tom-moloughney-mini-solar

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Tom Moloughney is not shy about his dedication to expanding EV use.

Moloughney’s MINI-E electric vehicle sports “EF-OPEC” license plates and chrome badges that read “Electric,” making known his passion for EVs and his disdain for America’s reliance on foreign oil for transportation.

To spread the message farther than he can drive in his EV, Moloughney also shares his Mini-E experiences with the world on his blog, MINI-E #250.

Moloughey recently took his passion for zero-emissions driving one step further: He installed a solar array on his New Jersey home to charge his Mini-E and cover 90 percent of his home power needs.

Moloughney put the 8.8 kWh system on his roof and began solar charging on April 3 (2010).

After considering the array for a long time, he decided now would be the time to take the plunge, with New Jersey state tax credits for solar installations ending soon, Moloughney said in an interview with SolarChargedDriving.com.

Moloughney figures he will save about $1,000 a year on electricity costs by powering his Mini-E with the solar array.

The system will pay for itself in five to six years in electric bill savings, with the help of New Jersey rebates, federal tax credits, and solar renewable energy coupons, he notes on his blog.

tom-moloughney-drivingMonitoring solar system output in real-time
Moloughney uses an online monitoring application by Sunpower Systems to do real-time monitoring of the system’s output.

Moloughney drives the MINI-E as part of a BMW pilot program, which enlisted 500 participants to drive the cars for a year.

Moloughney uses his MINI-E to commute to the Italian restaurant he owns in Montclair, New Jersey called Nauna’s Bella Casa.

He received the car on June 12, 2009; he recently signed another year-long lease to drive the car until June 2011. Moloughney pays $850 a month to drive the vehicle.

Though he has only had the car for 10 months, he has already racked up 28,000 miles.

He says he is very happy with his MINI-E experience, and will continue to drive EVs in the future, whether another BMW or a different make.

“Hopefully from now on, at least one of my cars will be electric,” he says.

The MINI-E takes about three to three-and-a-half hours to complete a full charge at 50 amps. However, Moloughney typically does not run the battery down completely. So the car only needs to charge for short periods during the day.

128 miles on a single charge
He can count on the MINI-E going about 100 miles on a full charge, though he has pushed it to 128 miles. However, when he runs the heater during cold weather, the distance per charge drops to 70 or 80 miles.

Though he got “range anxiety” in the beginning over how far he could push the vehicle on a charge, he no longer gives the issue much thought, as he rarely drives over 100 miles a day.

Moloughney and his wife also own a Toyota Tacoma, which he uses when he needs to make long trips. During the 10 months he has had the MINI-E, Moloughney says he has come to realize how infrequently he needs to make journeys longer than 100 miles. In fact, he says he has had to use the Tacoma a few times.

tom-moloughney-solar-panelsMost people do not realize that they rarely need to drive more than 120 miles in a day, he notes.

Having a public EV charging infrastructure will help calm some of the “range anxiety” the public feels when considering an EV, but it is not a necessity, Moloughney says.

Since driving habits are usually limited to less than 100 miles a day, and many Americans live in two-car households, people probably do not need an extensive network of charging infrastructure to drive EVs, says Moloughney.

MINI-E a ‘quiet drive’
The MINI-E is a quiet drive, but not completely silent. Moloughney says he can hear a faint electric motor noise and a slight noise when braking.

Moloughney especially enjoys the quiet when driving the rural roads around his home. He notes that he can hear birds singing and crickets chirping when driving the MINI-E at night.

Moloughney does concede that there are times when the revving of a sporty engine can be nice, like when driving a powerful sports car. But for a commuting vehicle, he says he values the quiet of the MINI-E.

“For everyday driving, it’s really nice to drive in such a quiet and peaceful car,” he says.

Moloughney’s MINI-E, with its statement-making license plates and sleek chrome advertising for electric vehicles, receives a lot of attention when at the car wash, bank or store parking lot.

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“I get stopped everywhere I go,” Moloughney explains.

People ask whether the MINI-E is a hybrid or completely electric, and always, “Where can I get one?,” says Moloughney.

Seeing friends and neighbors driving and enjoying these cars is important for the public to become more comfortable with EVs, Moloughney adds.

In the beginning there is going to be reluctance with respect to electric vehicles, he says. Furthermore, says Moloughney, there is always going to be a certain sector of the market that does not want to risk testing new technology.

However, Moloughney predicts that once EVs are more visible and people see neighbors driving them successfully and happily, the hesitance will go away.

For more on Moloughney’s ongoing solar-charged MINI-E adventures, surf to his blog, MINI-E #250.

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