Mini Cooper SE and BMW i3
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2020 Mini Cooper SE Raises Questions Over What Should Be the Minimum EV Acceptable Range

With an estimated range of just 146 miles (WLTP) and an MSRP well above $30,000, the new Mini Cooper SE has consumers asking what the minimum requirements are for an all-electric vehicle in 2020.
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At first glance, the Mini brand is a perfect fit for electric vehicles. Renowned for its unique appearance and energetic performance, the BMW-owned brand aligns with a lot of the qualities that EV drivers desire.

The 2020 Mini Cooper SE should check almost all of these boxes. Unfortunately, the latest release specs are unlikely to meet the lofty expectations of both Mini fans and EV enthusiasts alike. In many ways, they even fail to meet the current standards of electric vehicles in 2019, let alone to set up the brand and its parent company for a brave new decade of electrification.

From the car’s dated platform to its limited range, here’s how Mini’s first widely released all-electric model fails to meet the minimum standards of EV capability in 2020.

Mini Cooper SE Recycles a Recycled Platform

It’s no secret that the all-electric Mini Cooper SE is built on the same platform as the BMW i3.

While that vehicle is admirable, as we found when examining the i3’s impact on BMW’s EV plans, it is also more than five years old now. That’s a long time in the wider automotive world, but it feels like eons when applied to electric vehicles.

The BMW i3 has been a worthy addition to the first wave of EV adoption, but its influence is beginning to wane. A high MSRP compared to other long-range electric models puts the i3 firmly in the category for “enthusiasts” if you’re buying new, though the used market makes older i3 models very attractive to price-conscious buyers who still want something unique.

Although the Mini Cooper SE will come in a full $10,000 cheaper than the newest BMW i3s in terms of MSRP, the Mini will provide around 20-30 miles less range than the i3 and also fails to match the latter’s performance specs. Not that many buyers will notice a fraction of a second difference in acceleration or a little more power from the electric drivetrain, but it speaks again to the fact that the 2020 Mini Cooper SE is a fresh entrant to the competitive EV market that already feels dated.

On the subject of some electric vehicles quickly becoming outdated, here are 3 things for GM to fix on the Chevy Bolt EV.

Reasonable Range for a City Car?
As the Mini Cooper SE’s limited range was confirmed this week, the usual sides of the debate took shape.
On the one hand, 146 miles is going to be plenty for a short-range commuter vehicle or simply trundling around town to run errands. In these conditions, real-world range tends to be higher than the estimated figure due to slower speeds and energy regained by regenerative braking.

The counterargument runs that EVs in the city tend to have fewer opportunities to plug in as owners are less likely to have a driveway, which means that every mile matters. Even those miles driven in the city need to be maximized if you need to charge at a public station or drive a lot in a single day.

Then there’s the price.

At more than $35,000 before incentives, the Mini Cooper SE is going to be an expensive city car. Obviously, a certain amount of that is spent on the iconic brand and the underlying quality of BMW’s engineering. Consider, though, that by the time this car comes out there will be a growing used EV market around the $15-25,000 price point, as early Chevy Bolt EVs and second-generation Nissan Leaf lessees start to turn in their vehicles.

Even now, before those returns occur, there exists a healthy market for used BMW i3s, available from around $17,000 for a car with similar specs to the new Mini Cooper SE. While the latter will certainly shift some units based on brand alone, it’s unlikely to appeal to the wider pool of EV buyers when so many compelling options exist in the same category.

What Are Our Minimum EV Expectations in 2020?
This is a tough question to answer because it depends almost entirely on the use case of the individual driver.
When I wrote recently about some important areas for GM to update the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV, for example, fast charge speed was one of the main concerns.

Many owners agreed, but some assured me that charge speeds aren’t even on their radar, as they primarily charge at home and rarely travel beyond the vehicle’s estimated range in a single day. These owners wake up with a full battery - or perhaps 90% if they live on a hill - every day and therefore have no interest in charge rates, taper points, or anything else related to public charging.

Nonetheless, it stands to reason that there will always be minimum expectations for any vehicle class and that these standards will gradually move the bar upwards as the years pass and technology advances. Cruise control might once have been considered a luxury feature, for example, but now it feels especially cheap if it doesn’t come as standard, even on the most basic vehicle.

For a new electric vehicle at the lower end of the price spectrum in 2020, say $25-35,000, these are the minimums I would suggest:
• 50kWh or more battery pack, capable of delivering 200+ miles of range in normal conditions.
• Active thermal management of battery pack, heating and cooling.
• 75kW or higher fast charge rate with late taper at 75-80%.
• Spritely performance with around 200hp and 0-60mph time around 7 seconds.

It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone will use all these features, but they could serve EV adoption well as baseline capabilities that make electric vehicles more attractive to a broad section of buyers.

Greater range and faster charging will give consumers the comfort of being able to take long trips if they don’t have a gas backup vehicle, or simply charge less often if they don’t have the ability to do so at home. Thermal management will add peace of mind that the battery is well cared for, especially for owners who experience harsh winters or blazing summers.

And if the performance figures seem a little capricious, remember that part of making the switch to electric vehicles is that they’re more fun to drive. Instant torque is what helps the humble-looking Chevy Bolt EV crank out 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds, making it an excellent option for navigating city traffic and merging onto a busy highway.

By that measure, at least, it looks like the 2020 Mini Cooper SE will deliver.

A respectable 184hp and estimated 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds puts it a little behind the Bolt EV but right in the mix with the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Kona Electric. Throw in the fact that any Mini adds a certain amount of fun to the driving experience and you have a starting point for selling the brand’s first mainstream all-electric offering. It’s just a shame the other EV aspects of the new Mini Cooper SE feel so dated by comparison.

Also watch 4 tips on how to increase Nissan Leaf Plus range and drive efficiently as well as click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube channel for daily EV and automotive industry news analysis.

Have we got it all wrong? Is the 2020 Mini Cooper SE actually a perfect addition to the range of new electric vehicles that will cater to a specific set of needs?

Let us know how you feel about this new model below in the comments.

Steve Birkett is an electric vehicle advocate at Plug & Play EV. You can follow him on Twitter at @Plugandplayev, Instagram and Youtube at Plugandplayev Channel to send him EV news tips.


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Comments

Good topic. I can see it. In a vehicle that is known for being nimble and light, a big battery pack is not without compromises. Until the power supply of EVs gets much lighter, much smaller, and much less expensive these types of tough compromises are going to to be the reality. Plus, in a world without enough battery capacity already, smaller batteries means the ability to create more cars for sale.
That's a great point, John. I wonder how much of the design choice to stick with a relatively small pack was made to optimize performance? Until the model is available to test drive it will be tough to tell if the apparent tradeoff is worth it. By contrast, the Bolt EV isn't without its driving limitations - too much power for the LRR tires, torque steer, restricted top speed etc - but it delivers quite a punch despite the larger pack. Something similar from MINI, but delivered with more panache, would be an exciting electric drive at the $35-40K price point before incentives.
He makes the correct point that it depends on the individual. The 75 miles my little Spark gives works fine for us (our other vehicle is a PHEV). However, when I buy the next one, why would I buy a 146-mile range EV when I can by a 220-mile range EV for about the same money?
For me to go full EV, I want a 300-mile range, while using the heat/ac, on the highway holding 70-75 mph.
People who want a small British car with excellent handling and performance and a cool interior and who don't need more range than 126 miles a day.
Mini has always been a bit of an art car in recent years, shedding its working-class hero image for the Anglophile who buys image over capability. This isn't a bad thing, its just a different market. One can see where limited range on a town car that has an accessible look might have some appeal, especially as a lease.
We have two EVs. My husband's Bolt is for long range trips. I have a 3 year old Leaf that I use for my daily commute and shorter trips. The lease on the Lead is ending very soon, and our leading contender to replace it is the e-Golf, one of the shorter range cars out there. It's about economics: the lease payments on the Golf are such that I can't justify to myself the additional expenses for a longer range car. As long as lower range cars are cheaper, they'll always command some market share.
It depends on needs. My crusade for longer ranges has more to do with the needs of people who live outside of city centers, where a basic grocery trip can require more than 100 miles of driving. On the other hand, a number of my coworkers are happily driving sub 100-mile EVs as a daily commuter.
Does anyone know any of the ranges of ICE cars? It's not a distance issue, it's an infrastructure issue.
I drove a mini for almost 10 years. I was really anticipating their EV but months ago I heard it would be around 150 miles range. That is really a deal breaker maybe if they released an EV Countryman it would have more range but they’d probably also charge $50k for it.
I’m so happy in the summer when my Bolt goes 300ish. Not so in the winter when I’m going to granny’s house two states over, 133 miles, in the winter. At least 200 in the winter on the freeway with the heat on is the minimum dream for me. And to be able to charge at 350 like the Taycan.
I'd like to point out that I leased a Honda EV+ when I lived in Orinda - and it could take me from home to Wildfox restaurant in Marin, then down to the Castro, and back home quite easily. And it had a 115-mile range. And I loved it. The Bay Area is a pretty compact place. 133 miles won't work for everyone - it wouldn't work for me now that I live near Palm Springs. But it's perfectly adequate for some folks.
1100 miles. Enough for me to go round trip to Toronto and back without needing any charge. Of course this is an unrealistic answer. That’s because the question is difficult. Answer depends on driving style and environment. In an urban setting with 50 miles driven per week, the 146 mile range is overkill. But in a suburban environment with 250 miles driven each week, the 146 mile spec isn’t adequate. I think it is not an accident that most long range EV specs are grouping around 200 - 250 mile range. Good enough for urban and suburban use. For long distance trips, you need to charge every 200 miles (summer) or 100 miles (winter). And that means using public charging network. I just did that 1000 mile RT drive back and forth to Toronto. I was getting 220 mile range based on 70 mph average speed with AC on. Had to stop three times for charging on both legs of trip (6 stops total). Based on my real world experience, I would have loved to have 300 mile range. This would have cut charging stops along the way from three to two. Would have simplified trip considerably. So bottom line answer. Give me 300 miles on my next EV.
My Chevy Volt switched to gas last evening about 3 miles from home. First time I heard the engine run in 3 months.. 55 miles a day plus what ever errands need running. Did install L2 charging at home and at my office. Car is nearly always plugged in when stationary. But 20 percent of miles are gas. just enough to keep the fuel fresh enough to not turn to jelly.. 3 cents per mile on electric here in WI.. vs about 7.5 on gas. Next car likely a try EV, but I will consider a newer used Volt when my 2012 is finally used up. At 99000 miles I have no reason to be shopping just yet.
The BEV Mini Cooper was always going to be niche car. Like the rest of the Mini Cooper line, it is really a baby BMW in Mini clothes. So with it pinned in from above with the new, more expensive i3, it needed to somewhat less capable, but for less money. It compares pretty well to the similarly priced, similar range, 40KWH Leaf. The Bolt and Niro/Kona EVs definitely have a range edge, but frankly they are not as cool as a EV MIni Cooper. I charge every night, and even though I have a long commute (80-100 miles/day), I could probably live with 146 mile EV range. But on the other side, you can gt a '16-'17 Volt with low miles for under $15K, and have no range concerns at all. I am glad that they are finally offering a EV Mini Cooper, and it will find many happy buyers who are OK with the EV range, and happy with the style of the car and price.