Mini is testing an electric prototype in the Arctic Circle
The finished car is due for launch in 2019
Brand boss Sebastian Mackensen said the Mini Electric is a pivotal car…
…because it represents exactly what the original Mini did when it was launched
"It is the answer to current challenges, as the original Mini was in 1959," Mackensen said
The Mini Electric is expected to share some technical components with the BMW i3
This suggests it could have a range of around 186 miles
The Mini Electric's design will mix the look of the 2018 car with the EV concept
That means it'll likely feature some new aerodynamic features…
…but it will still be instantly recognisable as a current-generation Mini
Mini Electric production will be handled at the brand's Oxford plant
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.