Climate Change

Les Lutz’s electric Mini hooked up to electric chargers at Heritage Museums & Gardens.

When his 2014 Mini Cooper needed to be replaced as it hit about 100,000 miles, Les Lutz, director of Horticulture and Maintenance at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, decided to go electric. Friends who had purchased a Tesla and let them take a drive. He and his partner were hooked.

They had enjoyed the iconic Mini Cooper and read about the new electric Mini Cooper that went to market in the spring of 2020. The reviews were good. It has 145-kilogram extra weight. It is fun to drive hard and provides a firmer ride, while at the same time, it is impressively quiet, according to the reviews.

Actually, finding the car they wanted proved challenging. They looked at dealerships from Washington, DC, to Maine to Pittsburgh. They wanted a specific trim level and sound system. Due to the COVID-induced microchip shortage, they had to stop producing this car in July. They finally found what they wanted in north Boston. They got the color, sound, and trim package they wanted.

The travel range of this car is 110 miles. Since they still have a gas car, they would use this electric car for everything except long trips. Typically, they go on 3 to 4 long trips per year. They are considering using the Mini for a trip to Maine and are researching where chargers are located between home and Maine. Their car can charge up in 30 minutes with a Level Three charger. To research charging stations available, they are looking online at sites like EV go, Plugshare, and Charge Point.

Before their purchase, they identified all the rebates available. There is a $7,500 rebate from the Federal government, and from the state of Massachusetts, there is a $2,500 rebate. That takes $10,000 off the price of the car, which is impressive. A $36,500 car gets down to $26,500.

They do not have solar panels at this time as they are looking to replace the roof first. But they do buy renewable energy through their utility company. They have a solar friend who hasn’t paid for electricity for 10 years, which they hope to do soon. They utilize the EV chargers at the Heritage Museums & Gardens parking lot with a charge card and paid $3 each charge. He can also log into his charger online and look at the usage. The last look showed he had gone 1,000 miles for $44. Not bad. He figures this is half the cost of operating this Mini over his past Mini.

The maintenance plan covered three years of unlimited maintenance with an annual check-up. With electric vehicles, the maintenance concern is just the tire and brakes. This electric Mini has ‘regenerative braking’ where the car stops when you let off the gas. The car brakes itself at the same time it generates electricity to charge the battery. They hardly ever use the brake, saving wear and tear on the brakes. Pick-up acceleration is “awesome and fun to drive” 0 to 60 in 6 seconds. The warranty is good with a battery 8 year warranty and it covers the entire body. Insurance went up a little, not what they expected as they went from 9-year-old car to a new car.

The motor is in the front, and the battery is under the car chassis where a driveshaft would typically be located. It is a hatchback and gives a lot more room than their previous Mini.

This car has an excellent interface with a built-in GPS mapping and effective graphics where you can zoom in out on a map. It shows you how far you can drive and where all the charging stations are within the drive range ring. Plus, there is all kinds of media, communication, apple car play, and more.

You can see the mile per electric kWh you are getting as well. The screen is big but not as big as in the Tesla, and they do not find it distracting. The system requires that you stop from doing certain functions as a safety measure.

The car offers all the safety features, such as a warning if you are getting too close to the vehicle in front of you, lane departures and full camera back up. Legroom is very comfortable for the front seat but a bit tight in the back seat.

All in all, they are pleased with their new electric Mini, it costs them less to run it and it is a lot of fun to drive.

Les Lutz actively does what he can to mitigate climate change where he works. He also does this in his personal life. Going with an electric vehicle in your next car purchase is one of the best things we can all do toward this end.

Ms. Holt is a building, energy management and solar expert with more than three decades of experience. She lives in Sandwich.

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