Waiting on a MINI-E: part 2

So, how can we efficiently move ourselves from point A to point B without burning up massive amounts of fossil fuels and threatening the ecology of our planet? I don’t know. But I am excited to help find out.

And tomorrow is the day. I’ll be picking up my MINI E at 10am EST, Thursday, June 18. But in a way, I started out searching for this answer 3 years ago, when I placed 30 Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels on my roof.

30 Solar PV panels that will help power my commute

30 Solar PV panels that will help power my commute

At the time, with the stock market running higher every day and  before $4/gallon gas made us all more energy conscious, a neighbor of mine asked  “It’s nice that you’re doing this and all, but it doesn’t really make financial sense does it?”. His point was that I was looking at approximately a 10-year wait before I’d see a return on my ‘investment option’ (that’s the point in the time when my electrical savings would finally surpass the expense of the solar PV installation). It’s a fair question – but as I told him, it doesn’t take into account the dividend I’ll receive every day, knowing that I’m part of the solution to our energy needs. That everytime the sun rises, I’m helping to offset a significant amount of pollution. That knowledge, that I also pass onto my kids, has real value as well – even if it doesn’t figure neatly into my finances.

Since then the economics of Solar PV have only improved – incentives have increased, as have utility bills, and meanwhile the other viable ‘investment options’ (real estate, stocks, banks, etc.) haven’t done nearly as well as my panels. So I’ve been very pleased with my investment option. But now I have another opportunity to leverage those panels to help offset what is undoubtedly my biggest personal contribution to global warming: a daily 90-mile commute. And that’s going to be something pretty amazing – generating abundant, renewable clean energy from the Solar panels on my roof, and putting it into storage in the batteries of my MINI E in order to move me the 45 miles between my Point A & B. It’s a compelling model for us all, and could point to a greener, more peaceful future for ourselves and our children.

But will it work? What will happen in a thunder storm? Can I use the A/C on hot summer days when I’m stuck in a traffic jam and still 40 miles from home? Will I miss stopping by the gas station and picking up a Snapple? Can I zap myself accidentally?

I’ll be posting about those experiences and more for the next 365 days. I’m excited to learn the answers. And as a student of usability design in general, I’m really excited to uncover all the small but critical details that will potentially one day be accepted by everyone as obvious. I do feel like the “Pioneer” that BMW/MINI has been calling us – ready to discover something new.

One thing I’d like to know though, on the eve of this grand experiment, is the answer to this question:


Waiting on a MINI-E: part 1

The one and only time I’ve driven a Mini it was in England, lasted about 2 minutes, wasn’t legal and included a young blonde (the owner) chasing after me in the parking lot of a pub. That was a great drive.

Fast forward a few years and I’m back in the U.S., leading the creative team that built the first, “pre-launch” website for the introduction of the new MINI in 2000, which meant that I was marinating in all things MINI (the history, the style, Alex Issigonis, etc.) for months. I event spent 3 days in Detroit at the Auto Show, interviewing devotees about their memories of the original. I got to sit in one, but I couldn’t drive it.

By the time they were available, I had 2 kids and a cute but practical wife who didn’t think a MINI should be our  family car. I always thought I could just pop in for a test drive, but the time was never right.

Then a few months ago I heard about the MINI-E program, and over lunch I filled out the application. In February I got an email from MINI of Westchester saying I was in-line to become a “MINI-E Pioneer”. Which gives me the right to sign an $800/month lease on a car I have to give back in 12 months.

So why am I doing this? Two reasons.

The first is what I experienced back at that Pub parking lot: the drive was just so much fun. Money will come and go, but I’ll only get one chance to be a test-driver for an electric vehicle that has the MINI driving experience – and that’s just worth it to me.

The second is that I simply believe we need to find a way to transport ourselves without burning extraordinary amounts of fossil fuels. More on that reason in my soon-to-come second post!