BMW Mini E moves ahead with road trials in US and Europe

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Mini E Electric Cars

BMW Mini E Electric Car moves ahead with road trials in US and Europe

BMW Mini E Review

Posted 08.24.09 in Reviews by Christopher

BMW has completed road trials of the Mini E, a limited deployment 100% electric, zero emission version of its popular Mini coupe.

MINI E field trials of 500 vehicles started in November 2008 on the west and east coast of the USA. The cars were made available to a carefully screened pool of applicants under a one year closed-end lease. Adequate storage and charging facilities, as well as suitable daily driving regime were considered.

BMW expects motorists to get about 100 miles on a single charge depending driving style and conditions. The average daily range requirement for a typical person living in a metro area is less than 60 miles.

The MINI E’s 204hp all-electric motor provides enough power to rapidly propel the car to its electronically limited maximum speed of 94 mph. BMW notes that one of the most striking features for first time drives of the MINI E is how incredibly quick the acceleration feels. The electric motor reaches its peak torque levels almost immediately, and does not need to rev to higher RPMs to reach its power band.

The “fly by wire” throttle control manages the power curve to avoid breaking traction off the line.

MINI E drivers report that the car is so quiet that the experience of having such abundant torque available is almost disconcerting at first, and may require a little more attention to the speedometer to keep from exceeding posted speed limits.

The battery is a 35 kWh pack containing 5,088 lithium-ion cells. The complete assembly weighs 572 pounds (259 kg). The battery occupies the rear seating area, and brings the weight of the MINI E to a fairly hefty 3,230 lb versus a standard Cooper which weighs just under 2,800, with 13 gallons of fuel.

Because of the extra weight, and likely also due to the conservatively programmed power curve, acceleration performance is reported to be similar to the standard Cooper, with 0-62mph (100km/hr) in 8.5 seconds despite the extra 86 rated hp.

Because this is a limited field trial, the pack or chassis were not customized to fit the limited confines of the MINI chassis without sacrificing usable space. The MINI E has seating for only two people and less storage capacity than a gasoline-powered MINI hatchback.

The MINI E’s regenerative braking system uses the electric motor as a generator when decelerating, converting the car’s kinetic energy back to electricity, extending range up to 20%.

Mini E Electric Cars

The car’s drive train and battery are being supplied for this limited production run by California company AC Propulsion, a well-regarded pioneer in high-performance electric cars. AC Propulsion was founded in 1992 by Alan Cocconi. Cocconi designed the electronic controller for the Impact prototype of the GM EV1.

AC propulsion has set performance records with its tzero electric sports car, capable of 0-60 mph acceleration in 3.6 seconds and 300 mile range while driving 60 mph.

MINI E can be charged through 110-volt (at 12 amp) and 220-volt (at 32 or 48 amp) power sources. Using the dedicated 220v MINI E charging station installed in drivers’ garage, the car can be charged in about four hours. A full charge takes about 24 hours when using a standard 110 volt outlet. Fully re-charging the battery using off-peak electricity at current prices will cost around $3.00.

Using higher-rate Tier 3 or daytime electricity, the cost will be less than $8.00.

The cost of the lease is $850, but includes finance charges, collision coverage and maintenance. The collision insurance is worth about $183/mo of the cost. The net cost is closer to a regular MINI lease when considering the significant fuel cost savings of $160-$400 per month assuming annual travel of 12,000 — 30,000 miles for the year.

The MINI E began testing in Berlin and Munich Germany in June 2009. The UK is the third market to participate in the road-test research project, which started in the second half of 2009. Drivers in the Berlin trial may change at public charging stations provided by Vattenfall, one of Europe’s leading energy companies.

BMW of North America and the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) partnered in a year-long field study to determine the viability of electric vehicles. MINI E customers, based primarily in Los Angeles with a few in the New York City-area, participated in the study.

The UC Davis-led research focused on user interactions with the MINI E, and provided BMW with insights into real-life usage and perceptions about electric vehicles. The study gathered in-depth information from 50 of the 450 MINI E customers in the US, through online travel diaries, written questionnaires and a series of interviews conducted throughout the one-year study.

Mini E Electric Cars
Mini E Electric Cars

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