MINI E trial goes live

The electric car revolution continues – now it’s the turn of the MINI E to start trials.

Forty electric MINI E cars have been handed over at MINI’s Oxford plant to their test drivers, who are all members of the public. This marks the start of two consecutive six-month field trial periods which will evaluate the psychological, social and technical aspects of living with an electric car. The findings will be used both to inform the BMW Group engineering teams, as they create zero emissions vehicles for the future, and the wider world to help guide power providers, policy makers and component manufacturers in their decision making.

The trial is part of a BMW Group UK-led consortium. Additional funding is provided by the Government-backed Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Transport (DFT) as part of a UK-wide programme involving trials of 340 ultra-low carbon vehicles from several manufacturers.

To cover the research and investment costs of the project a MINI E would normally cost in the region of £550 a month to lease, however part funding from the Government’s Technology Strategy Board means that the lease cost to MINI E pioneers is just £330 per month, which includes VAT, insurance, service and maintenance. Over and above this payment, the only other costs that MINI E pioneers will incur are for the electricity they use when charging their car. A full charge at home (for a completely flat battery) costs just £1.50 when using off-peak electricity or around £4.00 when charging during peak hours. This translates to just over a penny a mile when charging off-peak.

Scottish and Southern Energy is responsible for the electrical infrastructure in the field trial area and through its supply brand Southern Electric is committed to supplying ‘green energy’ from sustainable sources to all MINI E drivers. Part of the trial involves measuring the loading on the electricity supply network, which can only be done by testing the MINI Es in a network area owned and operated by Scottish and Southern Energy.

“This pioneering trial will help us better understand the usage patterns for electric vehicles, a key issue for the energy industry over the coming years,” said Mark Mathieson, Director of Distribution for Scottish and Southern Energy. “It is clear that electric vehicles will play an important role in a lower carbon future. As a company with considerable investment in renewable energy generation, this is something we are already firmly committed to.”

Oxford Brookes University’s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre will manage the collation of qualitative and quantitative research throughout the UK trial. This will include analysis of driver experiences with the MINI E, as well as reviewing the technical information provided by the data-logging units fitted to every MINI E.

SEEDA, Southern and Scottish Energy, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are trialling 20 of the MINI E trial cars in a fleet environment. This requires the establishment of an appropriate technical infrastructure in each organisation’s local area and contributes further to the consortium’s common objective of being at the forefront of sustainable transport initiatives.

The MINI E’s electric drive train produces a peak torque of 220 Nm and a power output equivalent to 204hp. Drive is delivered to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox. This unique engine and transmission arrangement powers the MINI E to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds and on to an electronically-limited top speed of 95 mph.

Based on the familiar MINI Hatch, the MINI E is a two-seater because the space normally used by rear passengers is reserved for a lithium-ion battery. This state-of-the-art rechargeable battery unit combines high output with good storage capacity and power output.

A full recharge draws a maximum of 28 kilowatt hours of electricity from the grid.  Each kilowatt hour translates into 5.4 miles giving the MINI E a theoretical range of over 150 miles. Besides the benefit of zero-emissions driving, at point of use, the MINI E offers significant economic advantages over a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine.

As soon as the driver lifts his or her foot off 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. 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 per cent and contributes to a smooth driving experience.

The MINI E demonstrates all the traditional MINI characteristics – fun to drive, go kart-like handling, good acceleration, positive feedback through the steering wheel and a well-designed interior.

BMW Group will become a Tier 1 partner for the 2012 London Olympics, supplying around 4,000 vehicles for the use of athletes, officials and media, both for the Olympics and the Paralympics. The vehicles will include low emission EfficientDynamics cars, bicycles and motorcycles, and the latest zero emissions cars will also be showcased.