Battery-powered Mini development is at an advanced stage; brand boss Sebastian Mackensen said it'll handle like a true Mini

Mini believes its first series production electric model, pictured here testing in prototype form in the Arctic Circle, marks a pivotal point in its history because it directly links to the core values for which Mini was created.

Speaking to Autocar at the 2018 Mini launch in Brussels, brand boss Sebastian Mackensen said he believes the Mini Electric is the car that Alec Issigonis, who was responsible for the original Mini, would have created had he been alive today. “We always joke and say if Issigonis would invent the Mini today, it would definitely be an electric car,” said Mackensen. “It is the answer to current challenges, as the original Mini was in 1959.”

The car, first previewed by the Mini Electric concept of 2017, is undergoing cold weather testing, where the components and range of a development mule based on the pre-facelift Mini is being examined in sub-zero conditions. Its handling is also being assessed in these extremely slippery conditions; Mackensen has confidently predicted that the EV Mini will actually handle more like the original Mini philosophy had intended due to its lower centre of gravity.

“We always talk about go-kart feeling and probably the electric Mini will bring that to another level,” he said. “The torque and the responsiveness, combined with the low centre of weight – it will stick to the ground even more [than the combustion-engined car].”

Although the car’s range is not yet confirmed, the latest i3 of Mini parent BMW offers clues about what’s possible using the group’s electric technology. The i3 uses a synchronous electric motor delivering up to 181bhp and 199lb ft while offering up to 186 miles of range, according to NEDC tests.

Mini is undecided whether other variants of the electric hatchback, which will be based on the three-door body shape, will be launched in the first generation. Consistency across the brand’s line-up suggests a Cooper model could follow, but Mackensen said finding the balance between performance and range was the first priority.

He suggested the design of the Mini Electric will be toned down from the concept because “Mini doesn’t need to make a big statement saying we want to be cool and electric any more”. Instead, the final production car’s design will mix the updated look of the 2018 Mini models with aerodynamic features of the concept.

These include veins that channel air around the body and a grille-less nose, as well as an air extractor slot behind the front wheel – similar to the one featured on the BMW 8 Series concept. The electric Mini concept also has a more heavily sculpted bodyside and a neat intake with a tiny spoiler in front of the rear wheel.

Mini exterior design boss Christopher Weil referred to this as the “efficiency layer” at the concept’s reveal last year. He said: “The way you manage airflow is specific for every individual car, but the main aerodynamic principles are the same. It’s very good for the drag coefficient when you have an opening behind the wheels so that the air can flow out, rather than just creating turbulence [inside the wheel wells].” He admitted that the unusual asymmetric wheel design is heavily influenced by 1980s car design.

Mackensen suggested several of these features could remain on the final car, but that “it will be a car that clearly shows it’s part of the latest Mini hatch family”. He described the finished product as a “fusion” that “will definitely be recognisable as being the electric Mini, but it will not be the concept entirely”.

Mini Electric production will be handled at the brand’s Oxford plant in 2019, 11 years after the Mini E was launched. Although the first electric Mini was limited to 600 examples, the future model will be produced with no cap on total numbers.

More content:

Mini Electric due as fifth 'superhero' model in 2019

Fisker Emotion revealed at CES with 400-mile range

Our Verdict

Mini Cooper S

Now in its third generation, we find out if the bigger, cleverer and more mature Mini can still entertain like it predecessors did

Join the debate


24 January 2018

Mini electric concept would be the future of car industry. Now the revolution in EV segment has now started.

24 January 2018

If Issigonis was designing a new Mini I suspect it would look more like Rovers Spiritual concept and wouldn't be a retro throwback. That said I like it's retro looks.

24 January 2018

Sebastian Mackensen is deluding himself - Issigonis has been spinning in his grave for the past 16 years - NOTHING about ANY of the comical pastiches that Mini has put out since 2001 would have been done by the great man. As TStag pointed out, the Spritual concepts were akin to what Issigonis may have done were he still alive.

XXXX just went POP.

24 January 2018

MINI should take the opportunity to shave a bit off the front overhang for this electric version, surely the US crash regulations will allow that?

24 January 2018

If Issigonis had been designing the new Mini it would be like the original, a functional, engineering lead, economic dissaster!

The credit for BMW was understanding that what people wanted was a small car that was cute and nice to drive. They weren't after a small car because they couldn't afford a large one, they weren't after amazing radical packaging.

As a result they have a very strong brand and a popular car that gives many people what they want.

24 January 2018

I do wish that journalists wouldn’t refer to NEDC range numbers when reporting on vehicles.  At least add the caveat that they are likely to be at least 30% less in the real world. 

24 January 2018
peetee wrote:

I do wish that journalists wouldn’t refer to NEDC range numbers when reporting on vehicles.  At least add the caveat that they are likely to be at least 30% less in the real world. 

Until a particular vehicle is tested that's all they have to go on.  Any quoted percentage reduction would be pure speculation.  If any individual is stupid enough to understand that an electric vehicle, just like a conventially fuelled vehicle will achieve any official quoted figure then they deserve what they get.

24 January 2018

I remember seeing a Rover Mini concept whilst working at Rover for BMW back in the late 90's trying to get a relaible tool pressing for the then prototype MINI.  It was a tiny rear engined car.  Not sure what happened to it, shame no company ran with it.

28 March 2018

There was a one-off concept car produced in the gap between the old mini and the first BMW MINI models.   That was a body shell over MGF mechanics, so mid-engine (behind driver, on rear axle).   Appeared briefly around the Monte Carlo rally circuit to get press coverage.


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week