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Old 05-29-2009, 10:06 AM   #1
Tea cups
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Default Meet the first customer for BMW's Mini E plug-in electric car


Peter Trepp just can't keep his foot off the accelerator of his new Mini E. Sure, it's supposed to be an Earth-friendly car. He even says he's trying to learn to nurse it around town to get the best range. He points out the "power meter" on the dashboard aimed at helping drivers conserve energy. But he admits the acceleration from a complete stop is so breathtaking, he become a lead-foot. "I've been racing it a bit," Trepp admits.

Trepp, a venture capitalist specializing in green industries, has become the first customer to lease a new Mini E. BMW's Mini has made 500 of the cars that it is leasing for about $850 a month to learn more about how electric cars will hold up in service. Trepp has Number 111. Interviewed by Open Road at this home this weekend, he says he's not sure why he was picked as the first customer -- except maintaining a blog on his electric-car experience apparently didn't hurt matters. (Click here to see it.)

He picked up his car Friday and crawled 30 miles home through the usual obscene Los Angeles traffic to the Pacific Palisades section of Los Angeles, where he says the neighbors have already taken notice. On Saturday, he showed it off to about 100 guests at a party at his home. You have to look closely to see the E-features. The silver Mini E is emblazoned in fairly low-key fashion with a few electric-plug graphics but nothing that shouts to the world that it has a unique powerplant underneath its sheet metal. Trepp says he's going to try to get splashier graphics.

The Mini E will become the third car in the Trepp household. Married with two young boys, Trepp says he plans to hang on to his Audi Q7 SUV and the Toyota Prius. The Mini will have a comparatively easy life since Trepp's daily commute is only about 15 miles round trip to nearby Santa Monica. He'll charge up the car from a 240-volt outlet that was installed in his garage. The Mini E can go about 156 miles between charges, says BMW. It has no auxiliary engine, like the small gas-powered engine that will be part of the Chevrolet Volt. Trepp figures it will be perfect for his commute. The Mini E is no family vehicle -- not with the back seat filled by 600 pounds of batteries, the same type that power laptop computers. Still, Trepp may have trouble keeping it to himself. His wife, Suzanne, has "gotten behind the wheel and she loves it."
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Old 05-29-2009, 10:08 AM   #2
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Behind the wheel: Mini E
We recently had a chance to drive the all-electric Mini E at a local press event. The car is not for sale yet, but in what amounts to an extended market test, a selected group of customers in the Los Angeles and New York City areas will pay $850 per month to lease one for a year. (See our Mini E preview.)

The Mini E is a two-seater with a large, 35-kwh lithium-ion battery pack occupying the space where the back seats would be. The electric motor running off that battery produces the equivalent of 204 hp and 162 lb.-ft of torque. To put that in perspective, a gasoline-powered Mini Cooper S produces 172 hp and 177 lb.-ft. So this electric Mini has oodles of power. The claimed range of the E is 150 miles. A full recharge is said to take about four and a half hours if you have access to a 240-volt power source, but almost 24 hours if you have to use standard 110-volt power. (See our Mini Cooper ratings and reviews, available to online subscribers.)

We took turns driving the electric Mini around a hilly, curving, five-mile loop in Bear Mountain State Park, along the Hudson River north of New York City. Driving it was a hoot. With the electric powertrainís instant torque, itís easy to light up the front wheels at launch or even while accelerating out of corners. The motor pulls strongly, eagerly, quietly, and effortlessly. Power delivery to the wheels is similar to a Cooper Sóright down to the torque steer. Handling is similar, too, with go-kart like agility. The regenerative braking system, which recaptures braking energy to recharge the battery, lets you descend hills without touching the brakes. Itís a pretty aggressive system that we think a lot of people will find strange at first. The only noise from the powertrain is a muted electric whine. Thatís too bad in a way, since the regular Miniís exhaust note is quite exhilarating.

Similar in appearance to its gasoline-fueled brethren, the Mini E adapts subtly to the electric format. For instance, the instrument cluster does away with a tachometer, substituting a gauge that shows the state of the batteryís charge. Open the fuel flap and you find an electric receptacle instead of a gas cap. One thing that canít be hidden is the lack of luggage space. Behind the battery is room for a carry-on bag, but not much else.

After a group of heavy-footed journalists had taken turns pushing the Mini E hard around the parkís hilly terrain for a few hours, it became clear that the car wasnít going to achieve anything close to its 150-mile range in these extreme usage conditions. The point was freely conceded by the BMW/Mini representatives on hand, and it came as a surprise to no one.

The Mini E may still need some work, such as less intrusive regenerative braking, but it proves that green and fun-to-drive are not mutually exclusive. It also shows both the advances in battery technology and the need for those batteries to get a lot smaller. At this point, electric mobility still demands tradeoffs: You can get high performance, good range, and adequate interior space. But you get to pick only two.
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Old 05-29-2009, 11:39 AM   #3
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Here ya go...Ya like electricty eh...so did Oprah
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:01 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Masterauto View Post
Here ya go...Ya like electricty eh...so did Oprah
I see you discovered an ancient gif and promptly decided to post it in each thread you visited. Great job!
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