Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Mini E trials kick-off (UK)

The Mini E electric car trial kicked off in Oxford yesterday as 40 customers picked up their cars from the factory. The first phase of the project will run for 6 months and is designed to evaluate the psychological, social and technical aspects of living with an electric car.

More than 500 people applied to take part in the trial through Mini's website, and the 40 successful applicants (hailed as 'the pioneers' by Mini) have all had special charging points fitted at their homes.

Every Mini E is fitted with a data-logger, with the information collected over the coming 6 months by Oxford Brookes University, and then shared with governments and other car makers across the globe. The aim is to improve the design and the infrastructure of electric cars.

The Mini E is based on the Mini hatchback, but it has just two seats because the space usually reserved for rear passengers is needed to store batteries.

The 35kWh lithium-ion battery powers a 201bhp electric motor, so performance is impressive. In fact, the 'E' accelerates faster than a petrol-powered Mini Cooper, even though it weighs around 300kg more. If you charge it at home, the overall CO2 impact equates to roughly 68g/km.

That's around half the CO2 emitted by a 1.25 litre Ford Fiesta and will reduce over time as more of the UK's electricity is generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind- and solar power.

BMW charges £550 a month for every Mini E, but thanks to a helping hand from the Government's Technology Strategy Board, each of the 40 UK customers has to find only £330 a month. That's about the same cost as leasing a Volkswagen Golf, and includes all servicing, insurance and maintenance bills.

The only other cost to Mini E drivers is for the electricity and, by charging it overnight at home, that equates to about a penny a mile – that's £1.50 for a full charge from empty. During peak hours, the cost rises to about £4.00.

To sign up for the second stage of the trial – due to start in mid 2010 – log on to www.electricmini.co.uk.

About the Mini E:

Top speed – 95mph (electronically limited)

0-62mph in 8.5 seconds

Maximum range – 155 miles

Charge time – 4.5 hours

Power – 201bhp

Torque – 162lb/ft

Battery – 35kWh, Lithium-ion

Weight – 1,465kg

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