Electric cars to be studied in Sullivan County

It’s a dream that environmentalists have long harbored but that has, so far, remained beyond the reach of typical consumers: a zero emissions fully electric automobile that will be practical enough for everyday use.

It’s still a dream, but it’s moving a bit closer to reality in Sullivan County with a field trial that will be conducted on a fleet of electric cars with the help of Sullivan Renaissance and The Center for Discovery. The organizations have each received seven MINI E electric cars from the BMW Company and will road test the vehicles over the next year.

It’s part of a program that BMW has initiated in the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas to find out how the vehicles perform in real-world conditions.

According to the manufacturer, the MINI E can travel about 120 miles at 65 miles per hour on a single charge, depending on driving style and conditions. The company boasts that the car has the handling style of the popular Mini Cooper. It is powered by an electric motor with the equivalent of 201 horsepower.

The energy supply comes from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which can push the car from 0 to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds. The top speed is electronically limited to 95 mph.

According to BMW, the car’s batteries are best recharged with a wall box that is installed in the garages of participants of the study. A full charge from the box takes about three hours.

According to an article in the magazine Wired, the cost of a charge that would take the car 100 miles is less than $5 if the electricty is sold at 18 cents per kilowatt hour. A car that gets 20 miles per gallon, by contrast, would use about $12.50 worth of gas to go that far at current prices.

The cars were unveiled at a press event at Bethel Woods on July 14. In a statement, Jim McDowell, vice president of MINI USA, said there are several hurdles to be overcome before the vehicle is ready for mass production, not the least of which is the lack of high-voltage charging stations where the vehicles could be quickly recharged. Because the cars have a practical range of about 120 miles, participants in the study are limited to trips of 60 miles or less away from the charging boxes.

Still, McDowell and others involved are excited about the development. “As we embark on our field study to determine the viability of electric vehicles, we think it is tremendously beneficial to have The Center for Discovery and the Gerry Foundation driving MINI Es. We are eager to hear feedback from them about the vehicles’ performance in a suburban setting,” he said.

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