The MINI Future (Part II): MINI goes electric

Introduction

MINI E was the first small production electric MINI.

MINI E was the first small production electric MINI.

The MINI Brand, as part of the BMW Group, is on the track to move forward to electric mobility. This fact is inevitable. There is some strong evidence that proves that the brand will move to the electric vehicles, maybe even without any hybrid intermediate models. Let’s have a closer look on the way for an emission-free MINI.

The first electric MINIs were movie stars

Despite the fact that more efficient and emission-free vehicles are always on the agenda of the automotive industry, the first electric powered MINI hatchbacks were debuted in the remake of the movie ‘The Italian Job’ in 2003. In the movie two electric-power MINI Cooper and one MINI Cooper S were especially built and used to the scenes taken in the subway system of Los Angeles.

One of the three electric MINIs acting in  'The Italian Job' movie in 2003.

One of the three electric MINIs acting in ‘The Italian Job’ movie in 2003.

The three electric cars used in that movie were specially built according to the demands of the film’s production, as a scene of chase with the cars included the subway system of Los Angeles, since no gasoline-powered vehicles are allowed to operate in that specific area.

Moving forward with the Project i

The Project i is the strongest evidence of the way of BMW Group towards zero-emission electric vehicles. The project was started in 2007, with concerns to conscious drivers that are aware of the climate change, the limited energy resources of fossil fuels and the growing urbanisation. This kind of drivers is willing to shift from fossil fuel-based vehicles to more sustainable vehicles. The BMW Group has focus this effort to electric mobility and in 2007 created the Project i to develop more sustainable and future-oriented solutions for mobility.

MINI E presented in the 2008 Los Angeles Motor Show

MINI E presented in the 2008 Los Angeles Motor Show

One year later, in 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, the BMW Group unveiled the MINI E, an electric concept MINI Hatchback. MINI E was the first result of the research done in the Project i. The car was not meant to become a regular electric vehicle but a test vehicle across the world. In 2009 the BMW Group released a small amount of MINI E cars in several countries to gain information about the use of electric cars in cities. The cars were produced in the Plant Oxford in U.K. and vehicle gliders were used to transfer them in Munich Germany, to add electric powertrains.

In June 2009 100 trial vehicles were released in Germany, testing in Berlin and in the December of the same year, 40 MINI E cars were running across the United Kingdom, in order to test the efficiency and the potentials of an electric car. In the U.S.A. 450 MINI E cars were available for test using in Los Angeles and New York / New Jersey. In 2010 the programme expanded in France with 50 units. In 2011 the programme was launched in China with tests in Beijing and Shenzhen. All the cars used in this programme were leased to test users of a period of six months.

Specifications

All the MINI E produced for the Project i are powered by an asynchronous electric motor, featuring 204 PS (150kW) and 220 Nm of torque. The car remained Front-Wheel-Driven. Furthermore, a 35kWh Li-ion battery pack was used to provide the electric energy, weighting 259 kg and being so large that replaced the back seats. Finally, the car was equipped with regenerative braking system, in order to produce electric energy during braking.

An image under the hood of MINI E.

An image under the hood of MINI E.

Despite the fact of the added weight, the 204 PS were sufficient to give an acceleration 0-62mph (0-100km/h) in 8 seconds, but the top speed was electronically limited in 95mph (153km/h). The nominal range of the car is 156 miles (251km).

Charging

The users of MINI E had the option to charge their leased cars through 120-volt (at 12 amp) and 240-volt (at 32 or 48 amp) power sources. The charging times are 20 hours for the 120-volt charging and 3.5 hours with the use of the fast-charge system.

The charging port of MINI E.

The charging port of MINI E.

Additionally, the users had to set the correct charging rate prior the beginning of charging, through the instrument panel, with detailed instructions mentioned in the user manual.

The results

After the completion of testing the MINI E in several countries, the BMW Group had a better insight in building an all-electric vehicle. According to the BMW Group, the results after the test all over the world are very promising. The studies showed that more than 90% of the test users did not consider the range of 150 km limiting their mobility behaviour. Furthermore, the users described the charging time as non restrictive. Finally, all users recognized the more fun character of MINI E.

A promotion video of Project i from BMW Group.

On the other hand, the test users drove the MINI E cars as a second car and mainly for daily commuting. Furthermore, according to them the actual charging times are slightly longer than the nominal. The opposite counts for the range of the car that usually reaches from 100 to 120 miles in one charge. Additionally, more charging stations should be available to the public, although the charging cost is much less than using fossil fuels. Finally, the weather conditions are affecting dramatically the efficiency of the battery pack, with the freezing temperatures limiting the range to less than half of the nominal range.

The outcome

MINI E was only the first phase of Project i. After the completion of this phase, the BMW Group moved to the second phase, releasing the BMW Active E. ActiveE was based on the BMW 1 Series Coupe and it was built according to the results from the first phase.

The BMW i3 is first commercially available all-electric car from the BMW Group.

The BMW i3 is first commercially available all-electric car from the BMW Group.

The last phase from Project i is the i3 car, that recently became available to the market. It is the first all-electric vehicle from the BMW Group, implementing all the technologies and insight resulted from the Project i, from both the MINI E and ActiveE. The BMW i3 is the flagship of the vision of the BMW Group to the future of the electric mobility in urban environment. It is also a possible solution for the Group to meet the stringent emissions regulations that will come in the following years.

The final word

MINI, following the path of the rest of the BMW Group, will eventually go to electric cars. This transition is not easy, as a lot of factors are keeping the dependence on fossil fuels. Despite that fact, the future is very promising, with electric cars already available on the market. New technologies will make electric cars less heavy, using new types of battery packs. Furthermore, adding more charging stations across the cities and shifting to renewable energy resources like the solar and the wind energy will increase both efficiency and sustainability for a greener environment. The BMW Group and MINI are aiming towards that perspective.

References

  1. Constant, A. (2009) The all-electric version of the MINI is being trialled in Britain. [online] available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/green-motoring/6452749/MINI-E-review.html [25 November 2013] Comments: Review of the MINI E in UK.
  2. Cropley, S. (2009) Mini E – All-electric city car proves the future of motoring is still bright [online] available from http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/mini/e/first-drives/mini-e [25 November 2013] Comments: Review and pictures of the MINI E tested in UK.
  3. Berman, B (2010) Mini E [online] available from http://www.plugincars.com/mini-e/review [26 November 2013] Comments: Review of the MINI E tested in U.S.A.
  4. BMW Group (2013) Mobility of the Future – Project i [online] available from http://www.bmwgroup.com/bmwgroup_prod/e/0_0_www_bmwgroup_com/forschung_entwicklung/mobilitaet_der_zukunft/project_i/project_i.html [26 November 2013] Comments: the official webpage of the Project i, with various details for all the phases of the project, including the MINI E.
  5. CAR AND DRIVER (2009) Mini E charging port [online] available from http://www.caranddriver.com/photos-11q1/396162/2009-mini-e-charging-port-photo-406073  [28 November 2013] Comments: Picture of the charging port of MINI E.
  6. Holder, J. (2013) BMW to focus on electric power [online] available from http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/bmw-focus-electric-power [26 November 2013] Comments: An article about the electrification of the future BMW Group vehicles.
  7. Carter, M. (2009) Electric-Powered MINI E Delayed Due to High Demand [online] available from http://www.thetorquereport.com/2009/02/electricpowered_mini_e_delayed.html [26 November 2013] Comments: Brief description and images of MINI E.
  8. Trepp, P. (2009) Plugged-In with Peter’s Mini E – A One-Year Driving Experience [online] available from http://petersminie.blogspot.co.uk/ [26 November 2013] Comments: A personal experience shared from one of the test users of MINI E.
  9. Wikipedia (2013) Mini E [online] available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_E [27 November 2013] Comments: Various information about the MINI E
  10. Wikipedia (2013) BMW ActiveE [online] available from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_ActiveE [27 November 2013] Comments: Information for BMW ActiveE
  11. Wikipedia (2013) BMW i3 [online] available from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_i3 [26 November 2013] Comments: Interesting information for BMW i3 and the Project i from BMW Group
  12. Wikipedia (2013) The Italian Job (2003 film) [online] available from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Italian_Job_%282003_film%29 [28 November 2013] Comments: Information about the remake of the movie ‘The Italian Job’ in 2003
  13. IMBD (unknown) The Italian Job (2003) – Trivia [online] available from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317740/trivia [28 November 2013] Comments: Interesting details about the MINIs appearing in the movie ‘The Italian Job’ (2003)
  14. Seeing Stars (unknown) The Italian Job Filming Locations Part 2 [online] available from http://www.seeing-stars.com/locations/ItalianJob2.shtml [28 November 2013] Comments: Screenshot from the movie ‘The Italian Job’ with the MINI in the subway chase.
  15. Worldcarfans (unknown) MINI E Photos [online] available from http://www.worldcarfans.com/209011916365/mini-e/photos  [28 November 2013] Comments: Images of the MINI E
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