The 2020 Electric MINI E – Details on What’s Coming and When to Expect it

Now that the 2020 Electric MINI E has been formally announced, several questions immediately arise. Why is MINI leveraging an old platform (the F56 will be six years old in the fall of 2019) for such a revolutionary product? And what are the long term plans for future electric models? Let’s take a stab at answering both.

Given the timing of the market and the technology our guess is that BMW made a call to bring this variant to market outside of normal long term product planning timeframes. This also likely points to a smaller amount of re-engineering of the existing F56 body shell. That poses the questions – where will the batteries go? MINI can accommodate batteries in several places in the F56 chassis without eliminating the rear seats; under the boot floor and by using the space the fuel take currently occupies. Whether that’s enough for a range of over 150 miles is hard to say. Because the other option is to eliminate the rear seats altogether and create a car with substantially more range but with some serious functional draw-backs.

MINIE

We’ve heard through sources that the investment made by BMW is in the tens of millions rather than the hundreds of millions or billions spent on most new models. This would indicate that BMW is treating this as a model variant rather than an entirely new model. This also points to the electric MINI E as a more evolutionary product that will add electrification to the MINI range without costing BMW unnecessary investment. What is a breakthrough (at least for MINI and BMW) will be the density of the batteries and the electric engine technology. This should allow for smaller batteries to produce more power and a longer range than we would have seen if the MINI E had come out this year.

The GXX will likely debut the fall of 2020 as a 2021 m/y. What about the new MINI which will be released shortly thereafter? That’s another question we’d love to see answered. Further, how much investment will BMW put into a new electric model (that’s effectively stuck on an old platform) and how long will that product be on the market.

One final note, we’re hearing that the G series (the 4th generation new MINI) won’t be a radical departure in terms of body-in-white – a la the R50 to the R56. That could mean BMW’s investment will quickly be transferred to the next generation MINI and it could mean for a short product cycle for the F56 MINI E.

  • Greg

    From what you are saying, it doesn’t look like they put in the effort to up the range by redoing the underlying platform to actually be able to put in more batteries, like making the whole floor a huge battery…

    What I wanted to see from MINI is, since the new G generation is due for 2020, to put in the effort to create the G generation platform a year early and put it in the E, so that the E wouldn’t be the equivalent of 6 years late compared to other MINIs. Plus, you get the added benefit of not having to redo it for the G generation, you can wait ’til the [H generation] (or whatever it’ll be called).

    Since the platform needs to be created anyway, making it one year early in a 7 year cycle isn’t too demanding and is not lost investment. Then again, if making a new platform one year earlier than usual costs them more than tens of millions on top of the usual costs, maybe it wasn’t worth it.

  • WheelNut

    Mini needs to use the i3 platform and create something that looks conventionally beautiful and back that up with more efficient packaging than the F56. Even in the face of the market’s crazed drive towards CUVs they might have some success then.

    • Greg

      Great idea, they could use the i3 platform with its 101.2 inch wheelbase, the 5dr hatch has almost exactly the same wheelbase as the i3 at 101.1 inches and shorten it by 3 inches to fit the F56 2dr hatch wheelbase.

      Or even better, keep the same F56 2dr hatch dimensions and cram those 3 extra inches of wheelbase into the same exterior size for extra stability and less overhang!

      • WheelNut

        The i3 is body on frame, so changing the wheelbase would probably actually be really easy. For a really fascinating discussion on how the i3 is built check out this podcast/video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDr4L6BzpP8

        • Greg

          If the underpinnings are very very different between gas and electric, the idea of modifying the i3 platform and mating the F56 body on it makes sense as to why it’d be released right before the new generation because they are technically on different platforms.

          You just need to do the same and mate to the i3 platform the new G generation body when it arrives and you’re done.

    • The RWD is nice, but unless they can make it handle like a MINI (which it doesn’t), don’t bother. Maybe they can make it work (perhaps the i3S will), but as of now, the i3 is not nearly as confidence-inspiring and nimble as a MINI Hardtop.

  • Michael Lehnert

    Why the hurry to ship by 2020? In several geographies, primarily the EU and UK as well as PRC, very stringent new fleet emissions regulations come into force in 2020 (for MY 2020), requiring OEMs to up their share of electric or electrified vehicles, or facing heavy penalties or even market access restrictions. Despite BMW once leading in the electric field, the disappointing sales of the ‘i’-brand, resulting lack of interest from leadership, and thus engineering, management and creative talent moving on to Chinese and American companies have lead to BMW Group loose their competitive edge in this area. The attempt to make good again on lost ground with the iNEXT platform and its derived vehicles won’t manifest until 2021 for MY 2022. Hence the need for an immediate but not too investment-heavy stop gap fix.

    Why F56 and not Gxx? Even though marketing will proclaim the Production MINI E a revolution, it will be a footnote just as the Pilot MINI E (and the Rolls-Royce EX102) was for the eventual launch of the ‘i’-models. It will be technically closer in comparison to what the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric was, which Stuttgart just decided to stop making: a heavily compromised packaging of an ICE with shoehorned-in electric components at a consumer price point that will make it not very competitive to cars like the Ioniq or M3. The majority of those Production MINI Es will probably go to rental and mobiliy services. The real make-or-break model for MINI will be a MINI variant on the iNEXT platform. Gxx is still a ICE platform. While many say that you can just stuff the batteries and drive motors in the spaces left empty from removing ICE components, this is actually not that easilyndone from an engineer’s perspective.

    Why not use the i3 platform instead of the F56, then in its twilight EoLC years? In 2020, the i3 will itself by a very old platform kept on life support past its lifecycle expiry date, and will come to an end with iNEXT just a year or so later, too. It would require higher investment to re-engineer a MINI-shaped bodywork and componentry onto the i3 skateboard than use the F56 chassis and bodywork and just shoehorn electrics in. Besides, the i3 platform was never conceived as a pure electric, but as a range extender platform. The pure electric version was a last minute change of heart because of the mindshare pure electrics got in the wake of the Tesla Model S launch.

    Would there be other no-no collaterals from using the i3 platform for a non-F56 MINI E? Yes, Plant Oxford would be the collateral. To alter production in Cowley to accommodate final assembly (not to even think of actual manufacturing on site) of MINI Es onto the i3 platform is simply cost prohibitive, especially due to the end of life cycle for the platform itself. Large parts of the assembly layout would need to be changed, new machinery installed for handling high voltage platforms, plus staff retrained at great cost, and some made redundant as their expertise becomes obsolete. Industrial relations are already a bit problematic in the UK, With reference to my earlier points above, there’s simply nothing to be gained, and more money to potentially loose. Building a stop gap model for regulatory reasons on a well-known platform staff is familiar with for extremely low levels of investment (“tens of millions”, as BMW calls it) is actually the most economical way forward for Munich and for Cowley. The real news will be about what comes iNEXT (silly pun intended) for an electric MINI. I would doubt to get some real news on that before Q2 2019.

    Alot has been talked about the political dimension of BMW “investing heavily into a post-Brexit UK automotive sector”, but from a non-ideological angle, the situation is that minimal investment will been undertaken until the British government agrees party-internally on what its future relation with the EU should look like (which has to come from their side, not from the EU). As someone living in Oxford and working with many folks in the BMW Group across the UK and EU, allow me to say that the real news in the colleges, clubs and pubs was that a) Plant Oxford would now not become a Electric Center of Excellence like Dingolfing or Landshut. b) Investment into Oxford is matched with investment in the Netherlands, so no special commitment. c) earlier claims to upskill staff for the electric transition have not (yet) materialised, instead, Oxford is reduced to lower-skill final assembly with complete electric driveunit kits coming from the EU — a reasonable hedging against disruptions to JIT value chains due to Brexit. And d), finally, absolutely nothing was said about the future of Plant Birmingham, were ICE engines are built for the production triangle the BMW Group maintains in the UK.

    Besides, BMW Group has more than enough legal trouble in the wake of alleged 20 years or conspiracy-to-defraud and massive-cartel-formation with the other “Großen Drei” in Wolfsburg and Stuttgart. Thus could mean up to a hundred billion euros in reparation payments on top of necessary write-offs of Diesel technology. No matter what, these are exciting times ahead for car guys like us! 🙂

  • Why is it taking them 10 years to release another MINI E? Too little, too late. BMW really screwed up with the i brand rollout and electrification in general when it seemed like they were on top of this years ago. I’m leaving MINI for Tesla, and it doesn’t sound like the new MINI E will be good enough to bring me back.

    • I guess it really depends on what draws you to MINI. I love MINIs and EVs. The Model 3 is exciting, but the selling point, for now, is that it offers good range per $. If it wasn’t electric, it would just be another nice, but boring sedan to me… like a 330i. I’m drawn to MINI for the character and the puppy-like driving dynamics. It just loves to have fun. Add the everyday convenience and instant response/torque of an electric drivetrain, and you’ve got the potential for an amazing car. The Model 3 just doesn’t scream “Let’s Motor!” like a MINI. Cheesy cliche, but it’s true, at least for me. While the Tesla guys are talking about miles / $ or the Tesla charging network’s superiority or the best ways to not-drive (autopilot), I’ll be driving bombing around on backroads or visiting the Dragon… to drive and have fun doing it.

      • I agree with you, but I think we will soon find that the Model 3 does, in fact, have fun driving dynamics. They targeted BMW 100% throughout its development and tuning. Meanwhile, MINIs have lost a ton of their dynamics and fun character over the years, while prices have skyrocketed. Regardless I will be keeping a very close eye on the MINI E.

        • I agree with you on both your points. Model 3 may have great driving dynamics (the $60k version MT drove supposedly did), and MINI isn’t quite as playful as it once was. I still think the MINI will be more fun for everyday driving (it certainly is compared to any recent 3-series I’ve driven) and more character / uniqueness. That’s my opinion. However, I do agree with you that the fun-to-drive gap may not be that large anymore. We’ll see! Interesting times!