Recently MINI revealed to us some insight into the current MINI E field trial program. We got to drive the car (a review is coming) and we talked about some of the insight that they have gotten from the program launched earlier this year.
There is little question that the MINI E field trial was a bold move for BMW. It was designed to give the automaker valuable data and feedback on a large scale roll-out of electric cars among other things. It also placed BMW in the electronic infrastructure business – something that was expected but still uncomfortable for the German manufacturer.
Some of the bigger issues MINI USA has had to deal with revolve around the plug design and installed the home charger. For one a worldwide standardization of connectors does not currently exist. The connector used on the MINI E was not compatible with previous generation chargers so it made installation of new equipment mandatory. On top of this the entire process required timely installation by electricians and checks by local inspectors. And of course local laws and permits needed varied greatly.
Some areas where MINI found issues around where fleet customers not working with MINI to determine charging locations quick enough. Also there was the issue of post-installation troubleshooting and who pays for that service visit.
MINI went on to say that the public infrastructure will be prioritized with next generation products. However this is assuming J1772 and ISO standards are harmonized, which is still a BIG IF. Also vehicle to grid communications will play a bigger role and will things like subscription plans, smart phone reservation apps and load leveling.
Range anxiety is a big issue with not only the MINI E but any fully electric car. Also MINI said that re-thinking residential charging options will be a must as will a more aggressive public infrastructure strategy.
But all is not wrong with the program. MINI has found that owners have been bordering on evangelical about their cars and their experiences. More important the vast majority are thrilled to be involved in the program.
Look for a review by Michael (editor of BimmerFile) in the coming weeks. Hopefully some day (once MINI invites me for an official test-drive) I’ll be able to add mine as well.