[ad#post_ad]As some readers may know, I am one of 100 people in New York who are leasing the MINI E electric car for one year. I recently passed 5000 miles of driving the car, and for the most part am very happy with it, especially in that all those miles have been covered without using one drop of gasoline.
As the car is technically a mule or prototype, it is not production-ready and has had some issues. A month or two ago it began popping loudly into neutral whenever the accelerator was floored. The power electronics control unit was replaced and after that it almost never happened (it happened one more time). So I'm gentle with the accelerator.
The other day I was driving to work and went over an unexpected construction zone pothole. The car was jostled and suddenly it went into neutral. After that it could no longer be put into drive. Despite turning it on and off and moving the shifter in and out of drive neutral and park several times, that was it, dead. A tow truck was called and off it went to the dealership for a MINI "flying doctor" to come and repair it. After a few days I found out it was the power electronics control unit again which was again replaced.
This made me immediately realize the importance of extensive testing of new electric cars over rough road conditions, potholes and the like. With new technology electric cars there may be cables that can simply come out stopping the car dead in its tracks. Fickle electrical connections andsensitive electronics may be more vulnerable to these effects than mechanical combustion powertrains which have been road-tested for a hundred years.
I reached out to Volt vehicle line director Tony Posawatz to see how carefully GM was evaluating pothole effects on the Volt prototypes.
He responded graciously:
We do more tests to our cars and especially the Chevy VOLT than anyone could imagine including some pretty severe potholes on our Milford Provings Grounds and other very difficult road surfaces. As you know, the car quite easily navigated up and down Pikes Peak, through the hills of West Virginia as well as Death Valley during the hottest part of the summer (it was 118 degrees when I called once to check on the team).
So although there may be a lot of new electric car startups on the horizon, the Volt may well have as another advantage GM's long heritage of specialized quality control testing facilities and expertise. As has been said before, they must get this one perfect.