Late last spring, MINI’s parent company BMW announced plans to build and lease a fleet of 500 MINI Cooper-based electric vehicles starting in the spring of 2009.
After many months of highly secretive R&D, BMW has released photos and full specifications on the MINI E, the company’s first pure-electric vehicle.
Based on the 2009 Mini Cooper, the Mini E ditches the stock 1.6-liter 118 horsepower DOHC four for an electric motor producing 204 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque.
Inside, the rear seat has been displaced by an air-cooled bank of lithium-ion batteries with a total storage capacity of 35 kilowatt-hours, enough to cover about 150 miles on a full charge.
The tradeoffs don’t stop there; as you might expect, the batteries impose a penalty when it comes to weight. Whereas the flyweight MINI Cooper comes in at a scant 2700 pounds, the electric MINI E tips the scales to more than 3,200.
MINI stresses that the MINI E has been designed to preserve the Cooper’s unparalleled agility. The MINI E uses unique dampers and springs tuned to compensate for the extra weight. Also, the E’s battery pack was intentionally moved to the rear seat in order to concentrate the car’s mass near the center of the wheelbase. Even with the batteries for ballast, the MINI E can scoot quite well. MINI quotes a 0-62 mph time of 8.5 seconds, roughly on par with the naturally-aspirated MINI Cooper.
The E uses a single-speed transmission in lieu of the Cooper’s six-speed box, a decision made to simply production. Since electric motors produce maximum torque at zero rpm, the added gears are superfluous for a city car. Accelerating is simply a matter of stomping on the “gas” pedal and steering.
While the MINI E features regenerative braking to help sustain the batteries, the car doesn’t have an on-board generator. Once the batteries are depleted, the car must be recharged by plugging into a wall socket.
Those who lease the MINI E next spring will also receive a high-current charging station to speed the recharging process. Using the station, MINI claims it can fully recharge the MINI E’s battery pack in two and one-half hours.
Instantly a MINI, yet unmistakably unique
From the outside, the MINI E carries all the visual cues to associate it with it’s petrol-burning brothers. A small stylized “E” badge is mounted to the front grille. Where the standard Cooper features ornamental grilles on each front fender, the MINI E receives a pair of numbered plaques.
All MINI E will wear the show car’s metallic Dark Silver paint, offset by the roof, which is painted in Pure Silver.
Most of the iconic MINI design cues remain inside as well. The most readily apparent change is the E’s exclusive yellow interior trim. A large battery charge and regenerative braking gauge replaces the standard Cooper’s steering column-mounted tachometer.
Both the speedometer and charge / regen meter use yellow lettering on a charcoal grey background. Even with the battery back replacing the rear seat, the E still offers a generous amount of space for cargo.
500 MINI E up for lease in Spring 2009
Production of the E fleet has already begun.
500 MINI E’s will begin life on the main MINI production line in Oxford, England. There, the Es will be fully assembled aside from their engines, transmissions and related wiring. Each E will then be whisked away to a special assembly line at the BMW plant in Munich, Germany, where they will receive their electric motor, transmission and battery pack and drivetrain wiring.
And starting early next year in California, New York and New Jersey, BMW will start leasing the fleet of 500 MINI Es to the public through the MINI dealer network.
Lessees will be asked to provide feedback to BMW on a regular basis to gauge real-world performance and driver satisfaction. In addition to making a capital investment in gas-free motoring, BMW is using the MINI E program to learn more about future electric vehicles and how driver behavior will influence their design.
In each market, BMW will establish a set of specially-staffed and custom-equipped service centers to handle maintenance on the MINI E, which includes an early inspection at 3,000 miles and a battery (pardon the pun) of tests once the customer's lease term is up. We'll have more details on the lease term and cost as they become available. Stay tuned.
2009 MINI E: FULL SPECS
Type: Three door, two seat compact hatchback
Length: 3.714 mm (146.2")
Width: 1.683 mm (66.3")
Height: 1.407 mm (55.4")
Curb weight: 3,230 lbs
Weight dist. F/R: 1,651 lbs/ 1,575 lbs
Track F/R: 57.2" / 57.5"
Turning circle: 35.1 feet
Front: Single-joint McPherson spring strut axle with anti-dive control
Rear: Longitudinal link with centrally mounted control arms.
Steering: Rack and pinion with electric power steering assist, total ratio 14.1:1
Front: Vented disc, 11.6" dia.
Rear: Solid Disc, 10.2" dia.
Asynchronous electric motor: 204 hp, 162 lb-ft @ 0 rpm; 12,500 rpm maximum speed.
Transmission: Single-stage helical gearbox, derived from the Cooper S helical gearbox
Battery: Lithium ion, 5,088 cells. Air cooled via temperature-, load- and speed-sensitive fans
Peak current: 900A
Battery capacity: 35kWh
Battery weight: 573 lbs
Charge time: 2.9h @ 240V/48A
Power-to-weight ratio: 9.76 kg/kW
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 8.5s
Top speed: 152 km/h (95 mph)
Range: 240 km (150 miles)
Energy use: 0.12kWh/km (0.19 kWh/mls)
CO2 Emissions: 0 g/km