Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BMW unveils all-electric Mini E


Having already breathed new life into the ailing Mini brand, the creative volk at leading German car manufacturer BMW are looking to build on the associated trend appeal of the existing Mini and Mini Clubman editions with the decidedly green Mini E.


While the Mini’s impressive fuel efficiency and low CO2 output have already helped it carve a niche as one of the world’s most eco-friendly cars, BMW’s new Mini E is a clear and focused attempt to secure undisputed ecological credentials thanks to the introduction of an all-electric engine.

According to BMW, the Mini E will be powered by a 150 kW (204 horse power) electric motor fed by a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Also, the Mini E’s drive will be transferred to its front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox, making the car almost completely silent and entirely free of emissions.

In terms of single-charge distance coverage, BMW claims the Mini E’s battery technology will give the car a maximum operational range in excess of 240 kilometres, which is the equivalent of around 150 miles.

Interestingly, rather than rolling out the Mini E for general consumption, BMW has said that it will initially launch a fleet of 500 vehicles through a pilot project involving select private and corporate customers in California, New York and New Jersey. The company is also considering a similar introduction in Europe.

The 500-strong fleet will change hands based on a one-year lease with an option to take up a lease extension. Further to that, monthly lease instalments will cover any required technical service requirements including all necessary maintenance and the replacement of wearing parts.

At the end of the lease, all of the cars belonging to the pilot project will be returned to BMW’s engineering fleet, whereupon they will be subjected to comparative tests ahead of full market production.

“Putting some 500 cars on the road under real daily traffic conditions will make it possible to gain widely applicable hands-on experience,” explains BMW. “Evaluating these findings will generate valuable know-how, which will be factored into the engineering of mass-produced vehicles.”

Expected to make its industry debut at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show in November, other Mini E performance features include peak torque of 220 Newton metres, acceleration through to 100km/h (approx. 62mph) in a time of 8.5 seconds, and an electronically limited top speed of 152km/h (approx. 95mph).

While styled on the current standard Mini design and exuding the same sense of fun and pizzazz, the new all-electric Mini E will differ internally with its rear seats lost to make way for the car’s 5,088-cell lithium-ion battery technology. The Mini E’s lithium-ion battery can be recharged by simply plugging into any and all standard electricity power outlets.