Pioneering drivers wanting to be part of the MINI E UK research project can now apply online to lease one of twenty prototype cars destined for British roads. The online application form will be hosted at from 01- 30 September 2009. Comprehensive details of the project are also available on this website.

Each MINI E will be available to lease for six months from December this year. A second round of applications will then be invited in 2010, allowing a further twenty drivers to lease an all-electric MINI for a six month period.

Accounting for current development and manufacturing costs, the monthly lease fee for a MINI E would normally be priced at £550 per month. However, earlier this year a BMW Group-led consortium was awarded part of a £25m fund by the Technology Strategy Board, the Government-backed organisation that promotes technology innovation across the UK. This funding has meant that the monthly lease fee can be reduced to £330 per month, which includes VAT, insurance and maintenance (terms and conditions apply).

The MINI E driver also pays for the electricity used. Fully re-charging the battery using off-peak electricity at current prices will cost around £1.50. Using higher-rate daytime electricity, the cost will still be less than £4.00.

All applicants to the research trial will have to meet certain criteria to be eligible to take part. Firstly, customers must reside in South East England, within a triangular geographical area joining Andover, Oxford and West London. A full list of eligible post codes and a map of the relevant area is available on the website.

MINI E test drivers must also have a private garage, car port or parking space at their home. Not only for safety and security reasons, but primarily to ensure that a high power charging unit in the form of a wall box measuring approximately 0.6m x 0.6m can be installed by Southern Electric. This wall box will be supplied with every MINI E and also includes a 6.5m charging cable. The 240V/32 amp supply provided by the wall box can fully charge the MINI E’s lithium-ion battery pack from empty in just 4.5 hours. An adaptor for use with an ordinary 13 amp socket will also be supplied, but the lower capacity for charge means it will take around 10 hours to provide a full charge. Therefore it is only appropriate for occasional use.

Maintenance, servicing and technical assistance will be provided by dedicated BMW Group UK ‘flying doctors’. These technicians will be supported by selected MINI dealers within the MINI E research area.

Following the launch of MINI E research projects in North America and Germany, the UK trial is a collaborative effort between a BMW Group UK-led consortium. Additional funding is provided by the Technology Strategy Board as part of a UK-wide programme involving trials of 340 ultra-low carbon vehicles from several manufacturers.

Southern Electric will be responsible for the electricity infrastructure in the research area and is committed to supplying ‘green energy’ to all drivers of the MINI E.* The region in which Southern Electric owns the supply network is an important reason for working with a geographical research sample in South East England.

Oxford Brookes University’s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre will manage the collation of qualitative and quantitative research throughout the UK project. This will include analysis of driver experiences with the MINI E, as well as reviewing the technical info