The BMW Group will be the world's first premium manufacturer to deploy a fleet of 500 all-electric vehicles for private use in daily traffic. The Mini E will be powered by a 204hp electric motor fed by a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery, transferring its power to the front wheels via a single-stage helical transmission, nearly without sound and entirely free of emissions. Specially engineered for automobile use, the battery technology will have a range of more than 150 miles. The Mini E will initially be made available to select private and corporate customers as part of a pilot project in the states of California, New York and New Jersey. The possibility of offering the Mini E in Europe as well is being considered.
The Mini E will make its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 19 and 20, 2008.
The Mini E's electric drivetrain produces a peak torque of 162 lb-ft, delivering seamless acceleration to 62mph in 8.5sec. Top speed is electronically limited to 95mph.
Featuring a suspension system tuned to match its weight distribution, the Mini E sports the brand's hallmark agility and outstanding handling. By introducing the Mini E, the BMW Group is underscoring the resolve with which it works towards reducing energy consumption and emissions in road traffic. The BMW Group is drawing on its unique technological expertise in the field of drive systems to develop a vehicle concept enabling zero emissions without renouncing the joy of driving.
Putting 500 cars on the road under real daily traffic conditions will make it possible to gain widely applicable hands-on experience. Evaluating these findings will generate valuable know-how, which will be factored into the engineering of mass-produced vehicles.
Based on the current Mini, the car will initially be available as a two-seater. The space in the rear has been reserved for the lithium-ion battery. When in use, the battery combines high output with ample storage capacity and a small footprint with power ratios that are unrivalled in this application so far.
The lithium-ion storage unit will have a maximum capacity of 35kWh (kilowatt hours) and transmits energy to the electric motor as direct current at a nominal 380 volts. The rechargeable battery is made up of 5088 cells grouped into 48 modules. These modules are packaged into three battery elements that are arranged inside the Mini E.
The energy storage unit's basic components are based on the technology proven in cell phones and portable computers. The Mini E's lithium-ion battery can be plugged into all standard power outlets. Its charge time is dependent on the voltage and amperage of the electric grid. So in the USA, users can recharge a battery that has been completely drained within a short period using a wallbox that will ship with every Mini E. The wallbox will be installed in the customer's garage to enable higher amperage and thus provide extremely short charging times.
A full recharge draws a maximum of 28 kWh of electricity from the grid. Based on the car's range, a kilowatt hour translates into 5.4 miles. Besides the benefit of zero-emissions, the Mini E thus offers significant economic advantages over a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine as well.
The heavy-duty battery delivers its power to an electric motor, which transforms it into thrilling agility. Mounted transversely under the Mini E's hood, the drivetrain unleashes full thrust from a standstill. This provides for the car's fascinating launch capability.
The Mini E's intense driving experience is augmented by its dynamic deceleration potential, which is also directly coupled to the accelerator pedal. As soon as the driver releases the pedal, the electric motor acts as a generator. This results in braking force, and the power recovered from the kinetic energy is fed back to the battery. This interaction ensures extremely comfortable drives - especially at medium speed with marginal variation. In city traffic, up to 75% of deceleration can be done without the brakes. Making substantial use of this energy recuperation feature extends the car's range by up to 20%.
Weighing in at 3.230 lb, the Mini E has an even weight distribution. Minor modifications made to the suspension ensure safe handling at all times. The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system has been adapted to this model's specific wheel loads. The Mini E's brake system comes with a newly developed electric underpressure pump. Its Electrical Power Assisted Steering (EPS) is the same as the one used in mass-produced Minis. Both brake and steering assistance react to driving conditions and are thus extremely efficient. Even the air conditioning's electrical compressor only operates if desired or necessary.
At first glance, the Mini E is obviously an iteration of the brand. But its design, which is the blueprint for the zero-emissions two-seater, has been complemented by a number of visual cues that point to its revolutionary drive concept. All of the units produced for the pilot project will have the same paintwork and bear a serial number on their front fenders.
The Mini E's coachwork sports an exclusive combination of metallic Dark silver on all panels but the roof, which is clad in Pure silver. What distinguishes the zero-emissions Mini is the specially designed logo in Interchange yellow, depicting a stylized power plug in the shape of an "E" set against the silver backdrop. It has been applied to the roof, in smaller dimensions to the front and back, to the charger port lid, the dashboard trim, and - combined with the Mini logo - to the door jamb, in slightly modified form. The color of the roof edges, mirror housings, interior style cues and seat seams will match the logo's yellow tone as well. Moreover, the central gauge and the battery level indicator behind the wheel of the Mini E, which replaces the Mini's rev counter, feature yellow lettering against a dark grey background. The battery level is displayed in percentage figures. The central gauge includes an LED display indicating power consumption in red and power recuperation in green.
The cars will change hands based on a one-year lease with an extension option. Monthly lease installments will cover any technical service including all maintenance and the replacement of parts. At the end of the lease, all the automobiles will be returned to the BMW Group's engineering fleet where they will be subjected to comparative tests.
The Mini E has already gone through the major phases of product development for mass-produced vehicles and passed numerous crash tests on the way. Aspects investigated besides passenger protection were the impact of collision forces on the lithium-ion battery and finding a non-hazardous location for it in the car. The Mini E's energy storage unit emerged completely unscathed from all the crash tests mandated by US standards.
Production of the approximately 500 cars will take place at the company's Oxford and Munich sites and is scheduled for completion before the end of 2008. Mini's UK plant will be responsible for manufacturing the entire vehicle with the exception of the drive components and the lithium-ion battery, with the brand's series models rolling off its assembly lines concurrently. The units will then be transferred to a special manufacturing complex where the electric motor, battery units, performance electronics and transmission will be integrated.