The new electric MINI will be available to lease in limited quanities in select areas of California, New Jersey and New York.
by Peter D. DuPre, Editor-In-Chief - MC2 Magazine
originally posted October 18th, 2008
- updated November 19th, 2008
- updated November 25th, 2008
The first public showing of the new electrically powered MINI, called the MINI E, is at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, being held November 21-30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. In fact, it can honestly be said that the new MINI E is the star of this year's auto show, attracting huge crowds of both press and public on opening day. Apart from a static display of the vehicle on the show floor in the South Hall of the facility, BMW/MINI made the car available to various reporters for short test drives around the convention center. As you might expect, the MC2 staff is at the show and we plan upon giving a full report, along with our driver impressions in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue.
According to MINI, the company is producing a fleet of 500 electrically powered MINI Coopers, called the MINI E. The new, greener MINI will be powered by a 150 Kw (204hp) electric motor powered by high-performance Lithium-ion battery technology and driving the front wheels. When fully charged, the MINI E will have a driving range of 150 miles (240 Kilometers) and a recharge time of about 2 ½ hours when plugged into the Wallbox that will be wired into the customer’s garage. Best of, there are no tailpipe emissions.
Initially an experimental vehicle, the fleet will be available to select MINI customers, corporations and celebrities for evaluation sometime late this year, so you can expect to see the newest MINI at all the important Hollywood Red Carpet events in the coming months. To start with, MINI E vehicles will available in the metropolitian area of New York City (New York and New Jersey) and in the Los Angelese/Orange County metro area in Southern California. Cars will be available with a one year lease, that includes partial insurance, with an option to possibly extend the lease if MINI decides the program is going well. General availability of the vehicle across the country may be as soon as early 2010. European availabilty is expected to be available on a limited basis later in 2009.
The program will put the fleet of MINI Es through real world driving and input from the MINI E drivers will be directed to the engineering team. Cost for the lease of a new MINI E has not been officially announced, but our sources suggest that including applicable insurance, the lease payment might be as high as $850 a month. This may seem a tad high, but much of this cost will be more than offset by the fuel savings over a conventional MINI, so total operating costs should be almost 40 percent lower than those of a gasoline-powered Cooper.
Unlike its gasoline and diesel counterparts, the MINI E is strictly a two-seater. The rather large battery pack is housed in the area formerly occupied by the folding rear seats. The rear cargo area remains undisturbed, though extending luggage room by folding down the seat back is no longer possible. This means that luggage area is greatly compromised, so lengthy weekend trips are unlikely, especially since the vehicle is rated to carry only 430 lbs, including driver and passenger. This car is definitely designed as an urban traveller. With such a large and heavy battery pack in the rear seat area, weighing an estimated 575 lbs or more, MINI has re-engineered the suspension and weight distribution to 51/49 (approx), so that the famed MINI handling remains untouched. In fact, while the car is said to feel a bit heavier, there is an enhanced feeling of stability at the rear.Setting the vehicle visually apart from its automotive stable mates is a silver grey paint scheme with unique badging on the grill, hood, front fender, roof, rear hatch, and the charging port door (placed where the gas tank fill was formerly located).