The Mini E was a demonstration electric car developed by BMW as a conversion of its Mini Cooper car. The Mini E was developed for field trials and deployed in several countries, including the United States, Germany, UK, France, Japan and China. The field testing of the Mini E was part of BMW Project i, which was followed in January 2012 by a similar trial with the BMW ActiveE, and the last phase of project was the development of the BMW i3 urban electric car, that went into mass production in 2013. In 2019, BMW announced that the mass market Mini Electric will go in to production.
The first trial was launched in the U.S. in June 2009, and the Mini E was available through leasing to private users in Los Angeles and the New York/New Jersey area. Another field test was launched in the UK in December 2009, where more than forty Mini E cars were handed to private users for two consecutive six-month field trial periods. This trial program allowed the BMW Group to become the world’s first major car manufacturer to deploy a fleet of more than 500 all-electric vehicles for private use. After the trial, some Mini Es were displayed in museums, others shipped to Germany for further lab testing, and the rest dismantled and crushed. The 40 Mini Es that participated in the UK trial were kept in use after the trial ended in March 2011, participating in promotional activities and forming part of BMW Group UK’s official vehicle fleet for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
All Mini E vehicles were equipped similar to a standard Mini Cooper hatchback.
The Mini E was unveiled at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show. BMW used its Mini brand to test its electric powertrain technology, but the vehicle was also developed in order to meet new California regulations that require carmakers to offer zero emission vehicles.
The Mini E is powered by an asynchronous electric motor that is mounted in the former engine bay and is rated at 204 PS (150 kW) and 160 lbf⋅ft (220 N⋅m) of torque. Drive is sent to the front wheels. The Mini E employs a lithium-ion battery pack with an overall capacity of 130 megajoules (35 kWh). The batteries weigh 572 pounds (259 kg) and replace the back seat. Top speed is electronically limited to 95 mph (153 km/h), with 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) acceleration in 8 seconds. The car’s range is 156 miles (251 km) on a single charge under optimal conditions. Estimates of normal driving conditions put ranges at 109 miles (175 km) city and 96 miles (154 km) highway.
AC Propulsion issued a news release on 19 November 2008, announcing they were a supplier for Mini E. The news release stated that AC Propulsion supplied a specially developed version of its proprietary tzero, a registered trademark, technology, including air-cooled copper-rotor induction motor and Li ion battery on the Mini E. It is characterized by high performance, high efficiency, and fast charging.
The Mini E could be charged by 120 volt (at 12 amp) and 240 volt (at 32 or 48 amp) power sources; charging times were 20 hours and 3.5 hours (fast-charge system). Charge rate was set from the instrument panel before charging.
The 240 volt 32 amp home “wall box” charging stations for the USA trial were made by Clipper Creek, with a proprietary electrical connector to the car made by ODU.
The accelerator was a drive-by-wire system with a soft start to limit the electric motor’s response and prevent burnout from a standstill. After this initial delay, response goes back to normal.
The Mini E’s regenerative braking was designed to capture as much kinetic energy as possible giving it a distinct driving characteristic. When the driver released the acceleration pedal, the Mini E started braking, slowing it down significantly as if the brake pedal were pressed.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified the Mini E range as 100 mi (160 km), with a city/highway combined energy consumption of 34 kW·h/100 miles. Under its five-cycle testing, EPA rated the Mini E at 98 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (2.4 L/100 km) combined fuel economy, with a rating of 102 mpg‑US (2.3 L/100 km; 122 mpg‑imp) equivalent in city driving and 94 mpg‑US (2.5 L/100 km; 113 mpg‑imp) equivalent on highways. This information was displayed in the window sticker in terms of energy consumption, as 33 kW·h/100 miles for city and 36 kW·h/100 miles for highway.
The Mini factory in Oxford, England supplied vehicle gliders to a team in Munich, Germany who added the electric running gear.
Field testing of the Mini E was part of BMW Project i, and was followed in January 2012 by a similar trial with the BMW ActiveE all-electric vehicle. After the Mini E trial program ended, some cars were displayed in museums, others shipped to Germany for further lab testing, and the rest dismantled and crushed.
Mini E drivers participating in the field trial program of the vehicle were required to participate in online surveys and discussions, and to bring their vehicle into their local dealership to be worked on. The car was available only as a three-year limited lease, and drivers were required to return their cars to BMW who destroyed or donated them to tech schools and museums for display, disassembly, and analysis purposes.
In the U.S. 9,500 people signed up to lease the 450 Mini Es available. In June 2009, BMW started the program by leasing 250 units in the Los Angeles area and 200 in the New York/New Jersey area. The leasing price was set at US$850 (approx. €600) a month for one year and included collision coverage, maintenance costs, and home installation of the charging station. Residents of New Jersey did not pay sales tax on their lease due to the existing state exemption for battery electric vehicles.
In May 2010, BMW announced that leasing could be renewed for another year at a lower price of US$600 a month. This renewal was offered to all individuals who had a Mini E lease at the time but fleet customers were excluded and according to BMW half of all lessees agreed to the extension.
Field testing in Paris with 50 units began in 2010.
A total of 100 trial vehicles were assigned to Germany. Testing in Berlin began in June 2009, and for the second phase, a total of 70 vehicles were delivered in March 2011 to private customers and fleet users. Field testing began in Munich in September 2010, for a leasing fee of €400 (approx. US$517) per month.
Testing in the U.K. took place between December 2009 and March 2011 with 40 Mini E cars handed to private users for two consecutive six-month field trial periods. The leasing price was set at £330 (around US$536) per month, which included VAT, insurance, service, and maintenance. One MINI E was delivered to the Government car pool in Downing Street to be tested by ministers in an urban environment on their official business around London.
The UK trial was a partnership between BMW Group UK, Scottish and Southern Energy, the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council. Data collection and research was conducted by Oxford Brookes University’s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre throughout the UK project. Funding support was provided by the Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Transport (DFT) as part of the £25 million (US$41 million) UK-wide program involving trials of 340 ultra-low carbon vehicles from several car makers. The selected test area is roughly a triangle contained within the M40 motorway between the M25 motorway and Oxford, the A34 south to the M3 motorway, and the M3 back to the M25.
The 40 Mini E electric cars were kept in use after the trial was completed in March 2011, participating in activities to promote awareness and understanding of electric vehicles. These cars were part of the BMW Group UK’s official vehicle fleet of 4,000 low-emission luxury vehicles deployed for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The fleet also included 160 BMW ActiveE electric cars.
Field testing in Beijing started on 22 February 2011. Testing also took place in Shenzhen.
A field trial took place in Tokyo in 2011.
The main concerns reported by those participating in the U.S. during the first year trial were range anxiety and lack of public charging infrastructure, as the country had only 734 public charging stations, most located in California. Another concern was the 100-mile (160 km) range on a fully charged battery reducing to between 80 and 90 miles (140 km) during very cold weather. In the UK, an abnormally harsh winter also showed how very low temperatures diminished power output until the battery ‘warmed-up’. There was one report of the range dropping below 40 miles (64 km) in sub-zero weather. There were issues reported with exterior charging points as winter temperatures dropped dramatically.
Other complaints in the U.S. related to the lack of space in the car as the battery pack eliminated the Mini’s back seat and most of its cargo area, and the difficulties found in practice to install the charging equipment in homes; installation permits, site visits, inspections and installation could take up to a month.
According to the BMW team of engineers responsible for the demonstration program, the following facts and key lessons were learned during the Mini E first year trial:
In May 2011 the Plug‐in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle (PH&EV) Research Center at the University of California, Davis published the results of a consumer study of the U.S. Mini E field trial. The study is based on surveys and interviews conducted with more than 120 families who leased the electric car for the period of June 2009 to June 2010. Some of the key findings of the consumer study are the following:
In August 2011 BMW published the results of the UK trials. The findings are based on the 40 test cars driven by 62 members of the public and 76 pool users, who together drove 258,105 miles (415,380 km) over two six-month periods. The data was collected electronically and the research was carried out by Oxford Brookes University. The following are some of the main findings:
As part of the 21st Century Automotive Challenge held at Penn State University on 23 May 2010, Mini E No. 466 achieved the longest trip in an electric car to date, achieving 147.3 miles (237.1 km). The Mini E went on to win the efficiency competition, traversing three mountain ranges in the rain.
Nevada’s Hybrid Technologies has started production of its electric-powered BMW Mini Cooper all-lithium model. The new electric Mini uses Hybrid Tech’s own proprietary advanced lithium management and battery-balancing system. Top speed is only around 80 mph (130 km/h) but driving at a slower speed preserves battery-life and means owners will be able to travel up to 120 miles (190 km) on a single charge.
EVTV has published a free “how-to” series of videos documenting their conversion of a 2009 Mini Cooper Clubman to electric drive. The project uses a more powerful AC induction motor from MES-DEA and TIMS600 controller to provide 177 lb⋅ft (240 N⋅m) of torque. It uses 112 readily available Sky Energy 100Ah LiFePO4 cells to provide an energy storage of 40.3 kWh and a range of 125 miles (201 km). Top speed of 120 mph (190 km/h). This is an open source project using parts readily available to anyone from existing suppliers and intended for those inclined to do their own conversion of an existing 2009 Mini Cooper Clubman.
CravenSpeed, of Portland, Oregon, USA, has built and will offer instructions and parts for converting a 2002-2006 Hatchback Mini into an all-electric vehicle. Utilizing the existing transmission mated to a DC motor, their relatively inexpensive conversion kit will produce modest power and about a 80 km (50 mi) range per charge while keeping the rear seats and cargo room completely untouched.
In April 2010, the Mini E, driven by Thomas Jager, became the first electric car to lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife in under 10 minutes.