Mini E (Electric) Electrifies Rodeo Drive - VIDEO ENHANCED



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By Henny Hemmes
Senior Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - In November 2008, the Mini E made its world debut at the LA Auto Show. But a day earlier, people who were strolling on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, got the real premiere of the electric Mini.

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BMW offered media a test drive from the former Beverly Wilshire Hotel and obviously some journalists headed for L.A.’s famous shopping street.

This year, 500 units of the Mini E will be built. They are practically identical to the Mini Cooper, but will all be painted grey, have a silver roof and MINI written on the sides in electric-yellow letters. The cars will also have quite some stickers that resemble a reversed ‘E’, the symbol for a plug. Of course, that is also placed on the filler cap that covers the charger socket. A small plaque on the side mentions the limited edition’s vehicle number. But to be honest, I did not see 007….

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Inside, the Mini E is quite different from the other models of the British-German brand. Most noticeable is that there are no rear seats. Their place has been taken by the lithium-ion battery pack, which consists of 5,088 lithium-ion (or li-on) cells, grouped in 48 modules, that are packaged in three units.

Together with a cooler, the li-on battery adds some 400 lbs. to the weight of the Mini.

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The battery transmits energy to the electric motor that has a power output of 150 kW or 204 hp and a maximum torque of capacity of 162 lb-ft.

So beware, this electric Mini is faster than a Cooper! It sprints in just 8.5 seconds to 60 mph. It could be even faster, as practically all torque is immediately available and since the electric motor forwards its power through a single speed transmission. But to make sure the drive shafts do not break, the output is electronically limited. Also the top speed of the Mini E is limited to a mere 95 mph.

Driving the Mini E, you feel that the front wheels are fighting for grip and that the traction control has to work really hard. Also, a fair amount of torque steer is noticeable, but that is something you’ll get used to pretty fast.

Silence

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When you step behind the steering wheel, you do not see the needle of the rev counter on the gauge in front of you, but one that indicates the capacity of the battery. On the small display in the bottom you can see what the power consumption is and how much brake energy is regenerated.
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The large odometer in the middle of the dashboard has a performance indicator where you would normally see the fuel gauge.

When you brake, there is no sound, as the Mini uses brake regeneration to re-use the energy for recharging the battery pack.

As from March the 500 Mini’s E will hit the roads in the Los Angeles area (250) and in New York and New Jersey (200). BMW will also have 50 cars available for Berlin. All cars will be leased at 850 dollars a month including the loan of a wall box that BMW will install in the customer’s garage. This enables higher amperage and thus a shorter charging time than plugging the Mini E into a standard power outlet. Wall boxed fully recharge batteries in two-and-a-half to three hours.

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The Mini E will not go into production, but an evolution of the plug-in electric powertrain will probably be built into the future small car, that BMW has put on its agenda as a part of its Project-I. It depends, of course, on the experiences with the Mini E, but at the moment the future megacity car is due to be launched in 2015. It will be really developed as an electric vehicle, meaning that there will be four seats and that the stack of batteries will not be in the way – by that time, they will be as flat as magazines, says BMW. And we may have an infrastructure of charging points as well.


Click PLAY to watch the complete BMW and MINI Press Conference at the 2008 LA AUTO SHOW

HHR December 2008

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