As electric cars begin to enter mainstream production numerous questions still remain about how consumers will use them, particularly when it comes to charging. Of several studies that have been conducted around the UK, one of the most recent to release its findings is BMW Group’s Mini E field trial.
In this government-backed trial, 62 private individuals and 76 pool users ran the battery-powered hatchbacks over two six-month periods. Large amounts of data were collected electronically by data-loggers in the car and the home-charging points, and also from driver research carried out by Oxford Brookes University.
The key finding was that everyday use of the electric cars did not differ greatly from the typical driving patterns of a control group of drivers of conventionally powered cars in the same segment, with the average daily mileage of 29.7 miles recorded by the electric cars a little above the 26.5 miles of the control cars. The average single trip distance was recorded as 9.5 miles compared to the UK average of seven miles.
Given the daily driven distance of less than 30 miles, the drivers felt confident enough not to have to charge their vehicles every night. In fact, the average was 2.9 times a week according to information fed back via electricity smart meters, with special night-time tariffs encouraging drivers to charge when it was cheapest, which coincided with a low demand period and a greater proportion of renewable energy in the grid mix.
Of particular interest, given the huge amounts of money planned on installing public charging points, was that most drivers (82 per cent) used their wall-mounted charging box 90 per cent of the time.
Fleet use was a big part of the trial, involving Scottish and Southern Energy, Oxfordshire County Council, and Oxford City Council. Those who swapped their normal car reported that the Mini E was fine for 70 per cent of journeys in the day, while for pool cars 80-90 per cent of regular trips were achievable.
The speed of charging was an important consideration for fleet users, while managers also flagged up the need for a clear procedure for the efficient charging of pool vehicles.
The MINI E trial was one of eight UK projects supported by the £25m Ultra Low-Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator Programme, funded by the Technology Strategy Board and Department for Transport. These aim to bring forward the introduction of viable electric passenger vehicles to the UK.