It had to happen. After various non-mainstream electric cars, BMW has entered the market with an electric MINI, so combining go-kart handling, great design, major manufacturer build quality, and zero emissions. But the bad news is that it will only available in America for the moment.
The vital statistics of the MINI E include an electronically-limited top speed of 95 mph, 62 mph in 8.5 seconds, and, crucially, a full recharge time of just two and a half hours, and a 150 mile range. The MINI Es will be leased, but there’s no word on cost at the moment.
Based on the current MINI Hatch, the car will initially be available as a two-seater. A lithium-ion battery will go where the rear seats are on a standard MINI.
BMW Group will present the new, electrically-powered MINI E to the global media for the first time at the Los Angeles Auto Show on 19/20 November 2008. 500 MINI E vehicles will then be shipped to the US states of California, New York and New Jersey for testing with private and corporate customers.
The 500 cars bound for North America will offer BMW the opportunity to evaluate ownership potential for vehicles supplied with an electric power supply. BMW aims to begin series production in the medium term of all-electric vehicles.
The cars will be delivered to customers on a one-year lease with an extension option. Monthly lease instalments will cover any required technical service including all necessary maintenance and the replacement of wearing parts. At the end of the lease, all of the cars belonging to the project will be returned to the BMW Group’s engineering fleet where they will be subjected to comparative tests.
The MINI E’s electric drive train produces a peak torque of 220 Nm, and power is delivered to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox.
The lithium-ion storage unit will have a maximum capacity of 35 kilowatt hours (kWh) and transmit energy to the electric motor as direct current at a nominal 380 volts. The rechargeable battery is made up of 5,088 cells grouped into 48 modules. These modules are packaged into three battery elements that are compactly arranged inside the MINI E.
The energy storage unit’s basic components are based on technologies proven in power supply units for mobile phones and portable computers. The MINI E’s lithium-ion battery can be plugged into all standard power outlets. Its charge time is strongly dependent on the voltage and amperage of the electricity flowing through the grid. In the USA, users can recharge a battery that has been completely drained within a very short period of time using a wallbox that will be supplied as standard with every MINI E.
The wallbox will be installed in the customer’s garage, enabling higher amperage, and so providing extremely short charging times. Wallboxes fully recharge batteries in just two-and-a-half hours. Only lockable garages or similar buildings will qualify as power stations for the MINI E.
A full recharge draws a maximum of 28 kilowatt hours of electricity from the grid. Based on the car’s range, a kilowatt hour translates into 5.4 miles.
The heavy-duty battery delivers its power to an electric motor, which is mounted transversely under the MINI E’s bonnet. This power unit is able to unleash its full thrust from a dead standstill and is complemented by its dynamic deceleration potential, which is directly coupled to the accelerator pedal.
As soon as the driver releases the accelerator pedal, the electric motor acts as a generator. This results in braking force, and the power recovered from the kinetic energy is fed back to the battery. This interaction ensures a comfortable and smooth driving experience. In city traffic, some 75 per cent of all deceleration can be done without the brakes. Making substantial use of this energy regeneration feature extends the car’s range by up to 20 percent.
The MINI E’s brake system comes with a newly developed electric pump. Its Electrical Power Assisted Steering (EPS) is the same as the one used in mass-produced MINIs.
The MINI E’s 1,465 kilograms is evenly distributed across the car. Handling safety is ensured by modifications to the suspension system and the car’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which is adapted due to this model’s specific wheel loads.
Every MINI E produced for this pilot project will have the same paintwork and bear a serial number on their front bumpers.
The MINI E’s coachwork features an exclusive combination of metallic Dark Silver on all panels but the roof, which is clad in Pure Silver. What distinguishes the zero-emissions MINI E is a unique logo in Interchange Yellow, depicting a stylised power plug in the shape of an “E” set against a silver background. It has been applied to the roof, in smaller dimensions to the front and back, to the charger port lid, the dashboard trim, and – combined with the MINI logo – to the door jamb, in slightly modified form. The colour of the roof edges, mirror housings, interior style cues and seat seams will also match the logo’s yellow hue.
The electric drive’s high-voltage technology requires that maintenance work be done by qualified personnel using special tools that are not included in MINI service partners’ standard toolboxes. In light of this, a service base will be set up for customers in California, New York and New Jersey, staffed by MINI service engineers that are specially trained to perform maintenance and repair work on the MINI E’s electrical components. In the event of drive malfunction, these experts will provide professional support at the customer’s local MINI dealer or the service base’s specially equipped workshop. Technical inspections will take place after 3,000 miles (just under 5,000 kilometres) and at least after six months.
The MINI E has already gone through the major phases of product development for mass-produced vehicles and passed numerous crash tests on the way. The MINI E’s energy storage unit emerged completely unscathed from all of the crash tests mandated by US standards, which are especially high.
Production of the 500 cars will take place at the company’s Oxford and Munich sites and is scheduled for completion before the end of 2008. MINI’s Plant Oxford will be responsible for manufacturing the entire vehicle on the standard production line, with the exception of the drive components and the lithium-ion battery. The units will then be transferred to a specially equipped manufacturing facility situated on BMW plant premises where the electric motor, battery units, performance electronics and transmission will be integrated.