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Range Anxiety? Not for Mini E Drivers

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author photo by Holly Reich June 2011

As part of the largest publicly available study of electric-car users ever conducted, the BMW Group and The University of California, Davis, had 120 families drive all-electric Mini E vehicles over 1 million miles in California, New York and New Jersey. The survey, which ran from June 2009 to June 2010, noted that the participants found the cars to be fun yet practical, and also easy to drive and recharge. In fact, many said they would buy an electric car in the next five years.

Through online and telephone surveys of the participating households as well as diaries and in-person interviews with a subset of more than 40 households, the UC Davis Mini E research team examined user behavior, infrastructure use, costs, environmental benefits and other aspects of electric driving.

Key findings from the study include:

  • 100% of respondents said Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) are fun to drive and practical for daily use

  • Respondents said the Mini E met 90% of their daily driving needs
  • 71% of respondents drove fewer than 40 miles per day; 95% drove fewer than 80

  • 99% of respondents said home charging was easy to use

  • 71% of respondents said they are now more likely to purchase a BEV than they were a year ago, while only 9% said they are less likely

  • 88% of respondents said they are interested in buying a BEV or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in the next five years

  • By the end of the lease period, Mini E drivers overwhelmingly thought that the electricity for charging their BEV should come from renewable resources such as solar, wind and hydropower, and were strongly opposed to using coal to generate electricity for their vehicles

Tom Turrentine, UC Davis Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center director, identified three significant ways that drivers value BEVs.

First, the Mini E meets drivers' desire for a vehicle that is both environmentally friendly and fun to drive. Drivers loved the vehicle's quick acceleration and quiet operation.

"What we heard over and over again in our interviews is how fun it was to drive. That's in part because it's a Mini and in part because of the feel of electric drive," Turrentine said.

Second, drivers find value in using electricity as a fuel and in mastering their individual energy use through efficient driving behaviors. "The combination of limited onboard energy and extreme efficiency make BEVs the premier appliance for people to experience energy use," he explained. The drivers also appreciated the car's regenerative braking function, which returns energy to the battery allowed them to drive using a single pedal for acceleration and braking.

Third, drivers like to develop their clean driving territory. "Drivers start talking about the Mini E as a special way to explore their region. They of course can go anywhere in their gas car, but they like to talk about where they can go in their Mini E," Turrentine noted.

So what about that big fear known as 'range anxiety?' Not a big issue for experienced Mini E drivers. "The Mini E's range of around 100 miles was acceptable to most drivers most of the time. We found that households adapted their driving around the capabilities of the vehicle and even explored ways to maximize the use of the Mini E," Turrentine remarked.

"The results of the UC Davis study have a direct impact on the development of all BMW Group electric vehicles to come," said Ulrich Kranz, head of project i for the BMW Group. "BMW Group now is developing the next generation of full electric cars, with the BMW ActiveE test fleet coming into the market in 2011 and the series production BMW i3 following in 2013."

The all-electric BMW ActiveE will be available in select US markets beginning in late 2011, for a two-year lease at $499/month, with a $2,250 down payment. Details can be found at BMWUSA.com/ActiveE.

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Range Anxiety? Not for Mini E Drivers - Autotrader