While the recent UK Government announcement that they intend to ban the sale of petrol and diesel automobiles by 2040 (that’s more than twenty years away if you haven’t got a calculator handy) will undoubtedly cause a few extra boardroom meetings among many car manufacturers, a few have been thinking along these lines anyway.
MINI have been strongly rumoured to be looking at their electric options for some time now, so it was with a mixture of anticipation and inevitability that the news broke that an electric MINI Hatchback will commence production in 2019.
This will be MINI’s first electric production vehicle and will be based on the existing 3-door hatchback. The Bavarian BMW plants in Landshut and Dingolfing will take care of the electrical drivetrain, while the actual putting together of the car will happen at the MINI plant in Cowley, Oxford, where the current MINI Hatchback has been assembled since 2001. This is very good news for a somewhat jittery UK industry in this pre-Brexit rumour-filled automotive landscape.
If you can’t shake a nagging feeling that this is sounding like not-so-new news, then that might be because MINI have ventured down this path before in 2008 with the MINI E.
More demonstration than concept, the MINI E was restricted to around 500 models for testing in the USA, France, UK, Germany, Japan and China. Ultimately, this led to the introduction of the BME i3 urban car in 2013. This was a data collecting experiment allowing private users to lease an electric MINI for around 6 months. You may even remember BMW using the UK based MINI E vehicles as part of their UK Olympic Games 2012 fleet.
While battery technology has improved in leaps and bounds since the MINI E experiment, the car may well prove to be the basis of this new production MINI. Indeed, the MINI E was also a result of collaboration between Germany (electric drivetrain) and Oxford.
While the MINI E resulted in some cautious final conclusions, the new electric MINI Hatchback will already have higher set expectations.
The UK MINI E trial (40 vehicles) resulted in around 258,000 miles being driven over the 6-month period according to Oxford Brookes University. Interestingly, the demo cars travelled an average of 29.7 miles per day, while the overall average for private cars is normally around 25 miles.
BMW have suggested that the forthcoming i NEXT will be able to achieve around 311 miles between charges, so it would not be unreasonable to suspect that the electric MINI Cooper may be in the same category.
One question that some may be pondering is, where exactly might you put a set of batteries in a MINI? Presumably the motor will be up front, so I guess that leaves only one place – under the rear seats and the limited boot area. Though small, the new MINI isn’t quite as tiny as the original of course.