157,000 Electric Miles Driven – A Look Back & Forward Into The Future

JAN 22 2015 BY TOM MOLOUGHNEY 18

It’s been a little over five years since my electric journey began. I couldn’t have possibly imagined where this was going back in 2009 when I was accepted into the MINI-E trial lease program.

I knew I was interested in alternative fuel vehicles, and I knew I wanted to reduce my personal consumption of oil, but I really had no idea if I’d like driving electric or if the industry would actually be making and selling electric cars anytime soon.

Sure there were rumors that General Motors was going to make a plug in car that they were calling the Volt, there was a small start-up car company in California called Tesla selling an electric Lotus conversion for $105,000 and there were also a few new companies like Aptera and Phoenix Motorcars trying to bring electric cars to market, but nothing really seemed certain, and everything seemed many years away.

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Tom With Mini E

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on Tom’s blog.  Check it out here.

So when I came across the online application to drive an electric MINI Cooper for a year in a small test program for BMW, I jumped at the opportunity and applied. It’s now about 66 months since I took delivery of my MINI-E and between that car (73,000 mi) my ActiveE (70,000 mi) and now my i3 (14,000 mi). I’ve driven over 157,000 electric miles.

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Tom’s BMW ActiveE

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Tom’s Mini E

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Tom’s BMW i3

I admit I’m impatient and frequently wonder why it’s taking “so long” for mass electric vehicle adoption. I wonder why there aren’t more EVs from more manufacturers with a wider array of range options and utility. The driving experience of electric cars is simply so much better than that of an internal combustion engine car. In fact, most everybody who buys an electric car seems to agree that they want to continue driving electric from then on, and they don’t ever want to go back to the ICE. However, every now and then I’ll reflect on the past five years that I’ve been driving electric and I realize just how far we have come in that time. As I mentioned, back in 2009 the electric options were a $105,000 sports car from an unknown start-up electric car company (Tesla), apply for the MINI-E test program or build your own electric conversion. Today there are about 20 plug in cars available! Granted not all are available in every market in the US, but every couple of months or so a new plug in is introduced. So in reality plug in cars are indeed advancing pretty quickly, even if EV supporters like myself want more plug in options now.

We have indeed come a long way in a relatively short period of time. The automobile industry historically moves slowly and this shift to electrics is happening at a pretty fast pace as far as the OEMs are concerned. The typical gestation period for a totally new car is typically about five to six years, so by industry standards the plug-in revolution is indeed happening rather quickly. In 2009 and 2010 less than 2,000 plug in electric vehicles were sold in the US each year, respectively. In 2011 that number jumped up to about 17,000. In 2012 it more than doubled to over 52,000 and in 2013 there were over 97,000 US plug in sales. This year we are on a pace to sell about 120,000 plug in electric cars. That’s nearly 300,000 cars with plugs sold in the US since I first started driving electric back in 2009. I know 300,000 is a very small number compared to the overall amount of vehicles sold in the US during that time, but the number keeps growing every year and with new models being introduced all of the time that trend will likely continue.

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Tom’s BMW ActiveE

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Tom’s BMW i3

I’m more convinced than ever that plug in electric vehicles are here to stay, and that mass adoption is only a few short years away. Battery electric vehicles offer a better driving experience. They are quieter, they drive smoother, they have much less maintenance and the fuel costs much less. They are cleaner and when powered by renewable energy are completely emission free. The electricity supply is getting cleaner every year as more and more renewables are introduced and the old, outdated and worst polluting powerplants are decommissioned. The supply chain of gasoline is going in the opposite direction as it takes more and more energy to find and extract oil so gas is actually getting dirtier and more polluting all the time, even as gas cars become more energy efficient. There are so many reasons why battery electric vehicles are the future it’s easy to realize that we’ll get passed the challenges faced today as this disruptive technology is being impeded and questioned by the entrenched industry.

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Tom’s BMW i3

The one thing I keep circling back to when people ask whether or not electric vehicles will have staying power or if they are only passing fad is the owner loyalty. The vast majority of electric vehicle owners love their cars and vow to never go back to gas. People love driving electric because it’s better. That’s the real reason EVs are here to stay. It isn’t the governmental incentives, the fact that they are cleaner, or are cheaper to operate. The real reason EVs will win in the long run is that they offer a better driving experience. People love driving them, it’s really that simple. The high cost of batteries, the need for a robust fast charge infrastructure and the inertia of the status quo are all just temporary obstacles that will be solved in the coming years.

When I first got my MINI-E, my daily driver was a Toyota Tacoma pick up which I still own. I now only use it to plow my driveway and the parking lot of my restaurant and whenever I need to haul something large. I  only drive it about 1,000 miles a year. The Tacoma averages about 18 miles per gallon so let’s say I never went down the electric path and simply kept driving my Tacoma this whole time. Here’s a little taste of what I would have had to do:

* I would have needed to buy about 8,600 gallons of gasoline, which would have cost approximately $30,000. The electricity to power my EVs during that period cost about $8,000 if I were paying market rate. However since I mostly charge from my home solar array and have a surplus many months I figure the real out of pocket cost for me was somewhere around $2,000.

* I would have had to have done about 30 oil changes that would have cost about $1,500 and 165 quarts of oil would have needed to be recycled. There would have also been plenty of belts, filters, plugs and other normal wear items on the internal combustion engine that would have needed to be replaced.

* I would have had to stop for gas about 500 times and wasted 60 hours of my life just waiting at a gas station for my tank to fill – and they say plugging in is inconvenient!   

*I would have released at least 100,000 lbs of CO2 into our atmosphere. According to the EPA burning one gallon of gasoline releases 19.64 lbs of CO2. If all of the electricity I used to charge my car came from my solar array then I would have save over 160,000 lbs of CO2, but since I do charge at my restaurant and at some public charging stations I realize it’s not possible to offer a perfectly accurate estimate. However I’m certain more than 66% of my energy comes from my solar array. 

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Tom’s BMW i3

I’d like to thank the followers of this blog and my previous EV blogs. It’s been such a great ride so far, and the support I’ve gotten from the people here has definitely enriched the experience. Together we really are making a difference!

Categories: BMW, General, Mini

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18 Comments on "157,000 Electric Miles Driven – A Look Back & Forward Into The Future"

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M Hovis
Really great journey (that is far from over) that I hope we all get to share with our grandchildren some day. “I knew I was interested in alternative fuel vehicles” I can’t remember what year this began to haunt me. Not only the alternative fuel vehicle but the alternative energy source as well. I was thrilled to receive my first power bill in May 2011 that was in “the black”. With the hot southern summers, I had to start paying again to cover parts of the AC bill when the daunting southern summers hit. I had to pay $18 in July and $16 in August. Then I was “back in black” until December. With the shortest month of the year, covered in overcast, with the added expense of Christmas lights and holiday cooking, I received a December power bill of $4. I was certain then that this was no gimmick. I started 2012 with the purchase of a Chevy Volt and another 1kWh of additional solar panels. My power bill remained in the black. Prior to all of this, I had gone solar thermal for my potable hot water needs and added a beautiful Quadrafire pellet stove to replace 99%… Read more »
Peder

Tom,

GREAT point about the electricity supply getting cleaner and cleaner (and you can make your own as your photos indicate) and that gasoline (oil) is going in the other direction getting harder to find and taking more energy to refine.

First time I’ve seen that comparison and it’s a great one! a

M Hovis

Working on that technical story as we speak. EROI. 50 years ago the EROI of traditional oil was 100:1. Currently it is 25:1. Shale is about 8:1. Surface tar sands 5:1 with the deep tar sands 3:1. It is going in the wrong direction. In 2010, solar had just broken 1:1 due to intensive coal use in Chinese panels. Currently its EROI is gaining in leaps and bounds with new processes.

Edward Arthur

Excellent article Tom!

Questions:

how many times have you gone “empty”?
can you get solar panels on your restaurant?
any unexpected expenses (tires due to the higher torque)?

Great article Tom!

I appreciate all of your effort sharing news and information on the transition to electric.

JeffD

Thanks Tom! I’ve appreciated your insight on both your blog and the i3 forum!

Mike

Looks like the cars alone paid for the Solar Installation, great payback.

ffbj

A model of what the future might be. Hopefully so. Great article and pics.

Brian
Nice reflection, Tom. Thanks for sharing. I think you nailed it when you say that most EV drivers are never going back to gas. The only “exception” I know of is a coworker who will probably get a Volt when the lease is up on his Fit EV. (His commute really stretches range in the winter time). But that’s still 90+% EV. He’s also considering i3 REx, but price is a consideration. You certainly have an extreme case going from a truck to an EV while at the same time driving a lot more miles than average. My case is the opposite – I traded a 38mpg Civic for my Leaf, and drive on average less than 20 miles per day. My gas/money/CO2 savings would be nowhere near as impressive as yours. I am going to nit-pick your comments on solar PV charging (sorry, I cannot resist). You freely count all of your home charging as sourced from solar. I am willing to bet that in reality you are charging more and night and using net metering to make that claim. By extension, you could claim that solar also compensates for charging you do at the restaurant. In fact, since… Read more »
Tom Moloughney

Thanks for the encouraging words everyone. Yes, it’s really been a great ride so far. I couldn’t have imagined this when I first got my MINI-E back in 2009.

Brian, Yes you are correct about the net metering thing. I admit you can look at it many ways, but I choose to look at it as since I wouldn’t have gotten the solar unless I decided I’m be driving electric from now on, I can use that energy generation even if it doesn’t go directly into my battery. My solar array produces enough energy to power my i3 over 40,000 miles per year if I needed it to. I can do a large percentage of my charging at home, and still power almost all of my home electricity needs. If someone wants to look at it another way, that’s fine and and fair.

Peder

Brian,
good point, but remember, somebody else is using most of Tom’s solar PV emission free energy generated during the day when he is pushing it out to the grid.

It is at worst a wash and in reality the electricity used during the day that Tom creates and pushes into the grid is of a higher value and more important to reducing emissions as compared to when Tom pulls from the grid at night.

Cheers

Brian

You’re preaching to the choir, Peder. Solar panels help produce more power when it’s needed (during the day), and EVs help use more power when there is excess (at night). It’s win-win. My only point was that using the same logic, he could argue that his miles were all offset by his panels, plus some percentage of his home usage. PV + EV is all good, no matter how you slice it!

Priusmaniac

Way to go Tom. Really great.

Murrysville EV

I’d like to know how your batteries are aging. My Leaf’s battery has lost substantial capacity in only a bit over 2 years’ time and 21k miles.

Tom Moloughney

I’ve measured about 2-3% range degradation annually in my cars so far.

CAB

This ==> “People love driving electric because it’s better. That’s the real reason EVs are here to stay. It isn’t the governmental incentives, the fact that they are cleaner, or are cheaper to operate. The real reason EVs will win in the long run is that they offer a better driving experience. People love driving them, it’s really that simple.”

Could not agree more, Tom…well said.

Ramon Acosta

Nice article, well done. I still remember your initial posts when you got the first electric car. I am glad you’ve driven so many miles basically off the sun,great example to learn from. You inspired me follow your example. Because of you I got into solar and electric energy for transportation.

Thank you Ramon. I’ve had quite a few people tell me that and it’s really the best compliment I could get. When I started blogging about driving electric and powering my car with solar back in 2009, it seemed like not many people really cared or were interested. I’m happy to say that isn’t the case now. As I say in the article, we’ve really come a long way.