MINI E: Not Ready for Primetime?

At least it’s not according to GreenCarReports.com.

Granted, these cars aren’t for sale. They’re prototype test vehicles, to gauge consumer reaction and give BMW some knowledge about how real drivers actually use electric cars day to day in the real world. BMW is issuing only 500 of them, on one-year leases.

But one of BMW’s stated goals was to “preserve the Mini experience” in an EV. If the Mini were many hundreds of pounds heavier, suffered a distinct rear weight bias, rear-wheel-drive, and had the deceleration braking of a semi with the Jake Brake on … yeah, maybe.

It would seem that the braking system and acceleration characteristics of this MINI are the biggest challenges according to the story. It would also appear that the car they drove was a revision or two behind in software updates. You early R50/R53 owners know what that’s like, right?

[ First Drive: Mini E Electric Vehicle Is Far From Ready For Primetime ] Greeencarreports.com
  • rhawth99

    To quote: Engineers who design hybrids and electric cars will tell you it’s exceptionally tough to program the software that blends power on and off and integrates the regenerative braking.

    Software has always seemed a major problem/weakness for MINI/BMW.

  • Timothy

    I don’t think software will magically offload hundreds of pounds of extra weight.

    GreenCarReports.com makes a fair point. MINI claimed it would “preserve the MINI experience.” That’s just not going to happen with this design. The MINI E is a different car, with different attributes. MINI would have been much better off setting a different goal.

    BMW and MINI would also be well served to get more serious about improving the environmental attributes of its vehicles. The MINI E is a start, but let’s recognize it honestly for what it is: merely a quick hack. It ain’t no Tesla or Prius.

  • KyleJ

    “… The MINI E is a start, but let’s recognize it honestly for what it is: merely a quick hack. It ain’t no Tesla or Prius.” Actually, it’s very much like a Tesla. Take an existing chassis and cram the EV parts into it. Tesla went a bit further and changed the body panels and started selling it off as something “revolutionary”. It’s not really a start because it is nothing new. People have been “converting” existing cars to electric for a while now. Hopefully BMW learns enough from this experiment and will design something good from scratch.

  • JonPD

    BMW/Mini are very new to the EV game, anybody expecting a first offering world class vehicle generally hasn’t dealt with the manufacturing of a new business product. The Mini E is no different than a software beta test, which last time I checked usually are still a good distance from being prime time products. I am sure BMW/Mini will use this experiment to be able to further fine tune their product to get something that will be viable for a normal sales product.

  • CraigE

    It seems BMW/MINI goofed and lent out a car with issues for review. The MINI-E blogs I’ve read have had none of the issues that greencarreports.com had.

  • @JonPD: Actually BMW has been working on electric and hybrid cars since the early 90’s.

    This is a rolling test-bed that will eventually lead to a fully electronic car in 6-8 years from the BMW Group

  • Chad

    I would rather see a different approach to electric vehicles, ala GM’s skateboard chassis. I get how hybrids have to essentially be ICE cars with electric motors build into the transmission, but for a full electric, you can do things very differently. I don’t think “preserve the Mini experience” is a good goal. Do the R&D on the components on the MINI E, but the final production vehicle (in a few years) should be purpose built from scratch.

  • Err what’s the point in the Pruis anyway when ‘According to the Department for Transport, the Prius is tied with the MINI Cooper D as the third least CO2-emitting vehicles at 104 g/km’. I know you can’t get it in the US but I’d take the Cooper D anyday!

  • Dr Obnxs

    KyleJ, you’re wrong… The roots of the system for Tesla may have been the AC propulsion technology, but when I toured the Tesla facilities it was very obvious that Tesla had re-engineered pretty much everything that AC had done. The chassis is based on the Elise chassis, but once again, it’s been reworked and changed as well.

    The MiniE on the other hand is really a beta car with a drivetrain directly from AC. But really, what would people rather have? Some beta cars on the road in real drivers hands, or some dev mules that stay in company hands and then go to the museum or the crusher?

    Now the GreenCarReports article is just lazy writing, they set up Mr Tripp as someone who is going to be dissapointed with the experience, when his blog clearly shows other wise. How lazy is that? Also, they compare the driving experience to the MCS, but not the MC, the D or the One….

    FWIW, the EV-1 (and many other electrics) have multi mode options. There was a switch on the center console where you could select free-wheeling or regen braking on pedal lift. Regen increased range, free wheeling was more like a ICE car. The Tesla has about 5 modes I think. Why Mini didn’t put a mode selector in the MINI-E is a good question, but it seems like Mini will quickly be getting the feedback they need to help tune the sw…. Just hope they are willing to listen.

    Matt

  • nervous

    It would appear that one MINI-E “owner” is having a favorable experience: http://petersminie.blogspot.com/2009/05/week-1-all-fun.html#comments

  • I praise MINI for what they are doing here, and I only wish I could have participated in the field trial (price was too high for me)

    However – let’s put things in perspective. This is a conventional ICE car that’s been converted to a BEV. It wasn’t built from the ground up to be an electric vehicle. Given that context, from what I’ve read and seen – and given that I haven’t driven one yet – I’d say they did a pretty good job. I hope the “experiment” continues and that a production version can be offered for sale.

    How long before someone does a heads-up comparison between the MINI-E and the conversion done by evii (formerly Hybrid Technologies)?

    GM was more than a decade ahead of everyone with the EV-1 – that was designed from the ground up to be an electric car. Had they continued that program, they’d have a much more viable product to offer now. Instead they are trying to catch up with the Volt…

  • Michael

    A MINI S D would be the ticket – High torque, high mileage, low emissions. Why can’t we get it here in the States? Can’t MINI design it to meet our emission limits?

  • Dr Obnxs

    EU countries give a priority to CO2 emissions over particulates, but that’s changing. Here in the states, we give priority to reduction in smog causing agents and particulates, but that too is changing. Because we have much tighter particulate requirements, and we don’t double the price of gasoline with taxes, we don’t get the diesels that Europe gets. The next couple of rounds of emissions legislation in both markets will drive the emissions requirements to a much greater degree of overlap.

    Don’t forget that probably the biggest reason that the EU contries have a high mix of diesel vehicles is because of the massive taxation of gasoline that isn’t done to diesel fuel that provides a much greater incentive to adopt diesel tech. Want diesels here? Lobby for higher gas taxes….

    Matt

  • Rocketboy

    Noooo…. really?

    When you take out the back seat, and load it up with batteries, you lose something?

    Well, at least everyone who has one will be able to charge it overnight so they can drive it everday…

    oh wait.

  • KipperFillets

    @Dr Obnxs: Here in the UK diesel is now around £1.00/litre, compared to 90p for petrol. It’s still more economical to run a diesel, which is bound to be 10% more efficient, but the economy gap isn’t as big as it used to be.

    There was a time diesel wasn’t taxed so much, but that encouraged people to start buying oil-burners and the goverment(s) saw a potential to make a bit more cash.

    We’re driven by CO2 levels mainly because of the pledge to reduce the carbon footprint of the UK. I don’t really think it’s out of concience though, as the EU will fine countries for not meeting quotas, and it’s another good way for the government to tax us and make it look like they’re doing it to improve the environment, not their coffers.

    I really want the MINI E to do well, so BMW have a chance to make a successful version that gives us a real MINI-like experience.

    Change is coming, whether we like it or not, and I’d hate for the car companies to be forced into producing the usual electric-powered offerings we’ve seen to date. That would just perpetuate the public’s perception of electric=crap.

  • Rocketboy

    Kipper> When it’s mandated, we will get electric crap. When it’s consumer driven, we will get good cars.

  • Bill LAwrence

    We all need to look at the bigger picture. Car companies will develop viable electric vehicles, which become mainstream. That will lead to the need for more coal burning powerplants and mining for and transportation of nickle and other toxic materials to make the batteries.

    Our officials and campnies need to work together for a more holistic approach to saving energy and the environment.

  • I have one standing in my garage and this car is the real deal. This is not a hack at all and delivers on the Mini experience. It drives like a normal car and the availability of maximum torque at any speed is pretty amazing. There are only two problems to be solved with this car: 1. Range, 2. Battery size.