The second UK trial of MINI’s all-electric Cooper has come to a close. With 40 “pioneer” participants handing in their keys at Plant Oxford, this second round of the MINI E trials closes another chapter in BMW/MINI’s extensive electric vehicle testing program. With both the BMW i3 and i8 cars forthcoming, this program has been critical in getting real-world data essential to building EVs that are truly viable road cars.

Speaking at the hand back event, Head of E-Mobility Innovation Projects at BMW Group Dr Julian Weber said, “The primary focus of the BMW Group Project i is electro-mobility. All information generated during the MINI E field trials is being incorporated into the ongoing development and refinement of our first purpose built production car, the Megacity Vehicle BMW i3, due for launch in 2013. So far, we have gathered over 7 million miles of knowledge.”

Around 80 total drivers participated in the test program, with a mixture of private, commercial and public sector (UK government) participants. Covering nearly 250,000 miles between them, their feedback will help guide both engineering and development at BMW, as well as help public policy makers understand the social and infrastructural realities of electric transportation. The 40 test cars will remain in the UK, in use by a small group of corporate and public sector partners, and we’re likely to see them at many events and presentations in the future.

Jochen Goller, Director of MINI UK had this to say: “One has to remember that MINI E, despite being very thoroughly engineered for its task, is a modified existing production MINI Hatch. An EV designed from the ground up such as the BMW i3 will be able to address some of the issues around interior space and driving range. That is precisely the reason we are holding these trials.”

So look for the i3, i8 and other future electric vehicles from the BMW group to take full advantage of the wealth of knowledge gained from these vehicle trials. It’s heartening that instead of simply building something and plopping it out into the market, BMW seems to be taking EVs very, very seriously and looking for ways to incorporate such vehicles into the reality of everyday life.