City driving goes green with Mini Electric

City driving goes green with Mini Electric

Mini’s take on electric vehicles is appropriately simple, lightweight, relatively affordable and compact. Its first production EV – available to order now with first deliveries in March 2020 – is recognisably adapted from a regular Mini Cooper S three-door. However, it swaps the latter’s petrol engine for a 184hp electric motor powered by a 32.6 kWh battery that’s good for 124 miles.

That might not seem far compared to some other new EVs’ greater mileage possibilities, but this on-brand ‘small-is-good’ approach to battery size doesn’t compromise the existing amount of cabin space or luggage area. It also shows that the Mini Electric – like the imminent Honda e – is targeting urban-based customers or suburban second-car users where a shorter range is entirely in line with their actual everyday requirements. Charging via a socket located beneath the regular fuel filler cap takes 35 minutes to 80 per cent from a 50kW fast DC charger, but due to the smaller 32.6 kWh battery and range, 0-100 per cent can still be achieved with a more typical 11kW charger in a decent 3.5 hours. This is practical.

Mini Electric closed grille

To differentiate the Mini Electric sufficiently in design terms, the car gets a closed-off front grille, slightly more aero wheels, contrast-coloured wing mirrors, subtle EV plug logo badging, and on the inside, a new slimmer 5.5” digital driver display, replacing the regular Mini’s somewhat bulky analogue one. In keeping with Mini values, the car should be great fun to drive, promising 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds – just like the petrol Cooper S – and might even handle better, due to its new powertrain’s positioning (a full test drive will come later).

Either way, the initial specification sounds promising, with the electric motor housed upfront to power the front wheels and the T-shaped battery pack positioned low-down and with the T’s crossbar below the rear seats. The lower weight of the small battery versus a bigger range version – at 1365kg the Electric is only 145kg more than a petrol Cooper S automatic – is also a handling asset and its low placement results in a centre of gravity at least 30 millimetres lower than in the Mini Cooper S too.

Mini Electric charge socket

Crucially and unusually for an EV from any brand, Mini’s smaller battery makes the car cheaper to produce and has been part of the reason the brand has decided to match the price of equivalent performance combustion-engined versions. UK prices start from £24,400 and rise to £30,400 (including Government grant). This should see a real breakthrough in sales as ‘going green’ in this case doesn’t come with an initial price penalty (and will make the already-established lower EV running costs all the more enjoyable).

The brand is hoping to sell about 4,000 units a year in the UK alone, which is more than the current Convertible and close to the Clubman’s circa 5,000 units. And as the model will be made on the same manufacturing line as its combustion-engined counterparts, there is flexibility to increase production too. Long and short – this product is not intended to be a high-priced, small-run, tokenistic environmental move. Plaudits for that. §

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