It’s not really silent. Anyone expecting the Mini E to quietly ghost along will be dismayed with the golf cart-like whine of its electric motor and drivetrain. BMW’s electric vehicles team claims it’s “nearly” silent, and admittedly at a constant cruise it is.
When the Mini E pulls away from a stop, however, there’s no doubt there’s anything but an electric motor under its hood. Perhaps it’s quieter at higher speeds because the motor/drivetrain noises have gone up in pitch to where the Mini E can only be heard by dogs though more likely its noise from the drivetrain’s internal gearing.
On the other hand, the Mini E has straight-line performance as well as that electric motor sound. It’s rated at 205 horsepower, more than the turbocharged Mini Cooper S that’s rated at 172 horsepower and much more than the standard 118-hp Mini Cooper. But despite almost twice the horsepower, the Mini E just edges out the standard Mini in acceleration. The former takes 8.5 seconds to get to 62 mph (100 km/h) while the latter is only going 60 mph after the same amount of time.
The difference in performance per horsepower comes from the Mini E’s significantly greater curb weight. The standard Mini Cooper hardtop tips the scales at 2,568 lbs. The Mini E is a relative porker, at 3,230 lbs. That’s 662 lbs more, or if you do the math–or maths, as they say in Blighty–that’s an increase of just over 25 percent .
In technical terms, that’s a lot.
However, the Mini E was explained to us as a “quick and dirty” way to evaluate how people would use an electric car in everyday use and as such isn’t as refined as it might otherwise be.
Still, the Mini E has its own personality and entertaining elements, including a hard jump off the line, thanks to an electric motor’s max torque at zero rpm. In fact, with the wheels cocked to one side even slightly, it’s almost difficult to keep the inside front wheel from spinning when starting up from a stop. From there on out it’s not so dramatic, though acceleration was seamless acceleration for as fast as we went, coming without the gearshifts we’re accustomed to, or even the soaring revs of gas engines with a continuously variable transmission.
According to the Project i team that’s running BMW’s electric car project, an peculiarity that owners actually like is the strong braking effect of electric regeneration. Lift off the accelerator and the Mini E slows hard enough that the brake lights need to be actuated. We’re told that Mini E drivers like the “one pedal driving”–the regular brake pedal needs to be used only for particularly intense braking. However, at slower speeds we found the sweet spot between acceleration and braking to be especially fine. No doubt the constant driver would learn where it is and how to keep the car there but it’s off putting to the novice.
If the Mini’s operation feels something like a engineering school project, that’s because to a certain extent it is a field trial of driver acceptance as much as it is a technical experiment. The Mini E is a bridge to the BMW 1-Series-based ActiveE, which will address many of the Mini E’s shortcomings, and the ActiveE will lead to the Mega-City dedicated electric city car. After two years at most, every Mini E out on lease–the only way to get one–will be called home and at least on the public road, silenced forever.
|Layout||Front electric motor/front-wheel drive, unitbody 2-seat hatchback|
|Engine||AC induction motor|
|Output||150/201 kW / hp|
|Torque||220 Nm / 162 lb-ft|
|Battery||53 cells connected in parallel constitute a unit, 2 units connected in series constitute a module, 48 modules connected in series constitute the battery; 5,088 individual cells in total|
|Battery cooling||Air cooling via temperature-, load- and speed-sensitive fans|
|Battery capacity||35kWh, approx. 30kWh of which useable|
|Peak battery current||500 A|
|Battery chg time, hr.||at 110 V/12 A (1.3 kW) 26.5; at 240 V/32 A (7.7 kW) 4.5; at 240 V/48 A (11.5 kW) 3.0|
|Suspension, f / r||Macpherson strut / longitudinal link with centrally mounted control arms, z axis|
|Steering, type||rack-and-pinion w/ elecrtric power assist|
|Turning circle, ft||35.1|
|Brakes, type||Front and rear disc brakes|
|Rotor diameter, in., f / r||11.6 / 10.2|
|Wheels, size, type||16-in., aluminum|
|Tires, type||runflat, no spare|
|Dimensions & capacities|
|Curb weight, lbs||3,770|
|Cargo vol., cu. ft.||2.1|
|0-60 mph, sec.||8.5|
|Top speed, mph||95 w/ electronic cutoff|
|Consumtion, CA test||0.22 kWh/mls|
|Range||156 miles under ideal conditions|
|109/96/104 miles estimate under normal driving conditions city/hwy/comb|