BMW can’t be accused of rushing into the electric car market. After nearly two years of BMW Mini E testing and countless hours of feedback sessions from test participants, BMW is just about to start its second round of electric car testing with its 1-series based Active-E.
But if you want to actually buy an electric BMW you’ll have to wait even longer until BMW officially starts sales of its closely guarded 2013 i3.
However, with every Mini E driver who took part in the 450-strong lease scheme content with the car’s performance, range and comfort, we wonder if BMW should have rethought its electric car strategy, making the Mini its first all-electric car to reach mass production.
The electric Mini-E trial was (mostly) a success
MINI E Race
Despite only having two seats, BMW claims its Mini E test fleet was a resounding success, both in the U.S. and in Europe.
One owner covering an astonishing 21,000 miles in just 8 months, showing that the battery and drivetrain within the Mini E was certainly robust enough to withstand the arduous task of being driven daily as a primary car.
Other test drivers liked the MIni E’s powerful regenerative braking and instant torque, claiming the car had a sportier feel than cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf. And with a powerful on-board charger, the Mini E could recharge raster than many of its electric car rivals.
When the BMW Mini was first launched back in 2001 it gave BMW a retro-styled car which embraced the spirit of Sir Alec Issigonis’ original Mini, the diminutive 1959 Morris Mini Minor.
Less aggressive in appearance than its BMW siblings, the 2011 BMW Mini is personified as BMW’s cute, friendly, fun and reliable car. Electrifying it would simply take that reputation to a new level, giving BMW’s timeless classic a greener image.
BMW Minis are often sold at specialist Mini dealerships rather than at BMW dealerships, meaning a production Mini E could be sold directly to loyal and new Mini fans alike rather than fighting for showroom space at a larger, less specialized dealer.
Not only that, but current Mini dealerships are in the areas most likely to sell electric cars, including key electric car hotspots such as Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and the East Coast.
Good in cities
Most electric cars are used in large metropolitan areas as commuter vehicles or a second family car. With a small frame and nimble performance, the Mini E was well suited to life in a big city. And while it only had two seats, we think many consumers would chose the larger and quicker Mini E over its nearest rival, the 2011 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive.
But the seats?
Mini E electric vehicle - rear seat and load area mostly occupied by battery box
Of course, developing an all-electric car from the same chassis as an internal combustion engined car is never easy. Compromises have to be made, and in the case of the Mini E that was the rear seats.
With 2-seat cars making up a tiny, tiny portion of U.S. sales, BMW would have to address the situation in order for an electric Mini to be taken seriously and sell in large enough numbers to be profitiable.
However, it doesn’t have to be a completely bad experience, as Ford as illustrated with the 2012 Ford Focus Electric. Based on a ground-up redesign, Ford designed the 2012 Focus to accept a variety of powerplants with ease, including an all-electric option.
A re-designed 2013 Mini, for example, could have taken on board the need to store batteries elsewhere within the car’s frame, giving BMW a Mini with multiple drivetrain options.
Yay or nay? What do you think?
The Mini E may not have been as refined as BMW’s i3 promises to be, and was obviously not a finished, mass-production product. But with so much potential we think BMW could have brought an all-electric version to market without its continued electric vehicle trials.
Then again, it may already be thinking exactly the same, with rumors that BMW could be working on as many as 10 different models of Mini - including an electric one - for future model years.
But what do you think? Should BMW make a real electric Mini? Let us know in the Comments below.