Electric vehicles may become the environmentally friendly future to mass motor transportation.
UC Davis‘ Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Research Center and BMW have partnered together to conduct a one-year study to see just how possible this future actually is.
The study will focus on consumer reports made on the MINI E vehicle, gathering information from over 50 volunteers across the U.S through online travel diaries, written questionnaires and a series of interviews conducted throughout the one-year study.
“This is an exciting opportunity to talk with users about their daily experience of the cars, about their driving habits and impressions of the electric vehicles,” said Dr. Tom Turrentine, director of the PHEV Research Center. “We are pleased as a public university to be partnering with BMW to find solutions to our urgent public problems of transportation energy supply and environmental impacts.“
The study provides volunteers with cables for charging at home and for on the go.
“Just having freedom of not having to go to the gas station or being dependent on foreign oil is a great benefit,” said Todd Crook, a volunteer in the study who drives his MINI E about 85 miles every day. “I always have a full charge for the vehicle which is a nice feeling to have that kind of security and driving something that is environmentally friendly.“
Consumers have reported that the MINI E has a general 100-mile range on a single charge, an accurate reflection of the MINI E’s capabilities driving through variable conditions.
“We are barely getting started on the project, so we don’t have a whole lot of results,” said Dahlia Garas, program manager at the PHEV Research Center. “We have gotten great feedback about the vehicle though and people are surprised by the performance of [the MINI E]. They love the acceleration.”
Despite the benefits, there are a few minor drawbacks of the car, Crook said. The car itself is fairly small. In addition to this, there aren’t really any charging stations to be found around town when driving. However Crook predicted that the frequency of charging stations is bound to change with more electric vehicle usage.
Garas said BMW’s reasoning for partnering with UC Davis‘ PHEV is because PHEV has been doing advanced vehicle consumer research for years, and that BMW wanted their expertise.
BMW is also working with Germany’s Technische Universität Chemnitz (TU Chemnitz) to conduct similar MINI E studies in European markets as well.
“These results will be used to make [BMW’s] next decision on going forward with creating electric vehicles in mass production,” Garas said.
Garas said that so far consumer reports on the MINI E are generally positive ones. The study will conclude in May 2010 with fully detailed consumer reports.
“I have every intent to purchase an electric vehicle for my next car,” said Crook.
CORY BULLIS can be reached at email@example.com