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BMW Unveils the Fully-Electric MINI Cooper With a Long List of Tech and Not Much Range

BMW Unveils the Fully-Electric MINI Cooper With a Long List of Tech and Not Much Range

Author: Eric Walz   

BMW is the latest global automaker to unveil a fully-electric model as the auto industry continues its gradual transition to battery-powered cars. The automaker revealed today the fully-electric version of the iconic MINI Cooper. It was the world's first look at the compact electric car. The MINI Cooper electric is is one of most anticipated new electric models hitting the market.

The original MINI was first launched over 60 years ago. In 2001, BMW resurrected the iconic car as a completely new vehicle and strived to maintain the look and driving characteristics of the original.

The MINI Cooper SE electric comes with a 135 kW electric motor delivering a respectable 184 horsepower for such a tiny car. The MINI retains its front-wheel drive configuration and BMW says the new MINI maintains the unmistakable agility, known as the go-kart feeling of the gas-powered version. However, the MINI electric falls short on electric driving range.

The MINI's model-specific lithium-ion battery enables a range up to 168 (270 km) miles between charges, which is a bit disappointing considering car buyers can purchase a Hyundai Kona EV with a 258 mile range or the Chevy Bolt a 238 mile electric range.

The MINI electric can accelerate from zero to 60 km/h in 3.9 seconds and from zero to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds. The MINI can be charged via a standard household socket, wallbox or public EV charging stations. The MINI is capable of DC fast-charging possible at up to 50 kW.

Unlike Tesla models that have a front "frunk" for additional storage, BMW wanted to make the electric MINI to more closely resemble the ICE version and the electric motor is mounted under the hood where the combustion engine normally would be.The integrated powertrain is positioned in the front section of the support frame by means of a solid tube structure for added stability.

The high-voltage battery is also mounted deep in the vehicle floor, allowing BMW to keep the same interior space as the gasoline powered MINI while maintaining a low center of gravity for improved handling.

The high-voltage battery with model-specific configuration is made up of lithium-ions cells subdivided into 12 modules. The modules form a T-shaped battery pack that is mounted low in the vehicle floor between the front seats and below the rear seats. BMW says this configuration does not take up any additional space for passengers. The MINI retains the same truck space as the gasoline powered version. 

BMW says the only measurable difference is that the new MINI Cooper SE is some 18 millimetres higher than in the conventionally powered model.

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Staying True to the Iconic Original MINI

The MINI electric is based on the current MINI 3-door. The development of the current gas -powered model was purposefully designed to eventually accommodate an electric powertrain.

The new MINI Cooper SE is produced on the same production line as the conventionally powered versions of the model at the MINI plant in Oxford. Its electric drive technology comes from the BMW Group competence center for electromobility in Dingolfing and Landshut.

The electric motor is not just smaller but also significantly lighter than a combustion engine. Along with its lower center of gravity, this gives the electrically powered model agile handling, making it supreme and easy to control even when cornering at high speeds, according to BMW's press release.

For additional safety, all of the electric components are protected by model-specific structural reinforcements. In the event of a collision, all power is immediately switched off. The power electronics are shielded by the reinforced bumper support and the motor support frame, while the high-voltage battery is protected by a solid base plate. 

The new MINI Cooper SE was designed by BMW to be the first purely electric premium small car, offering a highly emotional driving experience. BMW is marketing the MINI as a premium electric car, meaning that it will compete with the Tesla Model 3, albeit the MINI is much smaller and might not be roomy enough for everyone.

Being an electric car, the instantaneous torque available from the electric motor is not interrupted by gear shifts. Combined with the MINI's go-kart like handling, BMW says this creates a dynamic and fun driving experience.

The handling of the new MINI Cooper SE is supported by a suspension refined specifically for the model. The electric MINI comes with a single-joint spring strut at the front wheels and a multilink rear axle setup. In addition, electromechanical steering provides stability, steering precision in turns. BMW claims that the MINI Cooper SE achieve a level of cornering dynamics that is unique within the small car segment.

The new MINI Cooper SE also comes with an innovative DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system. This drive slip control system was designed specifically for the spontaneous power delivery provided by electric motors, makes for particularly maintaining precise handling in all road and weather conditions. 

The wheel-slip limiting is close to the actuator means that control operations are calculated directly inside the drive system rather than in a distant control unit with long signal pathways, as is the case in conventional driving stability systems. This boosts the MINI's traction and driving stability in brake energy recovery mode, as well as when accelerating out of tight bends.

Since the new electric MINI Cooper SE is virtually noiselessly, is comes with a standard with acoustic pedestrian protection to warn pedestrians of the car's presence. The EU recently mandated that all electric vehicles sold must emit sound at lower speeds for additional safety for urban pedestrians. The distinct sound is generated via a speaker system.

Standard equipment features include LED headlamps, 2-zone automatic air conditioning, heating with heat pump technology, auxiliary heating, electric parking brake and navigation.

Customizable Driver Controls & One Pedal Operation

The electric MINI also enables the driver to change the vehicle settings to the current situation on the road as well as to their own personal preferences. Drivers can choose four modes, including SPORT, MID, GREEN and a energy-saving GREEN+ mode specially configured to extend range by limiting power to accessories. In GREEN+ mode,comfort functions such as heating, air conditioning and seat heating are limited or deactivated in order to increase the range.

Brake energy recovery for configuration at two levels alow the driver to operate the MINI with a single pedal. In urban traffic, the vehicle decelerates as soon as the driver removes their foot from the accelerator, transforming kinetic energy back into electric power, which is in turn fed back into the high-voltage battery. The level of brake energy recovered as the vehicle is decelerated during coasting phases is determined by the MINI's motor control programming system.

The new MINI Cooper SE is the first electrically powered BMW Group model in which the driver can influence the degree of regenerative braking. A toggle switch positioned to the left of the start/stop unit provides the choice of intense or only low-level recuperation with the relevant deceleration impact, regardless of which driving mode is currently selected. 

The deceleration response can be precisely adapted to the driver's personal driving style. For example, depending on individual preferences, it is possible to make use of the momentum available when entering a turn to bring about a more intense braking effect. 

The new MINI Cooper SE is fitted as standard with a model-specific instrument cluster consisting of a 5.5-inch colour screen in Black Panel design behind the steering wheel. The instrument cluster provides information on the charge level of the high-voltage battery, the currently selected driving mode. 

In addition, details of the range available, current drive power, outside temperature, time and mileage are displayed, along with traffic sign detection reports and high-guiding directions from the navigation system. During charging, the digital instrument panel displays the time, outside temperature, available range and the percent of battery charge remaining.

The timer also displays when the high-voltage battery will be fully charged. The color of the panel changes depending on the charge level. The  color is orange during initialization, then changes to yellow during the charging process. When the battery is fully charged the color changes to green, signaling charging is complete.

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The dashboard of the electric MINI Cooper SE

The MINI's charging connection is designed for AC and DC charging using Type 2 and CCS Combo 2 plugs. Above the connection, a charge level indicator light displays yellow orange or green lights indicating the current charging status.

A wallbox is optionally available for home charging as well as a three-phase cable for use at public charging stations. Both options allow the MINI Cooper SE to be charged with a maximum capacity of 11 kW. At this charging rate to battery can be charged to 80 percent in about 2.5 hours or 100 percent in 3.5 hours. 

Using a public DC fast-charging station, the charging unit of the new MINI Cooper SE is designed for a maximum charging capacity of 50 kW, allowing an 80 per cent charge to be achieved in about 35 minutes.

Drivers of the electric MINI will have access to BMW's ChargeNow service, giving customers access to the world's biggest network of public EV charging stations. 

Other standard features include a dual-zone automatic air conditioning system with separate temperature controls for the driver and passenger. The interior is heated by means of a heat pump which collects waste heat from the electric motor, drive control, high-voltage battery and outside air before feeding it into the air conditioning system. 

The automatic air conditioning of the new MINI Cooper SE also offers an auxiliary heating and a stationary air conditioning function. This enables the interior to be heated up or cooled down to a specified temperature before driving away.

The standard Connected Navigation includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen offering Real Time Traffic Information and support for Apple CarPlay.

The eDrive screen provides information on the current flow of energy and the range and offers the driver ways of increasing the vehicle range by deactivating comfort functions or boosting the level of regenerative braking.

Remote services allow the driver to display details of battery charge status and range on a smartphone via the MINI Connected App, and it is also possible to generate statistics on the car's energy consumption. In addition there is a map view which shows nearby public charging stations. 

Using the MINI smartphone app, drivers can set the heating and AC remotely, ensuring the cabin is always at the desired temperature. The companion app also allows the driver to remotely monitor the charging progress.

The further differentiate the electric MINI from its gas-powered sibling, the interior features yellow seams and a MINI Electric logo on the floor mats and other surfaces.

The MINI electric goes on sale in 2020 with a starting price of around $35,000.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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