On Friday June 12th I took delivery of an electric MINI Cooper, car #412.
After registering on a waiting list, I was chosen as one of the 100 people in New York State who would get to participate in a one-year close-ended lease of the pure electric car. BMW, the parent of MINI, is calling this a field test. They plan to take back all 450 cars (100 in NY and NJ, 250 IN CA) at the end of the lease and dismantle them. The purpose in to learn about how electric cars will fare on public roads and in the public’s hands.
Truth be told, I’m not a MINI fan, its the powertrain Im after here.
In my opinion, the cars are best described as mules. They are converted standard MINIs and weigh in at 3656 pounds. They have not been built from the ground up as an electric car. The rear seat has been removed and replaced with a very large 573 pound 35 kwh lithium-ion battery (28 kwh usable) supplied by E-One Moli. The drivetrain was engineered and installed by A/C Propulsion.
The car is strikingly styled with silver and bright yellow accents including stylized plug decals on the sided and roof. It is a head-turner as I can attest.
Inside the cockpit is comfortable, eclectic, and interesting. The MINI controls are unusual and unique among cars, taking a little getting used to. There is a large dial ahead showing the battery state of charge (SOC) and in the center stack an even larger dial displaying velocity (mph). A small LED display can be toggled through screens that shows battery SOC, temperature, and miles remaining.
Placing in a keyfob primes the car, and then there is an engine on/off button. Like all electric cars you know its running when lights on the dash go on, there is no roar of an engine.
The car is very silent and stepping on the accelerator lightly allows you to creep off electrically.
The 150 kw motor develops a whopping 205 hp that is capable of pinning you into the seat. For some reason, there is a built-in minimal delay before take-off from stop which ever so slightly dampens the rush of instantaneous torque. 0 to 60 is 8.5 seconds but feels a lot faster. Nicely, once moving even when traveling at highway speed, a stomp on the accelerator instantly springs the car forward in a way most combustion cars cannot, like silently leaping through space. The car is front wheel drive.
The regenerative braking is very intense and the car rapidly grinds to a stop just by lifting one’s foot off the accelerator. Brakes are almost unnecessary. This takes a little getting used to but I actually came to enjoy it.
The car handled a bit skittishly. It was easy to chirp the tires especially if taking off on a slight turn. The car has a go-cart like road feel, low to the ground and very fun around turns if not a little disconcerting to some drivers.
There is a 94 mile (when fully charged) electric range. Charging is simple and can be done at 120 V though a specialized J1772 adapter. As part of the program MINI installed an EV charger wallbox in my garage that operates at 240V and 32 or 50 amps, which can fully recharge the car in 4 hours. At 120V it takes 24 hours.
I’ll have the car for one year. The lease fee was supposed to be $850/month but because the cord for the wallbox hasn’t gotten UL certification yet, MINI is giving one of the months for free, bringing the actual cost to $780/month. For me, driving about 1800 miles/month the vehicle will save about $250 in gas. Collision insurance is paid for by MIIN and the wallbox is installed for free, effectively putting the monthly cost in the $400-$500 range. Yes there is a significant premium but being able to drive all electric is worth that to me.
There are some slight imperfections being the car is a mule. The door locks are a little sticky, rarely the car won’t start and the key has to be removed and replaced. The big battery has a loud ventilation system and produces noticeable heat. There is also essentially no storage space, and as mentioned handling is a bit awkward.
The car hasn’t been engineered from scratch as an electric car as has the Volt, and range is limited, but the fact is I am driving electrically in 2009 and I’ve got nothing to complain about.
And by the way this is the 1000th post on GM-Volt.com, another milestone.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 at 5:54 am and is filed under BEV, Competitors. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.