The rich history of the Mini means it is easy to raid the history books to find compelling reasons why the BMW MINI is a perfect fit for electrification. It definitely holds with the fact that Issigonis set out to innovate and the Suez oil crisis spurred him on, but the inconvenient truth is that small cars are really difficult to electrify. Because they are physically small, it is hard to fit enough batteries in to get a decent range and then it is difficult to charge the premium price necessary to actually make any money.
Still if there is a small car that might pull it off, it is the MINI. A car that has commanded premiums that once seemed unthinkable thanks to a massive dollop of style and some very clever marketing. The second advantage is access to BMW i technology, which is market proven and has already undergone significant development since the i3 launched in 2013.
The 3 door hatch has been chosen as the first fully electric MINI and the i3’s 32.6 kWh battery pack (28.9 kWh of which is useable) and 181 bhp electric motor slot in with no loss of interior or boot space. That means you get the standard and very snug 211 litre boot which is just as well as any further loss of space and we would have had to call it a glove box.
The interior will be familiar to any modern MINI driver, which is a good thing indeed as it is full of character and does offer a premium feel. For the electric versions a new digital dashboard with a 5.5 inch display has been added which looks great and displays all the necessary info. The central infotainment screen is 6.5 inch across and offers touchscreen capability. On more expensive models it is swapped for an 8.8 inch unit but even the standard screen looks slick.
Of course the MINI has always been about driving and with four driving modes and two regenerative braking settings there is plenty to play with. Cleverly the regen system can be altered in any of the four modes giving the option of something that feels like engine braking or more of a one pedal set up. It is operated via a toggle switch which is also great as it means you don’t have to hunt through menus to operate it.
Despite gaining the batteries, the combination of a relatively small pack and all the oily bits being ditched means that it is only 145 kg heavier than a 3 door Cooper S with an automatic gearbox. That extra weight also sits lower reducing the centre of gravity by 30 mm and it allows a near 50/50 weight distribution rather than the front heavy conventional set up.
When you do need to stop and charge the MINI has an 11 kW AC on board charger which is good or you can use 50 kW Rapid DC chargers. Some manufactures are now enabling quicker DC charging but in combination with the smaller battery pack, Rapid charging times are respectable.
The MINI Electric may have a relatively short range but it is still way more than most people will do on a daily basis. It is also a MINI and therefore the normal rules do not apply on pricing. Given that the electric bits work really well and there is no loss of interior or boot space we think there will be plenty of people willing to pay.
Estimated real world range: 110 – 140 miles
Official range: 124 – 145 miles
Official electricity consumption: 155 – 180 Wh/km
Battery pack: 32.6 kWh (gross) 28.9 kWh (net) lithium ion; 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty
Recharge time: 240v 12 hours (0-80%); 7 kW charge approx 4 hours 50 minutes; 11 kW charge approx 3 hours 12 minutes; Rapid CCS 50 kW 36 mins (0 – 80%)
Please note that CO2 emissions quoted for electric cars are not directly comparable to diesel and petrol cars. This is because CO2 emissions quoted are calculated by Green Car Guide and include the emissions created at the power station turning fuel (e.g. gas etc) into electricity and in transmitting and distributing the electricity to an end user. They do not include the actual production of the fuel (e.g. gas extraction and refinery emissions). Petrol and diesel emissions are supplied by car manufacturers and are based solely on the fuel burnt in the engine (tailpipe emissions) and do not include the production of the fuel or distribution to a fuel station. In practice this means that electric car emissions are over-estimated relative to petrol and diesel. For instance if an electric car, a petrol car, and a diesel car are all reported to emit 100 g/km CO2, the electric car actually has lower emissions.