Mini goes electric

  • 16-Nov-2008 07:08 EST
MINI E JPEG P0047902.jpg

The MINI E (Electric) has a potential range of 240 km (149 mi).

Mini plans to begin series production of an all-electric model in the medium term, and to mark the serious intent of its philosophy, it will unveil the lithium-ion battery equipped Mini E (Electric) technology demonstrator at this month’s Los Angeles Auto Show. It plans to ship 500 Mini Es to California, New York, and New Jersey and will also place cars with users in European cities for testing with private and corporate customers.

The two-seat cars with a potential range of 240 km (149 mi) will be leased, not sold, and after a minimum of 12 months will be returned to BMW’s engineering fleet for testing. Monthly lease installments will cover any required technical service including all necessary maintenance and the replacement of wearing parts.

The E’s electric drivetrain produces a peak torque of 220 N·m (162 lb·ft), and power is delivered to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox, the company announced in a statement. With instant torque, the car will reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.5 s and have an electronically limited top speed of 153 km/h (95 mph).

The E model is based on the Mini hatchback with the rear seat area occupied by a lithium-ion battery pack having a maximum 35-kW·h capacity and transmitting energy to the electric motor as direct current at a nominal 380 V. The rechargeable battery is made up of 5088 cells grouped into 48 modules packaged into three battery elements. The battery can be plugged into standard power outlets.

In the U.S., users can recharge a drained battery "within a very short period of time" using a wallbox (to allow higher amperage) that will be supplied as standard with every Mini E. That recharge time is likely to be around 2.5 h.

Only lockable garages or similar buildings will qualify as "power stations" for the E. A full recharge draws a maximum of 28 kW·h of electricity from the grid. Based on the car’s range, a kW·h translates into 8.69 km (5.40 mi). Besides the benefit of zero-emissions driving, the E is said to offer significant economic advantages over a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine.

An asynchronous 150-kW electric motor is mounted transversely under the Mini E’s hood. Power-to-weight ratio is 9.76 kg/kW, and the kW·h/km number is 0.12. In city traffic, some 75% of all deceleration can be achieved without the brakes. The facility can extend range by up to 20%.

About 17% of the Mini E's 1465 kg (3230 lb) is accounted for by the battery pack. Compared to the standard car, modifications have been made to the suspension system and the car’s DSC (Dynamic Stability Control).

The lease cars, which will be built in the UK and Germany, will all have the same silver paintwork, a yellow "E" logo, and carry a serial number on their front bumpers. Replacing the rev counter is a battery-level indicator with percentage gradations. The central gauge includes an LED display indicating power consumption in red and power recuperation in green.

The electric drive’s high-voltage technology requires that maintenance work be done by qualified personnel using special tools that are not included in the Mini service partners’ standard toolboxes. Special service bases will be established. Technical inspections will take place after 4800 km (2980 mi) of use or six months.

The E has already gone through the major phases of product development for mass-produced vehicles and passed numerous crash tests. Its energy storage unit emerged unscathed from all crash tests mandated by U.S. standards, which are especially high, says the company.

Mini’s Plant Oxford (UK) will manufacture the E on the regular production line, with the exception of the drive components and the lithium-ion battery. The units will then be transferred to a specially equipped manufacturing facility situated on BMW plant premises where the electric motor, battery units, performance electronics, and transmission will be integrated.

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