MINI-E Testing Halfway Finished in the UK, Results And Pricing Look Promising

Just as Audi ramps up its A1 e-tron project, Mini UK will soon begin part two of the E's 12-month real-world test. Now that the first half of the test is complete, what are the results? Scroll down for some of Mini's findings.

Concerned that people may be driving differently than they usually would with the electric E, a control group was created using Mini Cooper and BMW 116i drivers.

The results speak for themselves: an average daily trip is 7.3 miles in the Cooper and 6.8 miles in the Bimmer, while the average E came in at 8.5 miles (the UK average is 8.6). The Mini E's average daily distance traveled (26.7 miles) also lands smack-dab in between the Mini Cooper (27 miles) and BMW 116i (26.1 miles).

So, apparently Mini E drivers didn't treat the vehicle too differently than other drivers when it came to worrying about range.

The only major issues detected with the Mini E include space (it's called a Mini for a reason) and cold weather performance. These are problems that are being looked at before BMW's Megacity debuts in 2013.

The provided charging boxes were a plus, with Mini E drivers finding them useful, adaptable, and necessary for a charge "every two to three days" for the most part. Also, many people got into the habit of charging overnight (they sleep, the car charges at a cheaper rate, and everybody wins). The clear majority of people (87.5%) would say that public charging stations would likely be needed and appreciated, although 75% said they wouldn't absolutely require them.

Mini UK director Jochen Goller says, "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."

Goller continues, "We are very confident that the full 12 month trial under real road conditions with real people will help us greatly in producing an exciting and extremely efficient vehicle for the urban environments of the future."

And how about pricing? According to Mini UK, 44% of consumers say they would be willing to spend as much as 33% more for an electric Mini in the future. That would make it approximately £16,000 (about $24,800 US) in the UK. At that price, would YOU buy one?

By Phil Alex

Key findings from the first six months of the MINI-E's UK field trial:

- 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 optimise 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.

- 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 petrol 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.