Oct 21, 2016
Charging Ahead – The MINI Goes Electric.
Hallmark MINI driving fun combined with zero tailpipe emissions. With the introduction of the first plug-in hybrid model by the British premium brand, this will soon be a reality. The series development process for this car has almost been completed. It features a combustion engine and an electric motor enabling purely electric propulsion for the first time in a MINI. This marks the beginning of a new phase for MINI, and offers a glimpse into a future that is charged with excitement for MINI customers and those drivers yet to experience the thrill of a hybrid.
Head of MINI brand management Sebastian Mackensen and Head of MINI series management Peter Wolf offer insight into this new near-series test vehicle, and explain how it retains go-kart feeling in the true spirit of a MINI during a test drive of this model.
“With this model we want to convince MINI customers of the benefits of hybrid drive”, says Mackensen, “and impress everyone who already has hybrid driving experience with MINI’s unique go-kart driving feel.” The key to achieving this lies in intelligent energy management which is used to control how the combustion engine and electric motor operate together. For this reason, the first MINI plug-in hybrid model is not solely focused on efficiency, but uncompromising in pursuit of driving fun.
At first glance, you wouldn’t recognise the test car as a hybrid model. And that’s not because of the camouflage foil used. The charging socket for the high-voltage battery is discreetly integrated in the left Side Scuttle. Everything also looks familiar in the cockpit. The start/stop button in the centre of the dashboard glows yellow instead of red. As usual, you simply press the button to start the car – this vehicle, however, remains silent as the hybrid model always starts in electric mode. The rpm counter in the instrument cluster on the steering column has been replaced with a power display. Keeping a close eye on this display is particularly worthwhile for the first few kilometres as it informs the driver about the electric motor’s power reserves before the combustion engine fires up. When exactly the combustion engine starts varies depending upon on the vehicle’s speed and the intensity with which the driver operate the accelerator pedal.
“After a short time, the driver gets a feel for this”, promises Wolf. And this new driving experience promises a lot of driving fun. The hybrid MINI makes full use of the electric motor’s entire torque, which is available right from standstill, allowing for catapult-like acceleration. Even after leaving the slower pace of the city, this vehicle maintains its zero-tailpipe emissions at motorway speeds. The high-voltage battery under the rear seats provides power for long-lasting electric driving. AUTO eDRIVE standard mode permits speeds of up to 80 km/h, whilst in MAX eDRIVE mode speeds of up to 125 km/h are possible. For Mackensen this is a question of character: “In a hybrid MINI model, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience. This means that entirely electric driving is not limited to speeds of 30 or 40 km/h, but to speeds well beyond city traffic pace."
Testing the vehicle himself, Mackensen puts the car through its paces and demonstrates that you need to step on the accelerator pedal very firmly indeed to activate the second power source. Then things really start happening. With the combined output of both drives, the first MINI hybrid vehicle demonstrates unparalleled acceleration performance when compared with its combustion-only siblings.