BMW electric Mini car could travel up to 250km on a single charge

BMW to unvail electric Mini cars could travel up to 250km on a single charge

The world's first electric Mini will be unveiled next month - capable of almost 100mph and with a range of more than 150 miles on just one charge. One of the most iconic vehicles in history, 500 of the new cars developed by Mini owners the BMW group will be shipped to America.

Mini will unveil an all-electric version of its two-door Cooper hatch at next month's Los Angeles Auto Show, and plans to deliver an initial batch of 500 examples to customers in California towards the end of the year. While the test batch won't be making it to Australian shores, the electric Mini cars, called the 'Mini E', will be instrumental in evaluating the viability of production electric Minis - which could stand a chance of coming to Australia.

BMW is using its Mini brand to test the waters with its electric powertrain technology but the vehicle is also being developed in order to meet new California regulations that require carmakers to offer zero emission vehicles. Currently Australia does not have regulations such as these.

BMW electric power

Power for the electric Mini comes from an electric motor that is mounted in the former engine bay and is rated at 150kW and 220Nm of torque. Drive is sent to the front wheels. The Mini factory located in Oxford, England, supplies cars without powertrains to a team located in Munich, Germany, which then adds the electric running gear.

BMW has gone with a lithium-ion battery pack with an overall capacity of 35kWh. This sits in the rear of the car and leaves only 60L of trunk space. Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes 8.5 seconds for the 1,465kg electric vehicle and top speed is electronically limited to 152km/h. The car's range is about 250km on a single charge, which takes about 2.5 hours. To help improve this range it is also fitted with a brake-energy-recovery system.

BMW says it has tweaked the Mini E’s suspension to ensure that the abnormal weight distribution created by the battery pack doesn’t upset the hatch’s signature go-kart handling abilities.

Inside, the most notable difference between the E and regular Mini (apart from the missing rear seats) is the swapping of the tachometer for a battery-power gauge that tells the owner how much charge is remaining – from between 0 and 100 per cent.

While Minis are famous for their virtually unlimited customisation options, the 500 Mini Es look identical.

Each features a silver roof and dark silver bodywork, with yellow power plug symbols (the largest on the roof) marking the E as an electric Mini.

When you lift off the accelerator the motor acts as a generator and recharges the batteries. This puts load on the motor that acts as a brake – 75 per cent of braking is done without the brake pedal.

Every MINI E will be painted dark grey with a silver roof and each one will have a serial number stamped on its bumper. Yellow E logos are spread around the car and the same colour is used on mirror and door edges. Which looks rather smart.

The MINI E has been reduced from a 2+2 into a strict 2 seater as the rear bench has been removed and replaced by the battery bank. The 5,088 lithium ion battery cells (grouped into 48 modules) have a maximum capacity of 35 kWh, and powers the motor at 380 volts. They provide for a maximum of 240km range on a full charge.

Some of the energy can be recovered via brake energy regeneration to provide a 20% boost in range. A full recharge via a plug-in charger draws 28 kWH from the power grid. Quick charging in 2.5 hours is enabled via a quick charger that will be installed in the customer’s garage for higher amperage.

All the electric-powered Mini models will be painted silver, but are easily distinguished by their absent exhaust pipes and yellow electric-plug decals. The cars will be offered on a one year lease with full maintenance and servicing by specially trained technicians.

Not the first electric Mini

Interestingly, this is not the first electric Mini to be found in the States. A company in Nevada can build you one, complete with a 78kW brushless AC motor and lithium-ion batteries, meaning you could get the jump on any production electric Minis.

Nevada's Hybrid Technologies has in fact been producing the electric Minis for the past year and claims that charging up the car's batteries takes about 8-10 hours from a regular household power outlet. Top speed is only around 130km/h but driving at a slower speed preserves battery-life and means owners will be able to travel up to 200km on a single charge.

Meanwhile, Nissan has also said it will have large numbers of EVs on the road by 2010, with mass production slated for 2012. Every major automaker is working on EVs, including Toyota, Ford and Honda.

Chrysler also unveiled a Dodge EV sports car on Sept. 23, based on the Lotus Europa model from Britain, but Chrysler is coy about just when, or even whether, it will be mass-produced. Lotus also builds the Tesla Roadster EV, for California-based Tesla Motors.

All modern EVs run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, like laptops use only bigger. BMW says that the Mini E can be recharged in only two-and-a-half hours, using a special “wallbox” outlet.

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