BMW's Mini has completed the field trials of its electric model with 40 cars being handed back to the brand’s UK plant having been on the road since December 2009.
As part of the Mini E Research Consortium, 40 ‘pioneers’ have been one of eight UK projects supported by the technology strategy board and department for transport’s ultra low carbon vehicles demonstrator programme aimed at accelerating the introduction of EVs in the UK.
Head of E-mobility innovation projects at BMW Group, Julian Weber, said, ‘“The primary focus of the group’s Project i is electro mobility. All information generated during the Mini E field trials is being incorporated into the on-going development and refinement of our first purpose built production car, the BMW i3, due for launch in 2013. So far, we have gathered over 7m miles of knowledge.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the BMW Group’s annual accounts press conference earlier this week, sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson said the company has learned one valuable lesson from the trials.
“We found that our customers will accept no compromise. They liked the performance of the Mini E, but they also want to retain the same amount of room and the premium feel of the regular model.
“That is an important lesson as we develop the i sub-brand. BMW customers do not want to compromise on any of the traditional values of our cars.”
During the UK trial the Mini E was tested on British roads by a mixture of private, corporate and public sector drivers. The findings will ultimately be used in the engineering and infrastructure support of mass-produced electric vehicles and establish the social and economic issues and aspects of running an electric car.
The 40 Mini Es will remain in the UK and will be used in a small number of commercial partnerships, they will also be used at consumer and corporate events as well as in partnerships with government and industry stakeholders.
Jochen Goller, Director of Mini UK, said: “Despite being very thoroughly engineered for its task, the Mini E is a modified existing production car. An EV designed from the ground up such as the BMW i3 will be able to address some of the issues around interior space and driving range.”
The company said that 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 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, the 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.