Monday, June 15, 2009

NJ to NYC commute - Day 1 (puddles ,hills, horns and parking)

So I decided to participate in the MINI-E trial so that I could evaluate a few things as I mentioned in an earlier post. 1) driving to NYC 2) feasability of electric cars.

Well after 2 days of driving I am convinced that the answer to #2 is complete. I would buy this car today if it were available. Whoever makes the batteries small enough and the range a bit larger is going to sell out as many cars as they can produce. Every single person who has ridden in the MINI-E has had to confront the belief that they would have to give something up for an electric. After being pushed back in their seat once or twice (I am still enjoying doing that to people), they are convinced.

I am also learning a few things about the logistics of my upcoming year long commute, that I will outline here for day 1.

I am commuting from South Orange, NJ to midtown Manhattan. For me the best route is through the Holland Tunnel. The traffic on the Lincoln can be far to unpredicatable. My route to the Holland Tunnel how ever goes through some very low lying areas. they are prone to flooding. The entire way into the city today I could not help but recall that serious "no really" look that I got at the dealership when I picked up #269 when it got to the part of the handover process for "No carwashes with under carriage spray". Immediatatly followed by that "No REALLY" look.

Well I am convinced that while I did avoid and go slowly though as many of the deepish puddles as I could that the undercarriage of #269 is drying out in a garage in midtown as we speak.

So going in and out of these low lying areas also brings me back to something I noticed in my post from my initial drive home.

hills and auto-neutral

I'm not talking about big streets of San Francisco hills (thank goodness), but there are many many times during my commute where I am in traffic on an incline with my foot on the brake to keep me from rolling backward. This alone would be fine. But NYC commuting traffic certainly lives up to the "bumper to bumper" name. The idea of rolling backward at all is a bit unnerving. There is often a person much closer than you would expect. I tried a few times to explore my idea of brake / gas in tandem to try to engage the drive before the slide could start. This did not seem to work. One of the software folks from MINI or AC Propulsion would actually have to come out of hiding and publically comment on our blogs to get the answer to that.

BTW, if you check your blog stats there are
a number of reader hits from great places like

Greenville, South Carolina, United States
Bmw Manufacturing

Greer, South Carolina, United States
Bmw Manufacturing

but my favorites so far have been...(but I digress)

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, United States
General Motors Corporation

Dhahran, Ash Sharqiyah, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabian Oil Company

I still see the auto-neutral as an issue on an incline in traffic. It appeared to me that holding the brake canceled out the signal from the accelerator. Now granted in traffic with another car close in front was not where I was willing to expand too much on my experiment, but I could not achieve the result that I wanted with the brake and the accelerator in combo. I really had to go to leaning heavy on the accelerator and hope they arent "that close" that a little roll wont get me in trouble. It worked out, but I count this as still far from ideal.

Again, not writting the software I cant tell for sure but it seems two forces are at play here. First, I'm assuming that auto-neutral plays some kind of a role in enabling the regenerative braking to engage. It is the only thing I could come up with for why it would be there in the first place. so lets start with the premice that we need it. But not at full stop, with the brake applied. It seems like either that combo of functions should trigger some other code that turns off auto-neutral until we move forward 10 feet or we need some kind of "disable" button, like turning off traction control, that would disable auto-neutral. And again, maybe only for the next 10 feet. But the effort of having to remember to push the button each time would be worth it to me. I imagine this is a user interface / feasability issue, but one that I hope they are working on.

Now I am sure that with "no noise" I can hear the road honking more than usual, but I definately got the impression that more than one of them (3 or 4) were directed at me. And all during regen braking in slow traffic. I am afraid that the brake lights are not engaging nearly enough in slow driving. That was the only thing I could guess after the 2nd or 3rd honk. Like everyone else, no one recognizes what the car is for that to be the reason. I really think that I slowed more than the other person expected, with no brake lights. This is somewhere that I think we could really choose to go on the side of caution. If there is some kind of % deceleration formula that I could user select through my settings I would certainly be dialing that one down on the way home. I am tempted to have someone follow me around town and tell me when my brake lights are on, since we can not tell. Except that I havent recieved my car bluetooth kit yet. Realy MINI, no bluetooth, I doubt it drains that much battery.

So today also marked the first time I had to hand someone the keys and walk away. Afte trying to impress on the attendant that this car was different and the start/stop button and that it is very responsive, I got a few blank nods and a ticket and that look of "ok, we'll see you at 6pm". Now for non-NYers, virtually every parking facility in NYC is one where you pull in give them your keys and come back later. They perform a logic puzzle dance of moving cars around all day that would give most of us a real headache. But it is a fact of life in NYC. I was able to find an indoor lot less than 2 blocks from my office (near Madison Park) and for <$300 a month. NYC based folks know that is a really good deal. I would be willing to find another place near my office, love to find one with an outlet, so any better ideas please let me know.

OK. Now let me state this again. While that may have come off a bit as ranting and complaining, it was intended as none of the above. I LOVE this car and would buy it on the spot if available. I provide all of this feedback as I believe it was requested by the program that we keep a blog, to provide feedback and opportunities for improvement. I am glad to go into a deeper discussion with anyone who is interested, ut this post I think is long enough.


  1. I've been driving a manual transmission car for most of my driving life, having a car that wants to roll backwards on hills is normal. I remember when just got my license and first had to stop at a light on a hill, I had my friends yell to the car behind to back up:)
    The regular MINI is suppose to have a hill assist where it hold the car from going backwards for 2 seconds, but for some reason they didnt put that on the MINI E

  2. that would be perfoect solution, and likely then a known thing that we have to deal with. i also have always driven manual drive so if i could do the 2 foot thing i would. or learn to feather the accelerator without the brake. im resisting the e-brake option, seems excessive.

  3. I got my Mini E (#095) last Friday (6/12), so today was my first work commute with the car. All was fine until I exited the Pasadena Freeway at the slightly up-sloping Orange Grove off-ramp and started rolling back while waiting for the light to change. I guess we’ll figure it out, but I can’t guarantee there won’t be any minor bumps (literally) along the way.

    I have also heard a few honks as I decelerate, but I thought it was because people saw my brake lights and wondered why.

    Very helpful blog, by the way.