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More drivers required for electric MINI trials

The search is on for 20 drivers to take part in phase two of a pioneering trial to test the UK’s first ever electric MINIs. Phase one of the trial is currently underway, the first 20 MINI E pioneers took ownership of their electric MINIs in December 2009 and are due to hand them back in June.

People living in a triangular geographical area between Andover, Oxford and West London will be able to take part in the ground-breaking project and so interested drivers are being urged to fill out the online application form at
www.electricMINI.co.uk

The Government-backed trial, run by a BMW Group-led consortium including Southern Electric and regional development agency SEEDA, will evaluate the technical and social aspects of living with an all-electric car in every day life.

The drivers chosen will be able to lease the two-seater cars from September 2010 for six months. Southern Electric will install a free home charging point for each car, as well as a network of public charging points, so the cars can be ‘topped up’ whilst drivers are out and about. The car can also be charged from a standard three pin socket.

The monthly lease fee will be £330 a month, including VAT, insurance and maintenance. Thanks to the consortium being awarded part of a £25m fund by the British Government’s Technology Strategy Board, this is £220 less than the standard monthly lease for this type of high tech car. The MINI E driver only pays for the electricity used – and obviously has no petrol costs. In addition MINI E drivers are eligible for other benefits like zero congestion charges in London.

The MINI E has the looks of a standard MINI Hatch, with the performance close to that of the MINI John Cooper Works, and MINI’s renowned go-kart handling. The space normally taken by rear passengers is reserved for the powerful lithium-ion battery.

Maintenance, servicing and technical assistance will be provided by dedicated BMW Group UK ‘flying doctors’. These technicians will be supported by selected MINI dealers within the MINI E research area.

Interestingly, Green-Car-Guide has learnt that the MINI E drivers in the first trial found that their cars had the traction of a 4×4 in the winter snow. This is because the cars were from Germany and they were automatically fitted with winter tyres, because it was winter, yet no-one at BMW knew this until the reports of go-anywhere electric MINIs came through.

Suzanne Gray, Project Manager for MINI E, said: “We were overwhelmed by the level of interest in the first phase of the trial, and we are confident that we will attract a similar level of applicants for the second phase. We would love to hear from people who have the enthusiasm and curiosity required to take part in a ‘real world’ research study. Their experiences and the feedback that they provide will ultimately help in the development of the BMW Group’s zero emissions mega city vehicle due for production mid this decade as well as UK infrastructure and policy development for electric vehicles.”

In addition to living in the set geographical area, MINI E test drivers must also have a private garage, car port or driveway, so a wall-mounted high power charging unit can be installed by Southern Electric. The 240V/32 amp supply provided by the unit can fully charge the MINI E’s lithium-ion battery pack in just 4.5 hours. An adaptor for use with an ordinary 13 amp socket will also be supplied for occasional use. The lower capacity charge takes just over 10 hours to provide a full charge. Therefore it is only appropriate for occasional use.

Southern Electric will be responsible for the electricity infrastructure in the research area and are committed to supplying ‘green energy’ to all drivers of the MINI E. The company guarantees that for every unit of electricity that’s used by MINI E UK it will put a unit of 100% cleaner, greener hydro electricity back into the national grid. The region in which Southern Electric owns the electricity network is behind the decision to work with a research sample in South East England.

OxfordBrookes University’s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre will manage the collation of qualitative and quantitative research throughout the UK project. 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.

Additionally, the consortium is strengthened by public sector organisations including the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council. Each will support the establishment of a technical infrastructure in their local areas, through a common objective to be at the forefront of sustainable transport initiatives. These organisations will also test MINI E’s in a fleet environment.

Keywords: Electric MINI E trial phase two, Technology Strategy Board, Southern Electric, SEEDA