the night before and could access the car from the boot so we decided to head out and call DriveNow again to find out what was happening. They didn’t really know why the car wasn’t behaving as it should. My sidekick thought that it was because they cancelled the first card to issue a second card, therefore the car no longer thought we had it. Oh my goodness this is silly. We were wasting too much of our precious holiday time on the phone to DriveNow. We decided that while out and about that we would go to a local attraction – the Old Geyser of California – something we hadn’t seen before. We got out of the car but still nothing from the card or the app. We chose to lock the two doors knowing that we can get in through the boot again.

We’ve been MINI Pioneers, ActiveE Electronauts and now, just five years later on from turning the key in the MINI E, we’re vacationing in California in an all-electric production 2015 BMW i3 – you really don’t have to look very far back at all to see how far we’ve come in just a few short years – what will 2020 look like? I can’t wait to see. – MPT

After seeing the Geyser we headed out to the car, only to find that the DriveNow people had locked the car – we couldn’t get in! Oh, and unusually for this area – it was raining!! Ugh, ugh and triple ugh. Back on the phone and Michael in Fleet Services worked with my sidekick to end the rental, so we could re-rent it again with the card and, it worked! The app recognised the car, the car recognised the card – Yay, in fact triple yay!! We can finally be on our way under our own control.

When we stopped at our next destination, we just got out of the car, touched the card to the windscreen and guess what? The car just locked… so simple and after four days of frustration, this simple task of locking a car was just so wonderful. After that, the whole experience was great. We were able to go out as and when we pleased, knowing that the car would respond to the card. Once we had the card we didn’t use the app again at all – its role in finding and booking was great but control, locking and unlocking was really only enough for the occasional use – actually, what the service was developed for.

We spent the rest of our holiday driving around on electric, enjoying the sights and scenery and not worrying about anything. We knew where we could charge if we needed to. We didn’t need to worry about charging while out as there are so many options here in California, there’s even Level 2 charging at the beach which gave us enough time to wander on the beach and down to the sea while getting enough charge to get us back to the hotel without having to stop again.

The BMW i3 and the DriveNow network worked flawlessly

The BMW i3 and the DriveNow network worked flawlessly once we used it as intended!

The car itself, the 2015 BMW i3, performed flawlessly and the available CCS fast charging network here from NRG eVgo is brilliant, it makes owning a 80 – 100 mile EV totally doable. We’ve met people early in the morning that stop at the local Wholefoods just to fast charge. They go for a run, read the paper while they wait that 30 minutes for their free fast charge, we wondered if these people didn’t have charging where they lived as they were always there around 6:30 – 7am.

Oh and my mission to never use the engine while here – a total success, we managed hundreds of miles on our whole trip on electric only – thanks to the brilliant network of charging options. The DriveNow program was also a success once we had our card in our hand. The app worked well for finding and reserving the car and would suffice in a pinch if you didn’t have your card with you… Now, if they only had that kind of network on the East Coast – we can only dream!!

DriveNow USA, a division of BMW Car Sharing, LLC, provided program membership and rental during our evaluation

Six Months with the 2015 Smart Electric Drive

Saturday 25th July 2015

This week we will have had our 2015 Smart Electric Drive for six months, so what do I think of it six months down the road?

The Smart Electric Drive has certainly turned into one fun little car to drive, it is very much on the nippy side and is more than capable of holding its own in traffic, it’s relatively quick off the mark and can easily keep up with all the traffic. Just because it is small does not mean it is slow. Although, I do, from time to time, get people (usually SUV drivers) trying to intimidate me. Well, they picked the wrong person for that, there’s no intimidating me!!

2015 Smart Electric Drive - Flat battery

2015 Smart Electric Drive – Flat battery

The range on the Smart Electric Drive is around 80 miles per charge, although I can get more than that, if I have been driving. My son is the predominant driver and only drives the car a few miles a day and because the return journey is all up hill, the guess-o-meter is always being pessimistic. Of course we have managed 110 miles in the car, and can probably get that on a regular basis if I had 110 miles worth of driving to do each day! Which, thank goodness I do not.

One of the best and most obvious things about the Smart Electric Drive is the size of this car – for so many reasons – it is so easy to park – have you seen one parked in a parking space? It looks tiny! I know, I shouldn’t say that, but it does – and only I am allowed to say that as I have one! There is even enough room for another Smart Electric Drive in the same parking space. Now, there are not many Electric Cars that you can say that about. It’s a shame about those huge SUVs that sometimes park next to us though – you know the ones that always park just over the lines – just rude!

The Smart Electric Drive makes people look, I’m not sure what any of them are thinking though! Probably – ‘That is one small car’. I still get the big pick up trucks looking at the car and guess that they are probably still thinking the same as me – ‘That could fit in the back of the pick up truck’.

The Smart Electric Drive is easy to wash and dry, although I still cannot reach the middle of the roof! Seeing as I am unlikely to grow any taller, it is a given that this will always be an issue for me. I find that as the car takes so little time to wash, that I find myself unsure of whether I did all the sides, so I have to do a quick run round the car to double check! I’ve found that the front wheels do seem to attract road dirt quite a lot and I am not impressed by this at all, just more cleaning needed!

When out driving during heavy rain or in slushy snow, you can see the spray that the car produces as there is no back end – the rear wheels are the rear of the car. Ah – now this is when people hang back more and do not get as close to me, as the spray basically aims itself directly at the car behind – oops!!

Where most cars have a lot of space up front to house the mechanical parts, the Smart Electric Drive has everything up close, you can hear the electronics for the automatic wipers and the AC as they click on and off quite clearly. Despite all these little noises the car is still so quiet, which of course is why you can hear all the other noises so much.

Not even fully loaded

Not even fully loaded

With all that said about how small the Smart Electric Drive is, it has much more space inside it than you would ever imagine; we easily manage our weekly shop without any problems. Do you need 10 bags of salt for your water softener? Well if you do, no problem, it all fits in the boot – and it even remains on all four wheels – I had visions of the car pointing up to the sky!

A little rant – The Eco meter on the Smart Electric Drive, while amusing as I always want to get it to 100%, (which isn’t proving too difficult these days), is also a little on the frustrating side. When I leave the house with a fully charged battery and head off down the hill, there is no regen and I know and understand that I will not have any regen with a totally full battery. Nor, will I make any space in the battery as I am going downhill. But, my complaint is that I shouldn’t be penalised on the Eco meter for having a full battery. As I travel down the hill gently applying the brakes all the way down to the junction. the eco-ness percentage increases slightly, but as I get to the junction and apply the brakes more firmly to stop myself spilling out into the junction the eco-ness percentage decreases to below what I left the garage with. Now, it seems unfair to take percentages away from me when I have a full battery and cannot use any regen, it’s basically saying you are pressing the brakes too hard. Smart – I would like to see this fixed please. The Eco meter does seem to be a bit on the random side at the best of times. It should know when I have a full battery and when I am travelling downhill and need to use the brakes to stop myself exceeding the speed limit and crashing into another vehicle. I shouldn’t at any time be penalised for gently applying the brakes on a downhill and then pressing them more firmly as I approach the junction to stop the car. I also wish it could see those times when a random driver suddenly decides to pull out in front of me or the traffic lights change prompting an immediate stop. It’s not like I’m driving recklessly and fiercely applying the brakes – I’m always driving gently and giving myself plenty of stopping time. It is those random other things that cause sudden braking. I think the car should have sensors or a camera on the front so it can see that it wasn’t my fault and stop taking away my eco percentages. Ugh!! But, thank you for letting me rant about that as I do feel better now!

As we are at six months with the Smart Electric Drive, I thought I would ask my son what his thoughts on the car were and here they are.

The shift from the Mitsubishi i-MiEV to the 2015 Smart Electric Dive was bittersweet in the way that I had become so accustomed to the quirks of the i-MiEV and I was upset to see it go. However, getting to have a new driving experience in a different, better looking car was exciting. It was fairly obvious from the beginning that the Smart Electric Drive had a better, firmer build quality than that of the i-MiEV. I almost felt as if I could pull apart the i-MiEV with my bare hands as a lot of pieces didn’t look like they even fit together. I still enjoyed the i-MiEV, but I appreciate the sturdier quality of the Smart Electric Drive. The most surprising part of my experience with the Smart Electric Drive was that I could actually fit inside it despite being six feet tall. It is even smaller than the i-MiEV but somehow manages to have enough room inside for two people to sit relatively comfortably. It’s perfect for me because I only rarely drive with other people, and I’ve never needed more than a little space in the back to occasionally put a suitcase. The music system would be nice if it actually connected to iPhones but it’s not the end of the world, really. Driving it is nice, I suppose that’s the most important part, and also what I’m supposed to be writing about. It feels faster, and more nimble than the i-MiEV making sharper turns with much greater ease as there is almost no length to the car at all. Its size lends itself to how well it can maneuver along the road, and it can fit just about anywhere. It’s very uncommon to have any issues with other road users, because I’m usually too small to ever be in their way, although people will and have often tried to squeeze past me on a larger than average road because they think their SUV is the only thing on the road. Parking is a breeze, I can pretty much swing into a space and be done with it without any problems. I do get harassed a lot more on the road though, as a lot of big car drivers think they’re way too cool for manners, as driving at the speed limit is often frowned upon by New Jersey drivers. My only larger issue with the Smart Electric Drive is that is has a much weaker regen system than that of the i-MiEV. I find myself using the brakes (with the weirdest brake pedal design I’ve ever seen) to stop myself a lot more, especially when it’s on a full charge. Over time I’ve gotten used to everything the Smart Electric Drive does, and I think I’ve finally finished figuring out what all the controls do on the steering column. They were really avoiding the use of actual words to convey what those symbols mean. I would probably rate the Smart Electric Drive slightly higher than the i-MiEV, it drives much nicer, but its control markings could use some work. Overall, I’m quite happy to be driving it, it does the job, and it does the job well.

Five Things You Might Not Know About the 2015 Smart Electric Drive

Saturday 7th February 2015

We have had our new 2015 Smart Electric Drive for a week now and have already found a few things that, even one of the dealers swore wasn’t available!

2015 Smart Wraps Header

Here are Five Six things you may not know about the Smart ED.

1. Pre-conditioning is built in

Our first Electric Car that get too hot!

Our first Electric Car that gets too hot!

I so like the fact that I can pre-condition my EV’s without idling. In the Smart Electric Drive it doesn’t take long to warm up the car as it’s well insulated and small, so it’s toasty warm in just a few minutes. We’ve actually found that the car gets so warm that we are driving around with the heater set on the lowest level. To pre-condition, you can set the departure time on the dash display or…

2. It has a Mobile Web App (that works on the desktop too)

… on the App! I can also see my state of charge, miles to empty, approximately how long it will take to charge, whether the climate control is on or off. There is also an eco display that lets me know how I have been driving – good to see how the child has been driving! Plus, a route planner that factors in topological data to make sure I know how far I can go with my current range.

3. The front passenger seat folds flat

The front passenger seat can be folded down flat therefore increasing your boot space for your extra luggage or purchases. Not much good if you have a passenger though! If you do have a passenger then I am sure they would be more than happy to hold those extra purchases for you. We were able to get one week of shopping in the boot – just. It was touch and go with the toilet rolls though!

A 14x14 pop-up tent frame loaded into the Smart

A 10’x10′ pop-up tent frame loaded into the Smart

 

Oh, and 3a, you can sit on that open hatch, if you’d like to.

4. It has adjustable regenerative braking

 

The three-spoke steering wheel with recuperation paddles is a rare option

The three-spoke steering wheel with recuperation paddles is a rare option

It can be ordered with a three-spoke steering wheel and “Recuperation Paddles” so you can adjust the regenerative breaking from zero (coasting) to stage 2, 60% regenerative power. Although it would be nice to have the full regen as standard, the cars without the paddles default to stage 1, 30% regenerative power. I am missing the strong regen I have become accustomed to. It does have some regen on the accelerator and also some on the brake, but I have been so spoilt with the MINI E and the Active and now the i3. We tried to find a car with this option but alas, there were none.

5. It has interchangeable body panels

Smart Body Panels in Yellow

Fancy a Yellow Smart today?

The skin of the car is made of polycarbonate panels that can be removed within minutes and exchanged for different coloured panels at your smart centre or even at home. Ooh does that mean I can have, flowers, hearts – maybe?

Hello-Kitty-Smart-Car

Perhaps a wrap?

 

 

Last but not least:

6. It’s tougher than you might think

Small cars aren’t safe, that’s why I drive an SUV.” “I wouldn’t let my children drive one.” “The Smart wouldn’t work for me as I need to drive on the highway.” – Just a few of the ill-informed comments that I’ve heard. Mercedes, who make the Smart, wouldn’t be silly enough to make a car that was dangerous would they? Would they go on to sell it in 46 countries? Would it continue to sell in good numbers for over 17 years? I don’t think so.

Since its birth in 1998, the Smart introduced the very visible Tridion Safety Cell that surrounds the occupants. It’s very much like the roll cage you might find in a racing car. Most of the bodywork simply hangs off the safety cell. It’s this egg like cell that protects the occupants and why it gets as high as a five-star rating for drivers side impact by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – that’s higher than most cars and why it was featured in the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2002.

The ‘Pole Test’ is a nasty simulation of a very typical real-word accident. It records what happens when you lose control and slide into a narrow object such as a tree or a pole. Approximately one quarter of all serious-to-fatal injuries in Europe happen in side impact collisions and many of these injuries occur when one car runs into the side of another or into a fixed narrow object such as a tree or pole.

Here’s how the Smart Electric Drive handles the Pole Test, I’ve fast-forwarded to the slow-motion part of the video to see how the pole impacts the driver, as we pick up the action, we’re sliding sideways into a pole…

It’s not nice. The first thought might be “get a bigger, safer car” right? Well, in the test above, I’d say the driver would be pretty shaken, but let’s see what happens in a “nice big, safe” 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 / GMC Sierra 1500 (Crew Cab)…

Like the Smart, the drivers head hits the airbag but in the SUV, the pole just keeps coming in until it hits the driver directly.

How about a “giant, super-safe” Ford Expedition?

…The pole came right into the passenger compartment.

2015 Honda CR-V does a little better before the roof folds up and it drops the insides on the driver…

2015 BMW X3 is a bit better but still, the pole penetrates the passenger compartment more than it does in the Smart…

Same with the 2015 BMW X5…

Even though the Smart suffers in the crash test, it does fair better than the other cars. What we see is that, contrary to popular belief, it holds up as well or better than any “big, safe” SUV. Add to that the biggest difference; the Smart is lighter, more nimble and stops faster so, you’re less likely to be involved in an accident in the first place, and that’s how I like to end a story.

Thanks to CrashNet1.com for compiling those. You can see more pole tests at their YouTube Channel. Plus the same story with frontal impacts… that Tridion Safety Cell is tough.

Is it Time for the Police to Drive Electric?

Saturday 18th July 2015

I think Police Departments should have at least two Electric Cars in their fleet.

This past week as I was driving through a nearby town I could hear music coming from one of the streets that was off the main road that I was on. As I got closer to the junction I saw it was a marching band being led by a police vehicle with its light flashing. Now, while I am all in favour of the police escorting marching bands and keeping the road ahead clear for them, I am not in favour of the pollution that is coming out of the police vehicle directly at the children in the marching band. All I could think was those poor children sucking into their lungs all that pollution.

Now what a difference it would make to everyone, but most importantly the children, if they were being led by an Electric Police Car. No pollution and also, so quiet.

Electric Police Vehicles would also work well when the police are on traffic duty and have to have their vehicles turned on all the time. Currently, they just sit there idling away, polluting and wasting so much money. An Electric Car would be so perfect here and make so much sense. Now I am not a big fan of plug in hybrids but I could see where they would fit in for the police to use. I’d probably be okay with them using a plug in hybrid – at least when they are on traffic duty they could be using electricity and then have the back up of a petrol engine if they were called out to an emergency and needed more range.

There are many trials going on around the world with Electric Cars in the police force, some of those are:

Seatle Nissan Leaf Police Cars

Seatle Nissan Leaf Police Fleet

UK West Midlands Police Leaf

UK West Midlands

The West Midlands Police in the UK have 30 Electric Vehicles on lease for 3 years and will be using them for going to appointments but not for responding to emergencies. I think this is good that at least they will be reducing their emissions quite significantly and as the range of Electric Vehicles increases we should see them being used for responding to emergencies as well. In Scotland the police there have taken on a Mitsubishi i-MiEV and if all goes well with their pilot trials they hope to add more electrics to their fleet. In Sussex and Surry UK, they have taken on 2 Nissan LEAF’s and a Nissan e-NV200 van. These will be used for local officers to use on local inquires but will not be used for responding to emergencies. Seattle in the US are using Nisan LEAFs for traffic enforcement.

The Italian police have 4 BMW i3’s and 6 BMW C evolution Scooters that they are using for the EXPO 2015 – I hope they see how useful they are for the EXPO and then go on to use them in the police force afterwards.

Italian Police i3 and C3

We just need to get more to make the move to electric and hopefully that will happen as these trials progress.

Then on another day this past week I was following a postal delivery van and thinking that they should be electric as well. They are such noisy little vehicles and produce an awful smell. It would be perfect for the Post Office to make their fleet of delivery vehicles into electric. Each town has their own vehicles and each vehicle has its own route within that town. As they are never driving fast, they would easily be able to complete their days deliveries on a single charge. It would be so nice not to hear their putter, putter noise each day.

I’m glad to see UPS and FedEx have some Electric Vehicles in their fleet and it looks like their numbers will be continuing to grow.

My Final Acceptance of the BMW i3 and What an Efficient Electric Car It Is.

Saturday 11th July 2015

It has finally happened – and this only happened this past Friday – that I do in fact rather like the BMW i3. Yes, yes, I know, I have had the car for over a year, but some things just take time! I think I am only just getting to fully appreciate what I have with this car and finally accepting it. It isn’t the MINI E – most unfortunately, and isn’t the ActiveE either – not so unfortunately. It is the i3 – it is itself and it is different and unique. I realised that for over a year I have been telling myself that I liked the car, when I really wasn’t so sure, and knew it was just okay, and going along with what I had. However, if BMW offered me the MINI E back again, I would still take it – even in its experimental state, it’s still the best EV for me. But I think I have realised that it isn’t likely to happen so it appears that I have finally come to appreciate and accept the i3.

Now I have decided that it is staying, for a little while at least, then I am looking at the efficiency of this Electric Car. It should be super efficient, after all it is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic making it nice and lightweight. Then there is the fact that they didn’t add a lot of things to the car (according to the visit we had at BMW HQ way back before the cars were even released!) – all to keep the weight down apparently. I remember being most unimpressed that day as all I was hearing was, ‘Well we didn’t put that in and we took that out and we didn’t do this, etc., etc.” I was originally imagining a car that would have not much left in it at all – just the bare necessities – a steering wheel and a couple of seats!

Anyway, during this past week, and I am not sure why, but I have been particularly interested in my i3’s efficiency and I have to say that it is one very efficient Electric Car.

2015 BMW i3 at 5.7kWh

I am currently at a steady average of 5.7miles/kWh and regularly see 98 – 105 miles of estimated range each day. The i3 seems to glide through the air with little resistance and it probably gets such good miles/kWh because I keep it so clean! I am finding I can drive my first 3 miles on a morning using only 0.3% of battery and usually increasing my range by 2 or 3 miles. The journey is one of a mixture of flat and hilly roads.

In the i3 there are potentially three driving modes – Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro Plus. I always drive in ‘Comfort Mode’ and find there is very little difference, if any at all, in range guesstimates between the three driving modes. We actually tested this theory with the ActiveE and found that it’s all down to how you drive the car, drive gently in ‘Comfort mode’ and you will see the same results in mileage range as you would in ‘Eco Pro’. In my experience ‘Eco Pro’ and ‘Eco Pro Plus’ just dumb down the car for you – softer accelerator, no AC and speed limited to 55mph. I can do all this myself and can moderate the accelerator rather well, if I do say so myself! I have heard some one call the Eco Pro settings the cars nanny! If I drive gently in ‘Comfort mode’ with no AC then there is no need for all the Eco Pros. It’s just all about how you control the car, and for me, I prefer to make those decisions myself, rather than have the car do so. Although even in Eco Pro you can still floor the i3 off the line, you just have to press the accelerator a bit harder.

2015 BMW i3 One Year Anniversary

2015 BMW i3 One Year Anniversary Gathering

I often return from a journey in my i3 with more miles than I set of with – this is usually the case when my sidekick has driven it the day before!

On our recent trip of 158 miles round trip to Philadelphia we were at 99% efficiency as reported on the BMW i-Remote App – that’s pretty impressive for a route that was hilly and had road speeds that varied from 25 – 55mph, oh and it rained on the return journey. Also, our last few miles home is a climb of 360 feet, up a few very steep hills.

In conclusion – my BMW i3 is very efficient and I like that!

Boot Space in the BMW i3

Saturday 4th July 2015

How much space does my BMW i3 really have?

2015 BMW i3 Loaded up Padded

Ready to be loaded – padded!

Now, this isn’t necessarily something that I particularly want to find out. I mean, I don’t mind helping out my children but, stuffing my i3 full of drawer units and vacuum cleaners and boxes of stuff to transport 72 miles to her apartment in Pennsylvania – Hmm, not so sure. I obviously did not want my car to get damaged, scratched or anything else so there would be many precautions taken. I am thinking a duvet might work – yes, of course, that’ll protect the car.

The BMW i3 looks rather small from the outside but it is quite surprising just how much space there is inside. It’s almost Tardis like – but not quite. As we all know the Tardis is huge inside and while the i3 definitely has more space than the outside suggests it isn’t quite on the scale of the Tardis.

2015 BMW i3 Loaded up Side

Fully loaded

With the seats folded down, the duvet in place and a towel across the rear bumper, I allowed my sidekick and child to carefully – read very carefully here – place a wooden drawer unit from my daughters bedroom inside the car. Once inside the car I brought the duvet up around the sides of the unit and squished it down the sides so, if the drawers should move around – and with my sidekick driving, who knows! – at least the car would be protected. The vacuum cleaner squeezed in too but the box did have to be left behind and the contents tucked behind the front seat. The box of items to go too also fitted, although not the actual box. I had to put all the items into bags which were then arranged around the drawers. Oh and don’t forget the yoga mat that squished in too! I am rather surprised at what you can fit in the back of the i3, although with all that stuff it was full and there was no more going in.

Plenty of space and two spots to park

Plenty of space and two spots to park

Before the journey I had wondered if the additional weight would affect the range of the i3. It appeared that, well, not so much, it does use a little bit extra but it’s negligible in the grand scheme of things. For our 72 mile journey to our destination we used 56% battery. The contents in the boot remained where they were put originally for the whole journey – so my sidekick was obviously driving nice and gently. There was the odd squeak every now and again and I did have to wonder if a chipmunk had hitched a ride. After we dropped off all the items, the i3 gave a sigh of relief before we drove 16 miles to BMW of Mount Laurel to charge up for our return journey. We rang BMW the day before to ask about being able to charge and to make sure that the charger would be available. They were really helpful and said yes we can charge even though they wouldn’t be open and told us where to find the charging station.

2015 BMW i3 Loaded up Proper signage

When we arrived at BMW of Mt. Laurel, we found the car park packed with new BMW’s however, one of the two charging parking spaces was open and available – the other occupied by an i3, though not charging. They were properly marked out as being for parking whilst charging only, so top marks but for the i3 hogging the other spot.

While the car was charging we sat back and got on with some work and writing blogettes! (I am adding that word to my personal dictionary that I am creating, adding to words like wibble.) We charged to 75% which took about 1 hour 55 minutes and used 10.8 kWh.

Plotting the route home, the car reported that we simply would’t make it – 69 miles to home but only 52 miles available range. It wasn’t until we got down to just 19 miles from home before the journey distance matched the miles remaining but, at 158 miles total distance travelled for the day, we arrived home with 9% to spare – it’s a good job that we understand what the percentage remaining means and don’t rely on the guesstimates.

End of Part 1 of the 2015 Event Season

Saturday 27th June 2015

It has been another busy Event season for us and our Electric Cars, and as it is coming to an end, I have that feeling of ‘What will I do with my weekends now?’

During the summer months it all goes quiet for events, except for the odd car show and then in September we will see more events appearing especially around National Drive Electric Week.

Since April we have spent many weekends taking our Electric Cars to various events, whether they have been Green Fairs, Eco Fairs or Car Shows. This has meant that I have spent a lot of time washing the cars so they are always lovely and clean. Then I have spent an equal amount of time washing them again afterwards to remove all the fingerprints as people seem to think that touching them is important. I always think they are touching them to see if they are real – because you know, Electric Cars aren’t!! We do always keep our cars locked and don’t allow people to sit in them anymore. After six years of doing these events our cars would be in a terrible state by now if people were getting in and out of them all the time, as the majority of people don’t care very much. We’ve seen the way they climb all over the cars that dealers have bought to events – it’s scary! We, do however, let the occasional person sit in them, as long as we have determined that they will be kind to our cars!

2015 Rutgers Day Opening hours

2015 Rutgers Day Opening hours

Even after 6 years we still feel it’s important to do these events and to keep spreading the Electric Car word as much as possible. I would have thought that after all these years our job would be nearly complete, but we still have a long way to go as one woman proved at a recent event. She came up to us and said that she almost bought an Electric Car but that she did too many miles to be able to have one. When asked how many miles she did per day, her answer was, “20 miles per day”. We all had to bite our tongues and wait a moment or two before replying. But, this does show that we still have a bit more work to do.

One thing that we feel is rather important, is getting people into Electric Cars so they can experience them for themselves. We have done a few ride and drive events and had car manufacturers attend with their Electric Cars for people to test out. These events have proven to be very successful with maybe 1 or 2 people going out and buying an Electric Car afterwards. That doesn’t sound like many but it is 1 or 2 people that are now in an Electric rather than a petrol vehicle. The ride and drive events have also increased the number of people talking about Electric Cars which is what we need – the more people talking about them the better.

Max Halkenhauser driving the Roadster

One thing that is always a given at any event we attend is making sure we take the Tesla Roadster. The Roadster is often the main attraction and definitely draws in the crowds but the BMW i3 is quietly getting some attention too. I think that it is down to the way it looks and the fact that it doesn’t look like any other BMW. Oh, and the stickers we put on ours, definitely draw attention. It’s always amusing listening to people when at events – “That’s that new BMW“. “Wow – come look at this Tesla” “Can I buy one?” “Can I buy this one?” “Do they actually work?” “This is yours?!!” “Did you drive them here?

Here’s what I’ve been up to this Spring of 2015.

ElectraGirl at book signing

Sunday 19th April 2015 – Our first event of the year was ‘What is the Electric Car Book Tour’. This was a really important one for me – mainly because I wrote a chapter in the book ‘What is the Electric Car – 79 Reasons to Drive Electric’. I’m reason number 14.We had a Q&A session about Electric Cars as well as an opportunity for the public to check out the Electric Cars that were there.

Rutgers-Day 2012

Rutgers-Day 2012

Saturday 25th April – Rutgers Day – Rutgers Day is a change from going along to Green Fairs. At Green Fairs everyone is already ‘green’ minded but at Rutgers Day you never know who you are going to meet.  We are part of the CAIT (Centre for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation) building’s Alternative Fuel Vehicle Display. In 2012 when we were at Rutgers Day we were joined by 2 Volts, a Natural Gas powered Honda Civic and our friend Ian in his Black Tesla. Jump forward to 2015 and we had 21 Electric Vehicles this year – our biggest turn out to date. We had Tesla Roadsters, Tesla Model S’s, BMW i3’s, Honda Fit EV’s, Nissan LEAF’s, Zero S Motorcycle, Ford Focus EV. We like taking the cars to Rutgers Day as we get to meet all sorts of people, from those who are already thinking about Electric Cars to those that never knew they even existed.  We also get to meet the students who are thinking that Electric Car design is their career path – all very exciting. Each year we do this we are still coming across people that don’t know about Electrics but they always leave considering that their next purchase could be Electric. It’s always a busy but fun day although what is always interesting (and every year it’s the same) is that I spend a lot of the day telling children to stop swinging on the Tesla’s door mirrors, I don’t know what draws them to them and really don’t get why they think it’s okay. Would they do that to their parents cars? I don’t think so. Last year we had a parent try to feed their child into the car through the window – Goodness me!!

2015 Bridgewater ECO Blast Fair

2015 Bridgewater ECO Blast Fair

Saturday 2nd May 2015 – Bridgewater Eco Blast Fair – This was a good event this year with a decent amount of people stopping by to check out the Electric Cars. We do tend to find that at eco events and green fairs that most people attending are aware of Electric Cars and some just need that little extra push to make them go out and buy one.

Cruise Night at the Galloping Hill Inn – This is a different event for us. This is all about cars of any type – it’s more of a car show. We are sneakily bringing in Electric Vehicles to these types of events and the Electrics are being well received.

2015 Morristown Festival Earth

2015 Morristown Festival Earth

Sunday 17th May 2015 – Morristown Festival Earth – Similar to the green and eco fairs that we go to. It was a good day with a reasonable amount of people. Well, it was a good day until someone broke into the Roadster – Yes they did! The doors were locked so they just reached in and opened it from the inside and then were surprised when the alarm went off. But did that stop them? No, it did not, they still got in and then were surprised when we said, “You just broke into my car!” Goodness, gracious me, there is just no understanding some people.

Sunday 24th May 2015 – Car Meet at Rockin Joes – Another car show type event, where Electric Vehicles definitely have a place. This was a first meet and was a little quiet, but my sidekick did get to see some interesting cars.

13th and 14th May 2015 – Electric Vehicles at the Solar Car Races – This was a different event for us that we were invited to bring along our Electric Cars to show to the children who were racing their Solar Cars. The children were very excited to see the cars and most said they would want an Electric Car when they can drive.

2015 Verona Green Fair

2015 Verona Green Fair

Saturday 30th May 2015 – Verona Green Fair – This turned out to be a really good event. We met lots of people that were very interested in Electric Vehicles. We were joined by a converted VW Golf, that had been converted by a group at a High School. Very interesting.

2015 Mercedes B-Class of Branhder Espinal

2015 Mercedes B-Class of Branhder Espinal

Wednesday 3rd June 2015 – Bridgewater Electric Automobile Workshop – As well as being a show and tell, we also had test drives available from Tesla with a Models S P85 D and BMW with an i3. It was a good evening and the test drives were a big hit. We know of at least one person that went out and bought an Electric Car after this event. Welcome to our group Branhder Espinal!

2015 Burlington County Earth Fair

2015 Burlington County Earth Fair

Sunday 14th June 2015 – Burlington County Earth Fair – This was our furthest event we have been to recently. We just took the Tesla Roadster as that is the only car we have with the range to go there and back without needing to charge somewhere. This was a good event with a lot of people. The downside was it was way too hot that day and we were all melting in the heat. Thank goodness for our tent that we can hide from the sun under.

Is it time for a cup of tea yet?

What Charging Options Would You Pick?

Saturday 20th June 2015

Most Electric Vehicle owners charge their Electric Vehicle at home, but what happens when you need to charge your vehicle while you are out and about?

Are there enough chargers to go around? Are they correctly marked out to stop non Electric Vehicles from parking in the space?

Currently, the answer would be no. There are a number of charging stations out there but it is on the low side. We definitely need more and I’m sure they are coming but it is slow going.

Free Public Charging - simple, cheap but no road marking

Free parking but no road markings to let drivers know it’s there

It doesn’t matter what the reason is for your charging need: it could be that you need a small charge to get you home, to your next destination or to the next charging station. What we need to make sure of is when you arrive at a charging station that you are able to use it. We are so happy that so many people are now driving electric — but we do need to make sure that everyone understands charging needs and that they do not take up a space that an Electric Vehicle needs for charging.

Here are some of the things I think we need to see at charging locations to make sure that Electric Vehicle owners get to charge when they need to.

The charging stations and their location, including signage, should be marked out that they are for Electric Vehicles Only and preferably for Electric Vehicle Charging Only. This stops an Electric Vehicle parking there that doesn’t need to charge but it’s a parking space so hey, why not park there? The sign needs to be big enough to read easily and stand out from a normal parking sign – we need to think colour here and, most people seem to have gone with green. Painting on the parking space ground seems to be a good way to alert people. I think that monitoring of the spaces is important too, so that if someone chooses to park there and they are not an EV or, not charging, that they get a ticket.

One of the things that I do believe that will help with the location of charging spaces is, that when companies are looking at putting in Electric Vehicle charging that they need to choose spaces that are not close to the building entrance or in a prime location. If it costs a bit more to run the cables further then I’m okay with you charging me a little bit more (as long as it’s a reasonable little bit more), for the electricity to offset that cost. I would much rather have 20 Electric Vehicle charging spots that were at the back of the car park, than only 1 or 2 close by the entrance. I am more than happy to walk the extra distance and it would also mean that other car drivers weren’t thinking I was getting preferential treatment – owning an Electric Vehicle is enough!

Workplace charging for Tesla Model S and regular J1772

Nice to have open free charging but again, no road markings to let others know this is for EVs only

Some Electric Vehicles allow you to unplug them when they are finished charging, which is quite useful. This would then allow people to unplug your car when charging is finished and plug their car in. All it would take is a polite note left on your car to say that the car can be unplugged when finished charging. Although, if Electric Vehicle parking is at a premium then it would only be fair to return to your car when it had finished charging and move it to another non-charging space.

One of the problems that we do see from time to time is people with petrol cars parking in Electric Vehicle spaces. Now, I am going to presume that this is because they are uneducated about Electric Vehicles and their need to charge. It is likely that they do not know about Electric Vehicles and saw a parking space and any parking space will do. They probably didn’t even notice any signs – if there even were any – which is why we need to educate these people about Electric Vehicles and charging.

Workplace charging - EV spots marked out but for parking only - this car finished charging

Nice road markings but that plug in C-MAX isn’t charging anymore

Nothing is perfect, different solutions cost different amounts of money per unit. Each of these solutions costs very roughly $16,000 in equipment and charges roughly 16 cars per day:

  1. Thirty 120V charging connectors with the familiar J1772 connector – open and unrestricted. Or:
  2. Eight Level 2, 240V managed charging spots that are available for 4 hours maximum priced at $2/hour. Or:
  3. Two  DC Fast Charging units, that are only available for 30 minutes maximum and cost $5 to use.

Or – there might be all three options. Now that would be ideal as there would be an option for everyone but, which of these compromises would you be most happy with if you could only pick one?

  1. Free Level 2 charging with parking but, the spot might be occupied long after the car has finished charging so, you might be stuck waiting
  2. Free charging with parking with plentiful Level 1, 120V units so there’s a better chance you’ll find an empty spot but they’re not fast
  3. Paid Level 2 charging that goes up in price as the time progresses to deter charging hogs so, you’ll have to move your car once you’ve got enough charge to avoid paying too much
  4. Paid DC Fast charging that’s only open for 30 minutes and charges a lot if you overstay

(Note: Each includes big spikes that come out of the ground if you park but don’t start charging within 10 minutes!! (Says my trusty sidekick!) *** actually, this isn’t totally silly – you could have those ramps that only let you enter the spot then retract down when or after you charge.)