Official Release: BMW of North America and the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) today announced their partnership on 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, will participate in the study.

Marking the first comprehensive study of its kind since the mid-1990’s, the UC Davis- led research will focus on user interactions with the MINI E, and is expected to yield valuable insights into real-life usage and perceptions about electric vehicles. The study will gather in-depth information from 50 voluntary participants, a subset of the 450 MINI E customers in the U.S., through online travel diaries, written questionnaires and a series of interviews conducted throughout the one-year study.

“We are delighted to collaborate with UC Davis on this research initiative for MINI E as our company ventures beyond conventional drive technologies to pioneering electric mobility solutions,” said Jim McDowell, Vice President, MINI USA. “The findings will accelerate the understanding of real-world electric driving and both shape future product development within the BMW Group and benefit the mainstream U.S. automotive market when this technology trickles down.”

The UC Davis Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Research Center, administered by the Institute of Transportation Studies and funded by a three-year, $3-million grant from the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program, will conduct the research. A world leader in the study of alternative fuel vehicles, UC Davis’ findings will be made public and will influence understanding of the future role of electric vehicles for many stakeholders, including electric utilities, governments and automakers.

“This is an exciting opportunity to talk with users about their daily experience of the cars, about their driving habits and impressions of the electric vehicles,” said Dr. Tom Turrentine, director of UC Davis’ PHEV Research Center. “We are pleased as a public university to be partnering with BMW to find solutions to our urgent public problems of transportation energy supply and environmental impacts.”

A global research methodology, developed jointly by UC Davis and Germany’s Technische Universität Chemnitz (TU Chemnitz), will form the basis for the study and will ensure consistency across the U.S. and European markets, where similar MINI E studies are planned for Berlin, Munich, and London.

The partnership with UC Davis is a natural outgrowth of BMW Group’s presence in California and the company’s commitment to fostering collaborations with major academic institutions on both the East and West coasts of the U.S. BMW Group has three California-based facilities dedicated to design, technology and innovation, including: DesignworksUSA, which provides design services to the technology, aircraft and agricultural industries as well as a number of consumer goods companies; the Technology Office in Palo Alto, a first-of-its-kind among European manufacturers when it opened in 1998, with access to non-automotive innovations; and an Engineering and Emissions Test Center in Oxnard, with responsibility for testing future engines and propulsion systems.