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Al Castro's picture

The Electric Mini Cooper is Finally Scheduled for Production, But I Don’t Appear Excited

BMW unveils an all-electric version of the classic Mini - its third electric Mini concept. BMW is tight lipped with details, but the Mini-E BEV will go into production November next year. After 10 years of waiting for a Mini production car, its time has come finally.
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After all these years of not holding my breath, BMW finally schedules an all electric BEV Mini Cooper for production. Is this where I’m supposed to shoot myself?

-After 10 years, yes 10 years folks, was anyone still counting? of relentless teasing and wondering, an electric Mini is coming to market next year.
-Then in typical VW Bus fashion with their countless number of Bus concepts and prototypes FOR DECADES I LOST COUNT, that you really do want to shoot yourself, BMW teases us with 3 electric concepts, the first two are 10 years apart!
-In 2008 BMW’s first EV concept was a Mini that of course never made it to production. The glamorous i3 took its place.
-Then BMW leaves us hanging for 10 years, 10 years without a single concept until last year. This is ironically where I can forgive them unlike VW.
-They just released concept #3 and the production car THEY SAY is coming next and soon.

Why SO Long?

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln

Yesterday I thought FCA Chrysler was bad bringing electrics to market, I almost forgot about Mini. Why do car companies do this? Can someone please explain? I’ve always had a profound respect and passion for the industry since I was a child, but I could never understand why they do certain things the way they do. Why does it take them so long to bring a mainstream electric vehicle to production? And why so many concepts and prototypes when usually the first one is great, and after Concept #3 or whatever, at that point it doesn’t make a damn difference?

10 Years is too Long!

For the past 10 years, BMW has been tooling around with the Mini brand to find what I guess to them is the perfect Mini electric car. In that time Tesla Motors became a start up, filed their corporate papers, established their corporate offices, switched CEOs and board members, searched for a factory, took bids from suppliers, started with the Model S to make prototypes and testers, and tooled the factory to put the Model S, into production. Rinse, repeat with the Model X, AND the Model 3. BMW could have had all kinds of electric Minis taking to the roads by now while Tesla was doing their thing, thousands of people could have been having fun in their tiny electric Minis, the little car that could. But instead an electric Mini is still something that’s an abstract, that you only see in the media when another concept is released. It seems like a waste for me to wonder why they do this.

Is it about Protecting the Brand?

I suspect it might be about protecting their brand image for some reason. These car companies have invested billions in electrics, but their top brass are still unsure of they’ll fly with customers. They’re still scared! So I notice some of the car companies like to make their electrics a sub-brand when they debut, so I guess if the electrics tank which we all know at this stage they won’t, there’s just too much invested, that they can pull the plug and separate from the main brand. I noticed that Toyota did that with the Prius line roll-out a few years back to make it a sub-brand, Land Rover is doing this now with Road Rover, same with Buick in China with Velite, Mercedes said there will be no electric S Class but rather an electric sister variant in a range of EQ cars, and VW is going to do this with the all electric ID line with the Hatch, Bus, and Beetle 4. All electric sub-brands. But not Mini. So is this about them being careful with electrics because the brand rep is at stake? Is this why BMW took their time with Mini as a prototyper and tester, to put the i3 into production under the main house brand? You see, it doesn’t make sense.

Was it About the Batteries?

Maybe it was about the batteries, they wanted to wait until the technology improved. But if that was the case why is BMW using Mini as a prototyper and tester to give it all to i3 for ten years? That was what the whole Mini-E Program was about back in 2009, and the customers who were lucky to get an e-Mini only had it for about 6 months at a pop. You see? Besides, if the Chevy Volt had only 35 miles of charge as a 2009 PHEV, I really don’t think BEV Mini peeps would’ve mind a 100 mile range at first. But that’s neither here nor there.

The Production Details

Well anyway, this was supposed to be, I guess, good news, so I’ll put on a happy face to make it that way: In typical BMW pre-launch fashion they are tight lipped about details on the car, but the Mini-E BEV electric Mini Cooper is FINALLY scheduled for production November 2019. The Mini-E is based on the 3 door Mini-3 that you’ll plug in, and probably will have a front motor config. The car will have signature identifiers like a special grill denoting its electric source, but practical in that you can vent for cooling. It also has these really cool mag wheels that only the E version will have. A Chinese only version in collab with Great Wall Motors is also a go. BMW be smart for yourselves: I’d also put that Classic Mini Cooper Electric Prototype that looks like the original car but designed and configured for electrical engineering, into production as well. But that’s me.

This Should Have Been Here Already

You folks know me by now, so here I go: the Mini-E 2019 car should’ve already been here for at least 10 years. We should have already been working through the 2nd or 3rd generation. In fact it should have been one of the first production electrics out on the road, right behind the Tesla Model S on the other end of the electric segment, to define what a little urban electric street car is, while the Model S competes with S Class to define what an electric version of a flagship halo sedan or saloon car should be. In the case of the Mini, that was left to either the Fiat 500e or the SmartforTwo Electric, which really, is unfair, as those were compliance cars, jeez. The Mini should be Queen of the Tiny Electrics on her own. She should have already had the title, but I hope it’s not too late for her to earn it now.

To harken President Lincoln: BMW had plenty of time to sharpen their axe while refining their product. 10 years, no excuses. They better be careful sharpening axes, because if there’s any dull spot on the blade they missed, they’ll strike with a dud.

What do you think of the Mini-E and the electric Mini Cooper Classic? Should they go production or stay proto? Are you even a fan of Mini because I see how some are turned off to the car? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Comments

Nice article Al. I feel your pain, especially since Mini tempted us with a fully usable BEV a decade ago, but then did not follow through with a production version until now, after so many other automakers got into the EV game. BMW tempted us with BEVs and hydrogen cars, most being concepts, but produced so little in reality. In their defense I think that it was a hard proposition to sell economy cars that cost $50-70,000, especially with gas prices staying low, public battery chargers being rare (and too slow to be practical), and a general lack of understanding about the benefits of PHEVs and BEVs. I think that a couple things have changed significantly over the past couple years to push them into production. Battery weight and cost has gone down, while storage density and range has improved. Tesla's impact of being able to really sell EVs, and even take a bite out of major automaker's business. VW's DieselGate added scrutiny to Europe's smoggy diesel cars, and it has pushed them into accelerating their move into electric cars, to help the public forget about their corporate greed at the expense of having a cleaner earth. Fast public chargers are starting to pop up in more places, and that means that recharging can actually be done fairly quickly when you are away from home. Lease deals using federal subsidies mean that BEV models can compete in price against gasoline powered models. Public understanding and acceptance of EVs has improved greatly over the past decade. I think that also BMW had a few years designing and testing the i3, and listening to owners about what they liked and didn't like about their EV cars, as well as learning from their competition. Ultimately, I think that the BEV Mini will be a success if it finds a sweet spot between driving range and cost. The current Leaf has 150 (ish) miles of range for a relatively low price, and the Bolt has 238 miles of range. It is rumored that the upcoming i3 will have a 160-180 mile range, and if Mini uses this battery pack for a lower price then it could be a big success.
Thanks Dean. Well put. Be on the lookout for my articles on the 100 anniversary of the storied Bentley Motors and my boss asked me to publish my opinion of the takedown of the $35,000 Model 3 price from Tesla’s website, so I threw my 2¢ in!
I love that the Mini will be available as an electric. Just concerned at what the cost will be as it may be out of my price range.
I am just guessing, but it I would say that the new E-Mini will share the BMW i3's drivetrain, and seeing that Mini line is really BMW's entry models, it would need to be lower than the i3's $45K MSRP. Seeing that the top model of Leaf starts around $37K, I think that the E-Mini will try and match that price. Of course (depending on where you live) there will be federal and state subsidies that take off about $10K from that price, or work out to about a $300-350 a month lease. But these are all just guesses.
I don’t know if either of you have shopped for a Mini but I have, and similarly as I try to impress upon my readers the dynamic that Tesla has with their customers that Tesla doesn’t take full advantage of it that BMW, thus Mini does with theirs: it is possible to order as many options and accessories for your Mini as almost the entire base price of the car itself. No joking. Go to Mini’s Site and build one with every single option. Just take it easy and you’ll be fine.
Yeah, German automakers have been providing a long list of really cool options and upgrades for their cars, but at a steep price that often drives the car's cost up 50% or more for a loaded model. Buyers have to be smart to keep the car's price from going sky high.