• Nov 18th 2008 at 4:57PM
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Click the MINI E for more shots of the car

This afternoon BMW representatives took the wraps off the first "production" MINI E, #1 of a run of 500 that will be leased to customers in the southern California and metro New York areas starting in January. Dr. Friederich Eichiner presented the electric car to the press on the roof top terrace at the Beverly Wilshire hotel explaining the purpose of the program. BMW has built these cars as the first stage of "Project I" where I stands for either ideas or innovation. Eichiner told the media that "individual mobility will still play a key role" going forward and with increased urbanization electrically driven vehicles like this one will be increasingly important. BMW and other manufacturers have to learn how to reconcile that need for mobility with environmental concerns and plug-in vehicles are just one element of that. BMW is using the MINI E as a means to learn how these vehicles are used and how they work in the real world. Learn more about the MINI E program after the jump.


Eichiner emphasized that "driving pleasure and sustainable mobility are not mutually exclusive." Thus the MINI E was designed to ensure the basic go-kart characteristics of the MINI E were preserved with zero emissions capability. The development program was launched in September 2007. BMW contracted California's AC Propulsion to provide the electric drive system and battery pack for the MINI E. The 35 kWh battery pack consists of 5,088 lithium ion cells arranged in 48 modules.

The 16850 cells are the same laptop format cell used by Tesla for the Roadster although BMW officials were not able to tell us specifically what chemistry is being used. This format was used over some of the large format cells being developed for automotive use because the cells are a known quantity and they are in series production already.

The pack is able to be charged in as little as two hours if the high current wall box is used for charging. BMW will provide the box for the customers who lease the MINI E and do the installation. The box requires a 240V/50A circuit for that fast charging capability. If the customer does not have a 50A circuit to their garage the customer will have to have an electrician install one.

The MINI E uses a single speed gearbox with its 150 kW motor from AC Propulsion. Part of BMW's reputation is built on its engines and ultimately it wants to learn from this program and bring the electric motor knowledge in-house. The short time frame of this program is what led the company to go outside to get the program finished on time. That motor is enough to push the 3,230 lb MINI to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds.

The electric version weighs in at 660 lbs more than the gasoline fueled Cooper. When we asked about using hub motors instead of a single motor, it was explained that the electronics still take up enough space under hood that the battery could not have been installed there anyway.

The next step in Project I after the 12 month MINI program is completed is to build up ground up electric vehicle. At this point BMW is not ready to reveal timing for when that will happen. They also could not say which of BMW's brands would appear on such a car, leaving open the possibility for the rumored revival of the Isetta brand. We'll be going for a drive in the MINI E Thursday morning and we'll let you know how good it is.

You can read the full press release here.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      anyone else think that gauge cluster is totally awesome?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I just was notified that I'll be getting one of the Emini's soon, one of the first leases in SoCal! I'll have more info when I go down to the mini dealer in Orange County to fill out the papers. $850.00 a month includes insurance and roadside, and I furnish liability. My driving will be monitored via lo-jac technology and satellite GPS. I drive 110 miles a day round trip to my job, recharge is needed at the destination, and every nite. Should be interesting!
      • 6 Years Ago
      What I want to know is what they are going to do with them after they are returned from lease. If they are really REALLY stupid, they will destroy them (and face the wrath of the public). If they are smart, they will offer them to the leasees for purchase. However, I would not want to venture a guess as to what they would make that price, but if they think they can get what Tesla charges, forget it. The fact that they have already produced 500 of them (as opposed to the 60 or so Teslas) show that the production of an electric car really doesn't take the long ramp-up that GM is taking for the Volt.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You nailed it Eletruk, how long do the auto companies think they can bs us, check out the ni-mh batteries, they worked great in the ev1, but then gm sold the paten to chevron...it is sickening that more people are not pissed off about this! And gm expects us to bail them out. The Volt is a joke, its going to be 50k when it is finally released with the power and luxury of a geo metro. gm bail yourself out! if gm would have stuck with the ev1 they might not be in this predicament! They continue to try to sell us gas hogs that are junk!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't know that you all are comparing apples to apples here.

      First off; All you lucky first time leasees are probably paying for a portion of the R&D costs. Granted it's reduced since they went elsewhere for some of the tech, but I guarantee they're still paying for it somehow.

      Second; this is just a prototype to see if they can make a sustainable business model. They used existing tech and packaged it up because there's an obvious public outcry for electric cars. I don't think it's fair to compare the manufacturing time of these to either the Tesla or the Volt, both of which are being built from the ground up. Give them some time to see how the cars are being used and work out the battery configuration a little bit.

      Then lets see what they come up with. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's affordable.

      • 6 Years Ago
      I do like to this car leasing even it is high. Can you inform me which website or program I can visit or get in? Thanks1
      • 6 Years Ago
      If the lease price would have been fair; I would have liked to have leased one.

      If the vehicle price is less then $24k; I'll buy one of these just cause it's electric. I've never been into the mini thing.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I just walked over to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (because it's across the street from my office) and there's at least six or seven different Mini Es circulating around Beverly Hills right now. At one point someone asked me if I was "Winkler" and I thought about saying yes in the hopes that Winkler was one of the journalists taking a Mini E out at 2:00 pm today.

      In real life, they look basically exactly how you'd think they look: like a regular mini cooper with a special pain job and the back seats taken up by batteries.

      As a potential leasee, I am sort of distraught that they've got these cars driving around the city now that they want to charge people $850 a month to lease for a year. That's $10,200 to drive a car with two seats and a limited range. Everyone I've discussed it with has agreed it's asinine to give up my 4 door, paid-for hybrid for a year lease on that car, but I still think I might. I guess it depends on what comes with the $850 a month aside from the car. I imagine it will come with insurance and roadside assistance and other perqs, maybe a discount on a future purchase? Who knows. But that's a lot of money for a [very] little [car].
        • 6 Years Ago
        I think the point is that if it were available, they have a lot of upset people wanting to lease those 500. At that price they get a whole lot less people interested and still much more publicity. It's marketing, nothing else. I think they will have more models in the future.
      • 6 Years Ago
      To everyone wining about the price:
      Considering the cost of all those batteries the mini e probably costs over $50K to make. at that price the $850 lease price is about right.
      This car is on the market years before it would truely be a cost effective option, if you lease one your paying to be on the cutting edge.
      Until the cost of Lithium-ion batteries comes down significantly, the only people that will be buying/leasing electric vehicles are those who are willing to spend extra to help push forward more environmentally friendly autos. And the only way the cost of batteries will drop enough is if people buy electric cars and the volume increases enough to reduce manufacturing costs.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm glad one of the commenters was more attentive than the blogger about the absence of rear seats. That fact is particularly material to most. That said, this isn't really a BMW project now is it, with another company providing the drive motor, drive train, batteries and most of the operating systems. I mean, RUF is making an electric car out of the 997, but its like this Mini: a gutted gas burner with aftermarket electric drive. BMW is all about image. Note their Hydrogen 7 that has been making the rounds since the early '90s. But, better late than never. What's most annoying is that BMW does not equip its US Minis with the regenerative braking and stop/start system found in European models. Instead they bring this to the states.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is the auto industry showing they can do something, but don't really want to.

      850 a month? C'mon. Just sell the damn things already, this is the XXI century, and we have had electric cars being made since the early 1900s.

      That said I am still a bit skeptical about the battery performance, and we have solid competition from ethanol and biodiesel, the viability of which depends essentially on the plants used. Kelp based ethanol would be great, there's a lot of potential kelp growing areas and it would not take up any farmland.

      But my core point is everyone knows we have the technology, it is ready. Stop dragging your feet auto execs and let's have a green revolution already.
      • 6 Years Ago
      As the owner of an '08 Mini Cooper, I was all set to sell it and jump on one of these leases... until I saw the pictures and read (in the comments above) the lease price.

      The problem with the price is obvious. The issue brought out in the pictures is just how much space is given over to the battery. Pre-release articles had led me to believe that just the rear seat bottom cushion area was lost to batteries, which would have been fine. I hardly ever carry anybody back there. But the pictures show that even some of the cargo space with the back seat up is lost to batteries, let alone the space available with the seats folded. That I could not live with.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Isn't that logo just a round version of the one for the Smart Electric Drive?

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