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User Results from First Phase of the MINI E Field Trial in the UK

The MINI E. Click to enlarge.

As the second half of the twelve-month MINI E field trial begins in the UK this week, BMW has released an overview of the outcome of interviews and objective data collected from the first three months of the December to June 2010 phase of the trial. (Earlier post.)

In summary, users liked MINI E’s lack of noise, the convenience of home charging, low off peak power charges, not having to go to a gasoline station and queue, driving a zero emissions vehicle, MINI E’s acceleration characteristics and regenerative braking. Drawbacks include current mileage range for certain journeys, limited carrying capacity and sub-optimal car performance during the extremely cold weather conditions in December 2009 and January 2010.

The MINI E is a two-seat development of the MINI Hatch. It is powered by a 204 hp (152 kW) electric motor that also generates 220 N·m (162 lb-ft) of torque. It is powered by a 35 kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack containing 5,088 cells. The battery can be charged by a special home charger supplied by consortium partner Scottish and Southern Energy. This enables a charge time of 2.4 hours at 50 amps. The MINI E has a top speed of 95 mph (153 km/h) and an official range of 149 miles (240 km) according to FTP72 standards, although a realistic range is 112 miles (180 km), according to BMW.

The UK field trials mirror those taking place concurrently on the East and West coasts of the USA and in both Munich and Berlin. In the UK 40 examples of the MINI E have been operating for six months from late December 2009 until June 2010, 20 being private individuals and the balance with corporate customers. The 40 MINI E Pioneers were selected from applicants in the South East of England.

They are predominantly highly-educated males aged 35 and over, earning above average income and with a high level of interest in ecological issues. A second group of 40 take the MINI Es over in September 2010 and will run the cars in normal road conditions until March 2011.

The key findings from the first six months of the UK field trial are as follows:

  • MINI E usage differs only marginally from a control group of MINI Cooper and BMW 116i drivers in terms of average journey distance, daily mileage and frequency of use.

  • Before the trials began, users expected limitations in terms of range and charging times. In practice these have only proved to be barriers in a very few specific cases.

  • Users felt reassured that both the MINI E itself and the charging process are completely safe.

  • There was a very strong feeling from both private and fleet users that renewable energy should play an important role in future electricity generation. There was also a strong feeling that the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) should be charged using renewables to optimize the ecological advantages of an EV.

  • The BMW Group is trusted to provide a technically mature solution to the challenges presented by EVs.

  • Users reported a need for more interior space for journeys requiring more passengers and more storage capacity.

  • Users felt strongly that public charging facilities for EVs were desirable and even essential. However, at the same time, the majority claimed that they coped without public charging facilities.

MINI E average trip distance mirrors that of cars in the same segment. The National Travel Survey reveals that the average single trip length for car users in the UK is 8.6 miles (13.8 km), a distance almost exactly matched by MINI E drivers at 8.5 miles (13.7 km). Using the same survey data, 90% of all trips are 15 miles (24 km) or under, while another 8% are between 20 and 35 miles (32 and 56 km). Only two percent are above 35 miles.

Using a control group of MINI Cooper and BMW 116i customers these statistics are reinforced, MINI Cooper drivers averaging 7.3 miles (11.8 km) and 116i drivers only 6.8 miles (10.9 km). The conclusion to be drawn from this is that there are no objective limitations on average daily use for MINI E drivers.

The same conclusions can be drawn by analysing average daily distance driven. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirms that 22.8 miles (36.7 km) is the average private daily mileage across the UK. For MINI Cooper and 116i it is 27.0 and 26.1 miles (43.5 and 42 km) respectively while, again, MINI E experience slots right in the middle at 26.7 miles (43 km). The conclusion is that MINI E daily driving use matches cars in a similar segment almost exactly.

Reasons for non-use. Reasons quoted by users for not using their MINI E were for longer journeys (89% said this had occurred for them) and limited space, either for carrying shopping or because they needed more than two seats. Lack of space was quoted by 67% of users for not using MINI E on odd occasions. These are characteristics that the future Megacity vehicle will address, BMW said.

Charged experiences. The process of charging MINI E from the charging box supplied and fitted at users’ homes was convenient and appreciated by the MINI E pioneers. On average the cars were charged every two to three days. Two-thirds of users charged their car three times a week or less while only six percent charged daily. Users quickly adapted to charging overnight when electricity costs are cheaper and it also suited the daily routine of the drivers.

When asked whether users saw a need for a public charging infrastructure 87.5% agreed that it is necessary, with only 12.5% seeing no need. However 75% of all users also said they could use their MINI E without a comprehensive charging infrastructure.

In summary, the home charging was seen as safe and easy to operate, users easily adapted to a charging routine and most charged their MINI E overnight. Actual charging times were seen as efficient with some users finding it more convenient than having to queue up at a gasoline station. Participants would like a public charging system but did not need to rely on one.

Renewable energy. All users, both fleet and private, feel that renewable energy generation should play an important role in future electricity generation. There is a similar agreement from users that it is important to charge the MINI E batteries with renewable energy with 100% of fleet users and 89% of private drivers holding this opinion. However, only 22% of private, and 72% of fleet, drivers thought that EVs should be exclusively powered by renewable energy.

Would they buy one? Would this early experience of MINI E encourage the pioneers to buy an electric vehicle? The initial conclusion from the first phase of the trial is a qualified ‘yes’. The MINI E drivers all appreciated the use of a zero-emissions car that removed emissions from their immediate environment, the reduced reliance on fossil fuels and the lower noise pollution inherent with an EV. They also appreciated the dynamic acceleration characteristics of MINI E and its regenerative braking performance.

However, both the current driving range and the carrying capacity for passengers and cargo are viewed as limiting factors. Also, the sub-optimal performance of the car in very cold weather needs improvement.

On balance, though, all were convinced about the viability of electric vehicles in an everyday UK road environment and all claimed that taking part in this study had increased their enthusiasm to buy an EV as well as reducing the time frame in which they plan to do so, according to BMW.

Like all drivers their purchase intentions are price-sensitive. However, almost half of the users stated that they would pay one third more than a conventional MINI in order to benefit from the advantages of a more sustainable form of personal mobility. This implies a UK acceptable price of around £16,000 (US$24,700). The strength of purchase intention would be increased with improvements to luggage and passenger space.

The early learning from this first stage of the MINI E trials has given us very positive feedback and pointers as to where we will need to improve. One has to remember that MINI E, despite being very thoroughly engineered for its task, is in the end a modified existing production MINI Hatch. An EV designed from the ground up will be able to address some of the criticism on packaging and driving range. That is precisely the reason we are holding these trials.

—Jochen Goller, Director of MINI UK

The MINI E field trial is informing the design and development process for the upcoming Megacity EV, due to be launched in 2013. (Earlier post.)



I said months ago to sell cheap, efficient, small electric generators like el-cheapo solar panels and windmills and associated transformers and rectifiers and re-charging circuitry to recharge these electric battery cars. It's inneficient to experiment battery cars for months without experimenting at the same time the recharging process associated to this complete package.

I won't buy any any electric big battery without somethying else then the costly polluting grid electricity to recharge it.

These car manufacturers have always since 100 years put unnessary taxation to their customers with petrol cost. Now they sell you to the limited and polluting grid. And don't forgot the water electrolizer to make hydrogen for free with solar panels, windmills and also with self feeding hydrogen-water-recirculation energy producing mecanism.

Bob Wallace

Sub-optimal performance in very cold weather, can anyone flesh this out a bit?

How much did performance drop, and in what temperature conditions?

The problem is that the battery pack gets cold. Why not use grid power to pre-heat the battery pack? Assuming the car has a heat pump for passenger comfort, would it not be possible to direct the heat to the batteries? Or just provide them an "electric blanket"?

EV batteries produce heat as they are used. Would not that heat (properly used) keep the pack warm during the drive?

Seems to me, worst case, people living in cold places would have to plug in while stopped for significant periods of time. Not unlike they now do with their ICEV block heaters.


It is pointless trying to charge these with renewable energy, just charge them off the grid.
If you want to offset it, fine, site a solar panel as best you can and offset your general electricity use and feed the rest into the grid.

Mostly, you will want to charge the cars at night (when they are parked at home), so PV won't be any use.

Also, the utilities have loads of spare electricity at night which they (rightly) want to sell to EV owners.

There might be a little wind power in that, but no solar.

Anyway, get over it: there is no synergy between electric cars and renewable electricity.

[ Unless you want to have a second huge battery which you can charge when the sun shines and the wind blows ]

Both should be used via the grid.


I always felt the Mini would be a good candidate for an EV because of its size/weight/and fun factors. This is a good first step. Hey, i wasn't happy with my ICE performance during Dec/Jan 2010 either, so nothing bad about EV's there.
Now they have to integrate the electrification better and not waste so much space.


Great for commuters, bad for people like me who use their cars less often for longer road trips - this is where biofuels needs to come in as part of the future mix.


That is precisely it, part of the future mix. If we can create 100 billion gallons per year of biofuel and drive PHEVs we can probably get by with cleaner air and less imported oil.


@ Bob Wallace,

Bob, the problem with cold batteries is not during operation, it is starting up in the morning. If you've ever left your fully-charged cell phone in the car overnight in snow country, you know the cellphone may not start at all until you warm it up above freezing again.


I think Bob already knows that: "Seems to me, worst case, people living in cold places would have to plug in while stopped for significant periods of time. Not unlike they now do with their ICEV block heaters."


Battery chemistry does not work well when too cold nor too hot. Certainly if it is a PHEV/EV that is garaged, the batteries can be kept at proper operating temperature and once going can keep it that way.


You don't need hightech electronics and costly lithium batteries to make an EV go far. A guy named David Cloud decided to spend a good three grand to convert his 1997 Geo Metro into a BEV. It doesn't have regen brakes, it's powered by old 12V lead acid batteries, and it goes 200 miles on a charge at highway speeds. He used streamlining to get the Geo Metro down to a Cd of .15 so even though it weights 3200 pounds and has no transmission, the motors are direct drive to the rear wheels with a gearing set of a 71 mph top end, it uses only 130-140 WH/mi at a constant rate cruising at 65 mph on the flat but averaged 177 WH/mi over the first 171 mi of his 200 mile trip because of several stop/starts. In his own words: "Another thing I would like to clarify is that my goal was to build a vehicle that can go 200 miles on a single charge with a speed of 60-65 mph for 85% of the miles, for under $3,000. I accomplished this goal. Because of my $3,000 limitation I made a lot of compromises in the chassis design hoping that the aerodynamics of the vehicle would make up for those inefficiencies. Inefficiencies such as front wheel bearings that rumble, back tires that are 10 years old and misshapen, single speed dual series motors (that were $100), no re-gen and inexpensive Curtis controllers."


@ Ai_Vin,

So, he's got 28 KwHr of lead-acid batteries in that Geo Metro Chassis (140whr/mi * 200 mi)? It sure has pretty aerodynamics. From the photos, it looks like he bought used batteries. He cut off the rear half the original metro to get his battery compartments and probably put coils from a small truck on it to handle the battery weight. At perhaps 35 wh/kg, the batteries probably weigh ~800 kg. It's an interesting concept project, but questions would remain about safety and how many cycles he could get out of those batteries.

If those batteries did 500 cycles new, and he got them after 250 cycles, then he's paying maybe $10/cycle for battery, plus $4.00 or so for electricity per 200 miles...or 7 cents a miles best case. However, a lot of those cycles will be partial, so more likely an average of 100 miles per discharge cycle, or 12 cents per mile. Still interesting.

fred schumacher

Re: "...sub-optimal car performance during the extremely cold weather conditions in December 2009 and January 2010."

My son spent 7 weeks in London during part of that winter. He said it was about like Minnesota autumn weather, but everybody was freaked out by the cold.

If winter conditions that mild cause dissatisfaction in drivers of the Mini E, what will it be like in places that have real winter?


I think they have also shown that you can't convert a small conventional car into an EV and have any space left.

You need a new design with the batteries under the floor like a Merc A class, or at least a chassis designed to hold a load of rather bulky batteries somewhere, to leave enough space for 4 humans and some luggage.

Hybridization would probably be a better bet.

fred schumacher

Re: "I think they have also shown that you can't convert a small conventional car into an EV and have any space left."

This is exactly right. Switching to battery power will require a new automotive morphology, yet manufacturers keep recycling ICE based vehicle design.

Perhaps they're afraid people want buy BEVs if they look radically different from what they're accustomed to. However, morphology is as important as batteries, if not more so, in switching to electric power. If the first generation of BEVs turn out to be duds, then the whole experiment will be set back a generation. I'm speaking in terms of the expectations of the general public, not enthusiasts.

Bob Wallace

Not a lot of information gleaned, but it does sound like a battery heater needs to be installed, at least as an option for those who live in cold climates.

It shouldn't cost much to pre-warm the batteries and since the car would be plugged in anyway, no extra effort for the owner. Certainly less effort than when I lived in Michigan and would open the hood and stick in a trouble light every night and then throw an old blanket over the hood.

We'll probably see more school/work parking lots with outlets in colder parts of the country both as range extenders and for battery warming.

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