Matt Saunders reckoned it would be easy to drive the length of England in an electric Mini. So we set him off with just enough rope (well, charging cord) to hang himself.
Sunday, 8.17pm at home
Tomorrow morning, we’re heading to Brighton to collect one of BMW’s all-electric Mini E development cars. And then we’ll set out on one of the most half-baked road trips conceived in 115 years of Autocar history: we’ll be turning north to find out how far you can drive an electric car before you run out of power or patience, or both.
Monday, 9.36am EDF Energy, Brighton
Our chariot’s right on time. It’s been trailered here. It’s about 75 miles from BMW UK’s Bracknell base, but if they’d driven it we’d be waiting all day to charge it up.
BMW’s delivery man gives me a two-minute briefing on how to charge the Mini. You can lock your cable into Elektromotive’s on-street charging socket, but there’s no way to secure it at the car end. Still, operations-wise, the process seems foolproof, albeit not quite tamper-proof.
Monday, 11.15pm Premier Travel Inn, Luton
Our first day ends after 132 miles. After leaving Brighton, we made it home to Surrey for a five-hour charge. That topped up the Mini’s batteries to 75 per cent, good for a 79-mile range and enough to get us to Milton Keynes.
But on the motorway – even at 50mph – the Mini E sucks current more quickly than its computer allows for. Approaching Luton on the M1, with less than 10 miles remaining, we decide that running out of power on day one wouldn’t be much of a story and plot a course for the nearest bed-and-mains-outlet.