Back in 2009, BMW started talking about developing some electric cars based on current models and showed off a few technologies, much like nearly every other manufacturer on the market today. In May, they actually did something about it. On May 28, 2009, the first fully electric MINI E was delivered to its owner (well, lessee.)
The idea behind leasing 450 of these MINI Es out to people is to get an idea of how they use them, so MINI can adjust the E’s features accordingly and make sure it’s ready for market. After all, any new technology like this takes a LOT of planning and testing.
Well, the first results just came in…
A few concerns about the MINI E when it was announced was that its range of 100 miles is too little. In the reports just released, MINI is saying the 100 mile range is more than enough for most driver’s daily commutes. That’s true – most people don’t drive more than 50 miles one way to work. However, a 100 mile limit makes this a specialty car, not a main driver. In other words, you can drive it to work and back, but no trips to the beach, no visiting family more than 100 miles away, and a definite “no” for traveling salesmen. For most people, not a big issue, but the limitation would still hinder plenty people from buying one.
MINI is also reporting that charging at home is enough for most daily driving. Again, for “work and back” situations, that’s plenty fine. Recharging takes four to five hours, and most of the drivers charge at night, as you’d imagine. Charging ports at gas stations aren’t yet commonplace, but once they are, charging time will significantly decrease. Additional charging can be done at work or anywhere else you spend a few hours at a time, if you can find a spare outlet.
Another common concern is driveability. MINI says the owners have a “delightful experience” driving the E, and enjoy the strange one-pedal operation of the Brake Energy Regeneration system once they get used to it. The biggest thing that could hold back people buying electric cars for daily use is it being too different than normal gas-powered cars. Making it even a little bit too inconvenient or different is a recipe for failure, and all brands looking at electric powertrains need to overcome that relatively big hurdle.
So what did MINI E drivers complain about? Mainly not enough room for passengers and luggage. Not a surprise, considering it is a MINI after all.
Next up…BMW will be releasing a similar program in 2011 called the BMW ActiveE, based on the 1-Series.