Sunday, 3 May 2015

Next Step: the BMW i3

45 month after returning MINI E #14 the BMW i3 is my ride for the next 6 month. Switching from the 3-cylinder 218i two the 2-cylinder i3 REX.

I'm very excited to have an electric car again and try to give some feedback during the next 6 month while using the car.

Updates will be posted on

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Deinstallation of the wallbox

Deutsche Version

As a last procedure of the Drive eCharged project the wallbox in my garage was removed. The wallbox was a contribution of Siemens, the installation of the box and the electric cable needed to feed the box was a free service of the project (German version only:

The installed cable remains and was not removed. It is a 3 core cable with a core cross section of 4mm². This is sufficient for a single phase 32amp/230V power supply. So the electric infrastructure in the garage remains prepared for an electric car!

Nevertheless,  a 5 core cable would have been nice. In this case a standard CEE power connector (3P+N+E) with a three phase 32 amp/400V could have been installed. Or maybe in future a next generation power wallbox subject to the condition that an electric car could handle it.

The end of cable is fixed in a small distribution box and the according switch in the house main distribution board is secured to unintentional activation.

The cable now ends in a closed box. The power switch is secured to unintentional activation.

The display of the electric meter indicates 882,6 kWh. Less 10,2 kWh initial display status, the power consumption at home for the MINI E was 872,4 kWh.
However I did a lot of charging at public charging stations, so this is just a part of  MINI E #014's whole power consumption during the nine month.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Closing event

Deutsche Version
At the day I gave back #014 there was a closing event at the Stadtwerke München, the public utilities being part of the test project.

Some MINI E rowed up at the closing event
At the event the results of the MINI E Drive eCharged program were presented. The original (sorry, only german) presentation can be found at:

Of course limited and unsteady range especially in winter and the handling of the bulky charging cord was criticized, but all in all the drivers were very pleased with the car and the MINI E was a joy to drive. It fulfilled the demands both for the private users and for the fleet car users.

 An ActiveE was also showcased at the event. Due it was one of the prototype cars with some additional emergency shut off switches and lacking interiour carpeting etc. we were not allowed to take a seat. Not a problem for me, I already have driven a 1series coupe for a couple of month and I know, that it is a great car.

Nevertheless we had a chance to examine the trunk. There are some additional bulges and covers housing the power electronics that require a significant part of the original trunk. I hope the space left is suitable to store some typical crates of beer to preserve the seats with their fine leather in Pearl Grey Dakota.

Needless to say that I and the other MINI E users had much interest in the car. But there was no information, if these cars will be available in Munich.

The first 700 cars will head to the US, another 160 support the olympic games in London and the first cars staying in Germany are planned to go to Berlin.

Maybe in mid 2012 or later there might be a chance for a test fleet of ActiveEs in Munich. But this all depends on the avaibility of the cars and the funding of a new test project by the authorities.

The fate of the returned MINI Es is unknown, the BMW staff could not give us any information. I hope #014 and the other cars are used for a follow on campaign (maybe London?).

Maybe a number of MINI Es will go again on the streets to fill the gap until the arrival of the ActiveE. But there was no confirmed information about this. In case this should happen, the former MINI E drivers will be contacted...

Of course there was some disappointment among the MINI E drivers that with the end of the Drive eCharged program a remarkable fleet of electric cars disappears from Munichs streets.
Traffic lights show red for MINI E.
So the traffic lights show red for the MINI E. Except some corporate cars used by BMW there are neither  private used electric MINIs nor the new ActiveEs on Munich's roads at present.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Car hand back

Deutsche Version
 So, now is the end of june and there came the day when I have to give back #014 to BMW. last photo.
The car return took place at the MINI service center. #014 was in good condition and there was no damage. So no problems occured.
The car had 11476km (7128mi) on it's odometer at the beginning and I gave it back with 19507km (12116mi).
So I had driven 8031km (4988mi) with the car within 9,5 month. This was quite a lot for my circumstances.

#014 had no failures, no breakdowns or unscheduled service and with it's moderate mileage it would be good for another test phase.
Unfortunately I did not get any info concerning the future use of the car.
I hope there is one and I was very sad about returning the car.

The service center employee told me that it was the same with the other cars that have been already returned.

For the present the adventure of electric mobility comes to an end. But I will follow the next steps of BMW closely and I still have some posts to write.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Some impressions from the intersolar 2011

Deutsche Version
I visited the intersolar 2011 exhibition which is one of the world's largest trading fairs dealing with all aspects of solar power use.

Here are some impressions I got in connection with electromobiles.

There were some electric cars (mostly Tesla Roadsters and Mitshubishi iMiEVs, but also a dutch registered chinese BYD e6) to demonstrate the use of a public charging stations in connection with sun generated electricity.
smart ed and Tazzari Zero as demonstration cars

Also solar car ports for private and public parking space were extensively demonstrated.
Peugeot ion and Mitsubishi iMiEV side by side

One of the countless Tesla Roadster supported by an iMiEV demonstrating electric charging

For the direct use of solar power in a car I found the solar roof from asola that was developed for the Fisker Karma as an exhibit. With a power of 120W it needs 25 hours of sunshine to replace an 1 hour charge at a domestic 230V/13A wall socket.
Solar roof of the Fisker Karma

Smaller versions that can be used as part of an electric sunroof  to make it a real "electric sun"-roof have a max. power output of 40W.
Although I like the idea very much, the weight of the -I guess- 4mm glass roof with the solar cells will be much higher than a conventional roof of a 0,7mm steel or 1,2mm aluminium sheet. This weight increase may consume a lot of the additional energy generated. But for electric cars a solar roof is more an issue of design and political statement.
And for conventional cars using a photovoltaic sunroof with climate control it is a real gain in comfort at sunny days because the tiny 12V batteries are not capable to run the venting fan all the day.

Another interesting aspect was the storage of excessive solar generated electricity in private homes to use it later when the sun is not shining, during peak power demand or even at night. Especially at the present situation in Germany the private solar electricity producer gets more money per produced kWh by using the electricity on his own instead of feeding it to the grid. With a local energy storage at his home he can increase the use of own generated electricity.
So there were several manufacturers of photovoltaik systems that integrate a battery pack (with capacities from 5-13,2 kWh) in their systems for local energy storage (solarworld, conergy, E3/DC).

The system from conergy for example with a 8,8 kWh or 13,2 kWh battery uses the same (or very similar) Li-ion cells as the Daimler S-class hybrid. So the boost of the development that batteries get from the automotive industry already reach the private homes.
Local energy storage system with Li-ion batteries

The next step to fully integrate an electric car with an additional 20kWh+ energy storage to your home's energy management seems not to be far away. Imagine also a plug in-hybrid- or range-extender-vehicle to act as an emergency power supply just in case of need.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Another public charging station (Irschenberg)

Deutsche Version
Last weekend I made a trip to the area south of Munich. As I passed a gas station near the autobahn exit of Irschenberg, I noticed a sign advertising a charging station for electric cars. I turned round and drove to the gas station to make a test charge.
There was a charging station from the power suplier e.on similar to the one I used in Starnberg. But it was a newer version with the new standard power plugs that I need for 32A charging.

Charging station at a OMV gas station at Wendling/Irschenberg.
At the cash desk I got an identification card to get access to the charging station. I spent 20 Euros deposit for the card, but electricity was free.
After identification via the card the flaps unlocked, I plugged in and the car started to charge.

MINI E #014 charging.

I took a coffee at the shop to give the car a couple of minutes to get some energy. Suddenly I remembered that there was a sticker on the charging stations power plug that said: max. 16A. And I reminded that the charging selector of the MINI E was set to 32A!

So, as I returned to the car the charging had stopped. Even worse, as I tried to end the charging operation by using the identification card once again the charging station aborted the ending procedure.It looked like the system software crashed. No reaction. This really means trouble because the Mennekes plug on the one side of the car's charging cord was still mechanically locked to the charging station and so the charging cord could not be removed. I remembered a former incident at a different charging station where I had to leave the cord at the station.

Locked charging cord plug. The symbol above on the flap illustrates an IEC 62196-2 Type II plug.

Fortunately an employee and the owner of the gas station came by to have a look on the MINI E. I explained the situation (and the MINI E) and after some more failed attempts with the card the owner opened the station with his key.
The circuit breaker of the power plug I connected the car was turned off. After the circuit breaker was turned on again the system still didn't release the charging cord. So the charging station needed a complete shut down via the main switch to restart the system software. Finally the locking mechanism released the plug.
In the meantime I set the charging rate of the MINI to 13A to make another try. The system software still was so confused that it did not recognize the identification card properly. So we tried a different card from the shop and then all worked well.

The problem was that the charging station was converted to the new IEC 62196-2 Type II plugs, but an additional module to detect the power connectors pilot contact was not installed immediately and planned to be done later. IEC 62196-1 regulates that a plug without pilot contact is limited to 16A. So with the missing module to detect the pilot contact there was a gap of #014's demand on 32A and the allowed 16A. As a result the circuit breaker got in action and the system software could not handle this incident.
At the gas station manned 24h a day this is not a big problem, but at a charging station located anywhere an unreleaseable charging cord would cause serious trouble.

In summary it was an informative experience. I had a pleasant conversation with the owner of the gas station. A few electric cars already had used the station (once a Tesla Roadster spent an overnight charge). With the station located at a distance of 50km from Munich at an Autobahn exit it is an opportunity when going to the south by an EV.

Friday, 20 May 2011

MINI E meets Mae West

 Deutsche Version
The MINI E is a prototype car which is BMW's  first step of introducing electric cars to the market.
Based on the actual BMW MINI the MINI E has a conventional steel body frame. Due to the additional weight of the heavy batteries the car is quite heavy for it's size.

To compensate the batteries weight on future electric cars, weight reduction by using leightweight materials is inevitable.

The all electric BMW i3 features a new car body concept existing of an aluminium chassis containing the batteries and the drivetrain - the drive-module- and a CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic) module which shapes the passengers cabin - the life module.

The use of CFRP in the automotive industrie is limited at present to high performance cars with very low production output due to high cost and the production process based on manual work.
For the i3 BMW develops new automated production processes for CFRP to reduce the cost and make the material available for mass production.

So the i3 will be the first automobile with high output mostly consisting of CFRP.

BMW i3 life module of CFRP

At architecture and building industrie CFRP is not a very common material.

In the northeast of Munich, at the Effner place, a new work of art claims to be the first major architectural structure made primarily of carbon fibre.
The "Mae West" of artist Rita McBride consists of 32 tubes forming a 52m tall hyperboloid with a diameter of 32m at the ground, 19,5m at the top and 7,50m at the narrowest situation.

At the base the construction is made of steel tubes due to some structural specifications. For an optical reason the steel tubes have a carbon fibre cover. But above the first ring at a height of 15,5m the tubes are completely made of CFRP. Every tube has a lenght of 42m and a weight of 550kg (compared to 3500kg if made of steel).
Here you can find some pictures of the production of these carbon fibre tubes.

So maybe this is the beginning of a wider use of CFRP at building industry.

Skyline of Munich's northeast with  Westin Grand Hotel - Sheraton Arabellapark Hotel / Mae West /  Hypo Vereinsbank-Building

All steel MINI E in front of Mae West with steel basement and CFRP superstructures 
I admit that a BMW i3 and the Mae West would have been a better couple for the photos. Due to the lack of an i3 I took the MINI E ;)