• Oct 18th 2008 at 10:13AM
  • 33
Click for a high res gallery of the MINI E

BMW has now released official details of the MINI E that will rolling out at the LA Auto Show next month. As we learned last night, the MINI uses a 204 hp, 162 lb-ft electric motor for drive purposes with a single-speed helical gear, transmission. Energy gets stored in lithium ion battery pack with a capacity of 35 kWh which should be enough for a nominal range of about 150 miles. Some of the details of the pack are interesting and reminiscent of another electric car that has received a lot of attention around here, the Tesla Roadster. The pack is comprised of 5,088 cells arranged in 48 modules. The press release itself states "The energy storage unit's basic components are based on the technological principle that has proven itself in practice in power supplies for mobile phones and portable computers." Based on the number of cells and the previous statement, we might infer that BMW has opted to use off-the-shelf cells rather than something purpose built for automotive applications.

In Elon Musk's blog post announcing the changes at Tesla a couple of days ago, he did mention the company would focus on Roadster production and powertrain sales to other carmakers? Is this the first example? We've asked Tesla for a comment but have yet to receive a reply. Continue reading after the jump.

Update: We heard back from Tesla, and the official response is no comment on third party relationships.

[Source: MINI]

The installation of the pack itself comes at the expense of the rear seat which isn't really that great a loss unless you just fold it down to use for storage. In that case the storage area is lost to the battery pack which comes all the way up to the window line. As always replenishing the charge of the battery is dependent on the source of electrons. More specifically, the voltage and current of the plug determine the charge time. Just as it takes 30 hours to charge a Tesla Roadster from a household 110 V/15 A outlet, a high current outlet will charge faster. To make things easier, MINI will supply a special charge box with the car that the driver can have installed in their garage. The charging box can reportedly replenish the battery in 2.5 hours which implies that it is a 220 V/80 A unit. Another Tesla connection? maybe. The charging box will have to be installed by an electrician.

The MINI E demonstrates again that battery technology is still lacking when it comes to energy density. Along with giving up two seats and several hundred miles of range, the electric MINI also weighs in at 550 lbs more than the gas powered Cooper S. However, MINI E drivers won't have to give up other functionality in their cars. Full electronic stability control is retained in conjunction with the regenerative braking system. The power steering and air conditioning system are fully electrically driven as well.

BMW is currently building a 500 unit run of the MINI E. The rolling chassis will come from the factory in Oxford England while the batteries, electric drive and power electronics will be installed in Munich Germany. Those 500 cars are expected to be finished by the end of this year and then transferred to the US where they will be leased to commercial and private customers in California, New York and New Jersey. The limited availability is due to the special service requirements which most MINI dealers are not equipped to handle. BMW North America is headquartered in New Jersey, hence that location, and well California always gets the new toys first.

Press release


Woodcliff Lake, NJ - October 18, 2008... The BMW Group will be the world's first manufacturer of premium automobiles to deploy a fleet of some 500 all-electric vehicles for private use in daily traffic. The MINI E will be powered by a 150 kW (204 hp) electric motor fed by a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery, transferring its power to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox nearly without a sound and entirely free of emissions. Specially engineered for automobile use, the battery technology will have a range of more than 240 kilometers, or 150 miles. The MINI E will initially be made available to select private and corporate customers as part of a pilot project in the US states of California, New York and New Jersey. The possibility of offering the MINI E in Europe as well is currently being considered. The MINI E will give its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 19 and 20, 2008.
The MINI E's electric drive train produces a peak torque of 220 Newton meters, delivering seamless acceleration to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 152 km/h (95 mph). Featuring a suspension system tuned to match its weight distribution, the MINI E sports the brand's hallmark agility and outstanding handling.

By introducing the MINI E, the BMW Group is underscoring the resolve with which it works towards reducing energy consumption and emissions in road traffic. The BMW Group is drawing on its unique technological expertise in the field of drive systems to develop a vehicle concept enabling zero emissions without renouncing the joy of driving. Putting some 500 cars on the road under real daily traffic conditions will make it possible to gain widely applicable hands-on experience. Evaluating these findings will generate valuable know-how, which will be factored into the engineering of mass-produced vehicles.

The BMW Group aims to start series production of all-electric vehicles over the medium term as part of its Number ONE strategy. The development of innovative concepts for mobility in big-city conurbations within the scope of "project i" has a similar thrust, as its objective also includes making use of an all-electric power train.

The energy storage unit: cutting-edge lithium-ion technology engineered specifically for use in the MINI.

Based on the current MINI, the car will initially be available as a two-seater. The space taken up by back-seat passengers in the series model has been reserved for the lithium-ion battery. When in use in the zero-emissions MINI, the battery unit combines high output with ample storage capacity and a small footprint with power ratios that are unrivalled in this field of application so far. The lithium-ion storage unit will have a maximum capacity of 35 kilowatt hours (kWh) and transmit energy to the electric motor as direct current at a nominal 380 volts. The rechargeable battery is made up of 5,088 cells grouped into 48 modules. These modules are packaged into three battery elements that are compactly arranged inside the MINI E.

The energy storage unit's basic components are based on the technological principle that has proven itself in practice in power supplies for mobile phones and portable computers. The MINI E's lithium-ion battery can be plugged into all standard power outlets. Its charge time is strongly dependent on the voltage and amperage of the electricity flowing through the grid. In the USA, users can recharge a battery that has been completely drained within a very short period of time using a wallbox that will ship with every MINI E. The wallbox will be installed in the customer's garage, enable higher amperage, and thus provide for extremely short charging times. Wallboxes fully recharge batteries after a mere two-and-a-half hours.

Driven by electricity: reliably, affordably and free of emissions.

A full recharge draws a maximum of 28 kilowatt hours of electricity from the grid. Based on the car's range, a kilowatt hour translates into 5.4 miles. Besides the benefit of zero-emissions driving, the MINI E thus offers significant economic advantages over a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine as well.

The heavy-duty battery delivers its power to an electric motor, which transforms it into thrilling agility. Mounted transversely under the MINI E's bonnet, the drive train unleashes its full thrust from a dead standstill. This provides for the car's fascinating launch capability. The MINI E's intense driving experience is augmented by its dynamic deceleration potential, which is also directly coupled to the accelerator pedal. As soon as the driver releases the gas pedal, the electric motor acts as a generator. This results in braking force, and the power recovered from the kinetic energy is fed back to the battery. This interaction ensures extremely comfortable drives – especially at medium speed with constant, but marginal, variation. In city traffic, some 75 percent of all deceleration can be done without the brakes. Making substantial use of this energy recuperation feature extends the car's range by up to 20 percent.

Signature MINI agility in a new guise.

Weighing in at 1,465 kilograms (3.230 lbs), the MINI E has an even weight distribution. Minor modifications made to the suspension ensure safe handling at all times. The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system has been adapted to this model's specific wheel loads.

The MINI E's brake system comes with a newly developed electric underpressure pump. Its Electrical Power Assisted Steering (EPS) is the same as the one used in mass-produced MINIs. Both brake and steering assistance react to driving conditions and are thus extremely efficient. Even the air conditioning's electrical compressor only operates if desired or necessary.

Design: unmistakably MINI, undoubtedly new.

At first glance, the MINI E is obviously an iteration of the brand. But its design, which is the blueprint for the zero-emissions two-seater, has been complemented by a number of visual cues that point to its revolutionary drive concept. All of the units produced for the pilot project will have the same paintwork and bear a serial number on their front fenders.

The MINI E's coachwork sports an exclusive combination of metallic Dark Silver on all panels but the roof, which is clad in Pure Silver. What distinguishes the zero-emissions MINI is a specially designed logo in Interchange Yellow, depicting a stylized power plug in the shape of an "E" set against the silver backdrop. It has been applied to the roof, in smaller dimensions to the front and back, to the charger port lid, the dashboard trim, and – combined with the MINI logo – to the door jamb, in slightly modified form. The color of the roof edges, mirror housings, interior style cues and seat seams will match the logo's yellow tone as well.

Moreover, the central gauge and the battery level indicator behind the wheel of the MINI E, which replaces the MINI's rev counter, feature yellow lettering against a dark grey background. The battery level is displayed in percentage figures. The central gauge includes an LED display indicating power consumption in red and power recuperation in green.

MINI E customers will be part of a pioneering mission.

A 500-unit, limited-production MINI E series will be manufactured through the end of 2008. The project will thus attain an order of magnitude that clearly exceeds the size of currently comparable test series. Putting the MINI E on the road on a daily basis will be a pioneering feat to which both the drivers and engineers of the first zero-emissions MINI will contribute as a team.

MINI E customers will join forces with BMW Group experts to assist in the project's scientific evaluation. MINI E engineers accord high importance to staying in touch with the drivers on a regular basis, as this will help them analyze driver behavior besides vehicle characteristics in order to gain the most accurate and realistic picture of the demands placed on a vehicle with a purely electrical drive in the select usage areas.

Special charging station and full service for every MINI E.

The cars will change hands based on a one-year lease with an extension option. Monthly lease installments will cover any required technical service including all necessary maintenance and the replacement of wearing parts. At the end of the lease, all of the automobiles belonging to the project will be returned to the BMW Group's engineering fleet where they will be subjected to comparative tests.

The MINI E's lithium-ion battery can be charged using a wallbox provided to MINI customers. Only lockable garages or similar buildings will qualify as homebases and power stations for the MINI E.

Maintenance by qualified specialists.

The electric drive's high-voltage technology requires that maintenance work be done by qualified personnel using special tools that are not included in MINI service partners' standard toolboxes. In light of this, a service base will be set up on both coasts, staffed by service engineers that are specially trained to perform maintenance and repair work on the MINI E's electrical components. In the event of drive malfunction, these experts will provide professional support at the customer's local MINI dealer or the service base's specially equipped workshop. Technical inspections will take place after 3,000 miles (just under 5,000 kilometers) and at least after six months.

Production in Oxford and Munich.

The MINI E has already gone through the major phases of product development for mass-produced vehicles and passed numerous crash tests on the way. Aspects investigated besides passenger protection were the impact of collision forces on the lithium-ion battery and finding a non-hazardous location for it in the car. The MINI E's energy storage unit emerged completely unscathed from all of the crash tests mandated by US standards, which are especially high.

Production of the approximately 500 cars will take place at the company's Oxford and Munich sites and is scheduled for completion before the end of 2008. MINI's UK plant will be responsible for manufacturing the entire vehicle with the exception of the drive components and the lithium-ion battery, with the brand's series models rolling off its assembly lines concurrently. The units will then be transferred to a specially equipped manufacturing complex situated on BMW plant premises where the electric motor, battery units, performance electronics and transmission will be integrated.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      it all sounds a little dodgy to me , one year lease
      contracts after which the cars disappear never
      to be seen again , I don´t wish to be a doomsayer
      but sounds a little like " lease and crush " to me !

      BMW were very much against the very thought of
      electric cars , prefering to tout their "red herring"
      hydrogen ICE cars here in europe .
      Also I think the lack of a rear seat does not bear
      well , it would be the first car that BMW has not
      properly engineered that I know about , it either
      means it was thrown together in a rush , or is not
      intended for production.

      I really hope I am proved wrong !
      • 6 Years Ago
      ecoangel said...
      "So you plug her in to your local COAL fired power station and extract 28 kWh drive 150 miles:

      Result? a minimum of 116 g/km CO2"

      Its funny how the eco guys calculate.

      They compare the emissions of the "entire energy production cycle" for charging electric cars to only the emissions produced by the internal combustion engine (the end-user).

      Why don't they add in the CO2 produced by crude oil extraction, processing, transportion from the middle-east, refinement, transportation to gas stations, AND THEN add burning in the car's engine?

      And with shale oil and tar sands. The energy usage and emissions needed to extract goes through the roof.

      So even if you get your electricity from a dirty source, it still has the potential to become clean as soon as you can put up solar or wind.

      But a gas-guzzler will always be a gas-guzzler!!!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Don't you think this sounds like the Jetsons? Who would have believed we woudl even be discussing something like this?
      What happened to rape seed oil cars?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Actually, that pack is more reminiscent of the AC Propulsion eBox, which has exactly 5088 cells and 35 kWh capacity. Perhaps the author should check with them...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Good guess. A later posting indicated that the supplier was indeed AC Propulsion.

        The confusion is easy to understand, as AC Propulsion was the first to use thousands of small 18650 LiIon cells to build an EV battery pack, and Tesla Motors copied that idea.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I would love to own this car. If I was living in a city and using this car as a daily driver though, I would prefer an option for a smaller battery pack, say half size, good for 75 miles at most, a couple hundred pounds lighter for better performance, and significantly cheaper.
      150 miles would allow for some nice weekend drives, but if you want to go on a decent trip, you'd still want to rent a regular car that could get you as far as you want. Saving 17.5 kWh of batteries would pay for a lot of car rentals!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Typically with electric vehicles, the batteries are not the limiting factor for power output. Batteries, if given the chance, can typically dump out current way faster than motors can handle it. You have a point, it's a possibility they wouldn't be able to max out their motor anymore, but my guess is that if there were a loss of max power at all, it would be offset by the reduced battery weight.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Exactly there is no need for this car to have such a long range. they should offer and 50 and 75 mile range models. 150 is overkill. I could take a 40mile range car and probably convince my employer to allow me to charge the car at work. We already have a guy driving an electric that does just that. But it was home built. I live in Austin where they are a little more open to this kind of thing than elsewhere in texas
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jeff, BoneheadOtto: There is a limit to the current that can be passed through a battery due to internal resistance and heating, and that is especially true with the cobalt oxide LiIon batteries that they are using. Excessive currents lead to excessive heating which leads to battery fires - not a good thing. Excessive currents also reduces efficiency, as more energy is lost as heat - this is the "Peukert effect" that is common to lead acid batteries.

        Since there is a definite limit on both voltage and amperage available from each battery cell, cutting the number of cells in half must cut the maximum power available in half.
        • 6 Years Ago
        the size of the battery pack (kwh) is directly proportional to range but not power output. To my understanding you can often increase power and decrease range of the pack (thus KW hours. You increase the KW and decrease the hours, which increases the power and decreases the range) That is why all the drag cars are able to produce so much power with so little range.
        • 6 Years Ago
        A half size battery pack would also be half power as well. Instead of a zippy 204 hp, it would be a not-so-zippy 102 hp, and it would only knock off about 250 lbs of weight, not enough to compensate for the loss of power.

        No, I think they made a good choice there. My only complaint would be the missing back seat, and even that isn't a deal-breaker for me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'd rather wait for the Tesla Roadster, at least it will be FUN to drive!
      • 6 Years Ago
      This should be an interesting introduction to observe.

      Falling oil prices and a world-wide recession, plus introducing the car at a time of season when gasoline prices are cyclically in a downtrend my present odd times in which this car must succeed.

      Toss in the price of the vehicle - here's my 'WAG'... $35K at least - and the loss of 'utility' now taken up by the battery pack, and the vehicle may struggle in the marketplace.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Two-seater?!?!? WTF?

      I was so excited to have a major manufacturer put forth an EV with more than 2 seats that I just about drove to my BMW dealer with cash in hand!

      And then, turns out they ripped out the back seat to make room for the battery! Why why why??? At a minimum, I need to be able to go somewhere and take my 2 kids - even a limited rear seat, like what's found in some trucks, would have been better than NOTHING!

      So frustrating.

      And speaking of AC Propulsion, note that they've temporarily halted production of the E-Box (which held 5 people comfortably) until they can deal with orders for their drivetrain, which presumably means, this one from BMW.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is the car that im gonna buy... cool, stylish and cheap to operate. I cant wait...
      • 6 Years Ago
      As a model/beta project this is great news. Maybe this is targeted at the MINI-Turbo drivers. For production I hope they bring down the HP to something reasonable like 120 HP output.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This MINI E sounds great to me! And I would prefer its 150 mile range, despite the added weight and cost. There are some specifics that merit clarification, however.

      For example, BMW has announced that they will only lease these EVs in CA, NY, and NJ, supposedly because those are the only areas "equipped" with public chargers. Unfortunately... those chargers are NOT going to work with these vehicles, since the vast majority of them have AVCON connectors or small- or large-inductive paddles. Good luck trying to use them to charge a MINI E (or a Tesla or an i-MiEV or even a Volt)! Consequently, BMW might as well lease them in other states also, as the best anyone can hope for, in any region, is to borrow a standard outlet when out-and-about in public.

      Speaking of charging, if the MINI E gets 5.6 miles per kWh, 27 kWh from the outlet is not going to translate into a 150 mile range. EVs typically run at 85% efficiency from grid-to-asphalt, so 27 kWh at the tires would require nearly 32 kWh from the outlet.

      Finally, the reported "220 V/80 A unit" doesn't seem to "match" the display in the dashboard photo. It shows readouts for 12A, 32A, and 50A (not 80A), with the latter lit up (evidently plugged into its high-powered charger). I hope we can assume from this display that you can recharge the vehicle from any outlet: 110V (12A), 220V (32A, say, a dryer outlet), and 220 (50A, its dedicated charger in your garage).

      IMHO, all EVs need that sort of flexibility if we're going to bridge the gap from today's grid to tomorrow's charging infrastructure.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Tankdog: Did you realize that the "more than 27 Kwh" is for a full charge, and that if you travel less than 150 miles you don't need a full charge? Travel about 50 miles, and you'd be looking at a 9 to 10 Kwh charge.

        But even 28 Kwh, at the local price of 11 cents an hour is only $3.08 for 150 miles. Today I was getting 50 mpg in my Prius, so 150 miles would be 3 gallons, even at an improbably low $3 a gallon that is $9. You'd have to go back to the days of $1 a gallon gas to be "cheaper than electricity", except electricity was cheaper back then, too!
        • 6 Years Ago

        The news release quoted 27kWh (and I recalculated 32 kWh) to completely charge the battery pack from empty to full. Do you really commute 150 miles daily? Yow! That is more than 99.9% of all drivers.

        However, let's say that you do drive that far every day. In my area we pay an average of $0.0846 per kilowatt. That amounts to... $2.28 (news release) or $2.71 (my estimate). Are you telling me that you pay less that those amounts for gasoline to drive 150 miles?! Egads... you must get incredible mileage. What do you drive? And gas prices in your area must have dropped precipitously! What are you paying?
        • 6 Years Ago
        More than 27kwh per day? This thing is going to cost more in electricity than I spend on gas. I hope it's smug factor is high.
      • 6 Years Ago
      FWIW my daughter's 06 MINI Cooper (not the S version) averages 37.7 mpg in suburban type driving. She's off to college so I get to drive it for a while. I think BMW's choice of introduction location has to do with having to support it only in a few areas, and I doubt it has anything to do with where urban plug in's are available. If I remember the intro notice I got from MINI a week or so ago, they are available only for a one year lease and it sounded like you had to qualify to be able to lease one and be prepared to give it up at the end of the year. I don't know the exact conditions to qualify but an enclosed garage is one of them.
      I think it is an interesting way to sort the bugs out of a car with a new (for BMW) propulsion system. BMW is just now starting to introduce diesels in the US and I suspect they will be watching those sales as well as the new version of the Jetta TDI to gauge whether we could accept a MINI diesel which have always been available in Europe. BMW's has never built the engine in either MINI but the current unit is built in co-operation with Peugot who have a lot of diesel experience so I would expect that down the road the diesel may wind up being a better bet than the electric version but it will be fun to watch how it goes.
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