Last northern hemisphere winter may have been harsh for many, but it has provided BMW with some invaluable feedback on the electric Mini which is currently undergoing trials in the UK, Germany, Japan and the United States.
Engineers said trials have shown that in very low temperatures, power output is diminished until the battery is ‘warmed-up’ once in use. This is particularly the case if the car is not driven every day.
There have also been issues with exterior charging points as winter temperatures dipped dramatically. One stopped charging completely, a problem with a sensor which has now been cured.
The Mini Es were also equipped with winter tyres to help traction, given the instant torque provided by the electric motor, and the feedback from users was that the cars performed “like 4x4s”.
Mini’s UK sales and marketing director Jochen Goller said that 40 electric models have been trialled with private and fleet users in the UK with the first phase of testing now coming to an end. A second phase will begin in September this year and will run to March 2011.
He added: “We have yet to fully analyse the results but the data will give us an idea of average daily trips and mileages and where people want to charge their cars – either at home or at the office. The feedback we are getting is that the longer people live with the cars, the less anxious they become about the issue of range.
“People seem happy with the range of around 100 miles and are confident in terms of travelling 80 or even 90 miles.”
Goller said that the Mini E trials will soon be extended to Paris and Beijing. The Mini E is the test bed for an all-electric model from BMW said to be launched in 2015.
Meanwhile, much closer to going on sale is the Mini Countryman SUV which is set to hit showrooms in September. Goller said that the company has already received 5,000 web-based leads for the new model while dealers have taken a further 1,200 inquries.
“This means that 50% of our 2010 UK production allocation is already forward ordered.”
This will add to an already better-than-expected year for the Mini brand. Goller said: “When I arrived in the job in October last year things did not look good with the scrappage scheme coming to an end but the market has held up.
“Total industry sales are running 21% ahead in the first five months and Mini is outperforming this, 36% up with 17,500 sales from January to May.”