We take the lowest-range BEV sold in the US from New Jersey to North Carolina and learn a lot.

Some may say that taking the 2020 MINI Cooper SE, the shortest-range BEV available in the US today, on a New Jersey to North Carolina round trip isn't really the best idea. However, we decided to do it for a couple of reasons. 

First, we wanted to get the vehicle to the InsideEVs testing track in Garysburg, North Carolina so we could do some drag races and track runs. The quickest and easiest way was to simply drive it there. Secondly, it would give us a lot of dedicated time in the vehicle to really get to know it and how capable it is for long drives. Lastly, we could see how much, if at all, the Electrify America network has improved in reliability. 

Before we start, we'd like to let the readers know that we exercised extreme caution and physical distancing during the entire three-day testing. Media is an essential service, which is why we were allowed to make this trip during the current limited-travel conditions. I brought a box of gloves, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, masks, and three days of food so I wouldn't need to purchase anything during the three-day journey to North Carolina and back from my home in New Jersey. 

Once arriving to the track it was just InsideEV's Kyle Conner and me on a private, gated track that covers hundreds of acres. Kyle and I also self-quarantined for two weeks before the trip, to make certain neither of us were COVID-19 positive because we knew we'd be in close proximity during the testing.

MINI Cooper SE Road Trip
I wiped down every station with disinfectant before plugging in. I even wiped down the stations I didn't use while my car was charging.

Driving Range

I started out on the trip the day after MINI dropped the vehicle off to me for a two-week media loan, so I really didn't have time to get to learn the real driving range. Since it's rated at only 110 miles of range and doesn't have the most slippery shape (.30 cd) I was worried that I might have to stop 5 or 6 times to charge along the 430-mile route to NC. 

Therefore, I couldn't really plan a specific route based on which Electrify America charging stations I would use. I just had a list of all of the Electrify America sites along the most reasonable route and figured I'd go station to station and figure it out once I had some time with the car. 

I was pleasantly surprised at the MINI Cooper SE's driving range at highway speeds. About 50 miles in I realized that I could probably space the stops at 90 to 100 miles apart without fear of running short of range, and that's with the heat on and me driving 70 mph to 80 mph in 35 to 40-degree temperatures when I started out. Originally, I thought I might have to stop to charge in the 75 to 85-mile range unless I drove under 70 mph, and I really didn't want to have to drive so slowly on such a long trip. 

My average recorded speed for the entire trip was 62.5 mph, but for the vast majority of the drive, I had the cruise control set between 70 and 75 mph. I was really surprised that my average driving efficiency for the whole trip was very close to 4 miles per kWh. I wouldn't think the MINI could achieve that while driving 75 miles per hour and using the heater for most of the trip.

In fact, for more than all of the trip to North Carolina, Kyle followed me in his Tesla Model 3 to take pictures and video and we were comparing the vehicle's efficiency at each stop. Both cars had just about identical efficiency numbers, and neither of us expected that. 

 

Charging on the Electrify America network

Since the MINI Cooper is limited to 50 kW DC fast charging, I was charged the tier 1 prices at the Electrify America sites. Those prices vary by state, and I charged in three different states along the route. At the Cherry Hill site in New Jersey, and in Abingdon, Maryland, I paid $.18 per minute. However, at the Alexandria and Richmond sites in Virginia, the tier 1 price is $.15 per minute.

Here's a quick look at the four stops along the route from NJ to NC. 

  EA Site  SOC On    Arrival  Outside       Temp   Miles       Driven Est. Miles Remaining  Mi/kWh That Leg  SOC On Departure Est. Miles Departure    Time   Charging   Cost Of Charging
Cherry Hill     25%     38°     86      21    3.8     97%     101    40 mins   $7.75
Abingdon     17%     45°     86      14     3.6     90%      93  36 mins   $6.89
Alexandria     31%     53°     72      31     4.1     94%     103  37 mins   $5.55
Richmond     21%     54°     89      21    4.1     95%     108  43 mins   $6.56
IEV Track      3%     53°     98       3    3.7          Tot:$26.75

It's important to note that I'm an Electrify America Pass+ member and pay lower per-minute rates than guests and those that have the Pass membership. The Pass+ membership has a $4.00 per month fee and no per-session fees. If you are a Pass member, there's no monthly fee, but you pay a $1.00 session fee each time you charge.

So if you use the network more than once per month, it's definitely cost-beneficial to sign up to be a Pass+ member. Additionally, during the COVID-19 crisis, Electrify America is waiving the Pass+ monthly fee, so there no reason not you sign up for that now, even if you switch back once they change the policy. 

The trip there cost me $26.75 (including tax), but I did leave my house fully charged and drove the first leg on the electricity that I paid for at home. Taking that into consideration, for the portion of the trip that I charged on the Electrify America network, (344 miles) I paid about $.08 per mile. That's very reasonable in my opinion.

The return trip from North Carolina to New Jersey: 

  EA Site  SOC On    Arrival  Outside       Temp   Miles       Driven Est. Miles Remaining  Mi/kWh That Leg  SOC On Departure Est. Miles Departure    Time   Charging   Cost Of Charging
Richmond     17%     58°     91      17    3.7     95%      95    42 mins   $6.26
Alexandria     21%     60°     90      21     4.1     84%      86  27 mins   $4.14
Abingdon     24%     54°     79      22     4.4     93%      94  36 mins   $0.00
Cherry Hill     10%     46°     88       8    3.6     94%      92  43 mins   $8.32
Home     13%     37°     86       9    3.6          Tot:$18.72

The trip home didn't start out as well. When I arrived at the Richmond, VA site, I noticed all of the stations were opened up and there were service technicians there working on them. I only had an estimated 17 miles of range left and I didn't immediately know if there were other stations close by.

However, I learned that they were there doing preventative maintenance, cleaning out the stations of any dirt and tightening all the connections. One of the technicians closed up a station for me and powered it up so I was able to plug in with only about a 10-minute delay. 

MINI Cooper SE Road Trip
Now what you want to see when you arrive at a charging station!

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful except that I wasn't charged anything for my session at the Abingdon site. When I plugged in and activated the session, the station alerted me that the session would be free. I have no idea why that was and reached out to Electrify America for the reason. I can only assume that the station lost it's cellular connection so it couldn't bill me, and when that happens they can't leave the customer stranded, so the station operates in free-mode. 

The entire return trip cost me $18.72, but that includes charging for free at the track before I left and the free charging session at Abingdon. Coincidentally, I charged the exact same length of time than on my way down, 36 minutes as I did on the return trip, so I know how much it should have cost, $6.89. Including what I should have paid there, the return trip to New Jersey should have cost $25.61. That's $1.14 less than the trip to North Carolina cost. 

MINI Cooper SE Road Trip
The MINI Cooper SE charging up in Alexandria, Virginia

Uneventful - Yes!!!

I've covered the various problems the Electrify America network has had in the past. From credit card reader failures to dropped sessions to non-functioning stations, the EA network has seen it all. For the first year of Electrify America's existence, I never once used a station and had a flawless experience, there was always one sort of problem or another. 

However, this entire trip was perfect. Every station I used worked the first time I tried it, and none of my sessions were dropped mid-charge for an unknown reason. Everything just worked.

Yes, the one time I pulled up in Richmond I did have to wait ten minutes because the technicians were there working, but that was for preventative maintenance, and I think it's great to see Electrify America doing that.

The Electrify America network isn't perfect; they still have to iron out some pricing problems, and perhaps consider a hybrid pay-by-kWh/length of charging time method of billing because some vehicles pay too much for charging with the three-tier pay-by-time system that's currently used. The MINI Cooper SE, however, benefits from this pricing structure and is charged a very reasonable amount for charging.

That's because the vehicle's charging profile is good. Since the MINI Cooper SE is limited to 50 kW, it's in the lowest cost pricing tier, the "under 75 kW" tier. Also, the vehicle quickly rises to the 50 kW charging limit and holds the full rate until the car is 75% charged before beginning to ramp down. When the car reaches 90% state of charge, it's still accepting 18-19 kW, and that's not bad at all. If the charging ramped down earlier as it does on many other EVs, then I would have needed to stay longer and the charging would have been more expensive. 

Because the car holds the maximum rate until 75% SOC, you're getting nearly 50 kW for the majority of the time you charge. And as long as you don't wait until the car is fully charged to 100%, which is not really how you should use DC fast charging unless you absolutely need the extra range, you get a pretty good deal. I actually stayed longer than I needed to on this trip because I was watching the charging profile, recording the data, and taking pictures at each stop. 

If I was in more of a rush, I would have unplugged 5-10 minutes sooner at many of the stops and saved money and time. 

Range

On every leg of the journey except the final two, the MINI Cooper SE averaged over 100 miles of range when you add the miles driven with the estimated remaining miles. On those two last legs, it started raining and it was cold so I had the heat on all the time. I also was driving a little faster than the rest of the trip because I was getting a little tired and wanted to get home.

That's impressive for a car with a 110-mile EPA range rating. It seems that in pretty much any case, other than perhaps driving in the very cold winter months, the Cooper SE should get more than 100 miles of range in almost any driving condition. 

If there one thing I think we proved with this trip is that the DC fast charge infrastructure is really coming along, especially on the coasts. It's going to take more time for it to be robust in middle America, but there are signs that it's improving there as well.

We drove the shortest range EV available today from New Jersey, through Deleware, Maryland, and Virginia to get to North Carolina, and did it without any difficulty. Yes, it took long because we needed to stop four times which added about 3 hours to what would have already been 7-hour drive. 

But that's not the point. The MINI Cooper SE really isn't meant to be a long road trip car. I think this proved that if the infrastructure is there, as is was for me, it can be done and without too much inconvenience. 

We realize these "charging station to charging station" trips aren't the perfect range tests so Kyle and I did something else while I was in North Carolina. After the day on the track, we charged up the Cooper SE and drove it at a constant 56 mph (90 km/hr) on a highway loop until it would no longer move. That's partly why this road trip was a total of 1,111 miles. If you add up the miles in the charts above from driving back and forth you'll see it's only 865 miles. The additional 246 miles were from our track time and the full-to-empty range test. 

 

How far did it go? Well, we haven't finished cutting up the video yet so you'll have to wait a little longer to find out. What I will say is that it beat the EPA range rating buy a fair amount. We also put the MINI Cooper SE up against a 2016 BMW i3 REx and a Tesla Model 3 in quarter-mile drag races and we think you're going to be quite surprised when you find out how that went. So stay tuned for more articles and videos on the MINI Cooper SE. We'll be posting the drag races and range test videos sometime later this week.