ACCORDING TO THOMAS, our local Mini Meister, the final boat of electric Minis has sailed for the United States, bringing to 500 the number of those electric runabouts on American roads. We have been following the Mini since late 2001, when its solid reputation as an economy go-kart left its mark while dusting us off on the Irish motorways. And now, BMW is making one version of the Mini a fully electric green machine with an estimated range of 150 miles. That's enough to float our boat for a return shopping expedition to Dublin. The American pilot project will test the Mini E in California, New York, and New Jersey as selected customers can lease the cars for one year. Just like a new BMW, all repairs will be warranted by the lease. Thomas doesn't think there's a possibility of an Irish leasing arrangement because there is no trained Mini E technician in Ireland. BMW Recovery Service will dispatch a technician to travel to Mini dealerships if a car cannot return to base.
The Mini E tops up its lithium-ion battery pack (5088 cells grouped into 48 modules) capable of storing 35 kW-hours of electricity. Under maximum acceleration (or max throttle uphill), the motor needs 380 volts. The 201-hp electric motor is coupled to a single-speed gearbox driving the front wheels with 162 lb-ft of torque. These numbers are more powerful than a Cooper S, but the Mini E has to carry 3230 pounds (compared to no more than 2900 pounds in a petrol-powered Mini). The extra weight prevents the Mini E from beating the Mini S in terms of performance, but it matches the non-turbocharged model, scooting from 0 to 62 mph in 8.5 sec. Electric motors feel faster off the line because they offer head-snapping torque.
We have updated our wishlist and have made a fireplace big enough to hang a Mini E, should one fall off a lorry passing by. I might take a little convincing to get the €650 monthly lease payment sorted out.