Another weeknight, then; must be time to read about another brand-new electric supermini - and this time it's a British-built one, the Mini Electric. If somehow you haven't already concluded as much, or you've been living under a solar panel, 2020 is definitely looking like the year to finally replace that second family car with something more socially responsible.
That's because a glut of slightly pricey but virtuously sustainably powered, all-electric compact hatchbacks is about to emerge onto the UK market, as Volkswagen, Honda, Peugeot and Vauxhall all finally get around to becoming fully paid up members of the the zero-emissions club. Renault, Smart, Hyundai and Kia, meanwhile, have all busily refreshed and updated their runners and riders.
Most of these newbies are set to cost roughly the same amount of money, of course, and most will be positioned in much the same way. So will the sudden rush in supply be met with an equivalent and lasting appetite to adopt? Suffice it to say, the industry will be watching very closely indeed. But if any one car-maker in the incoming pack already has pedigree in making major commercial hay with a premium-priced small car, and might therefore be best-placed to simply carry on doing so, it’s probably the one we haven’t mentioned yet: Mini.
BMW’s most famous British export brand has proven time and again over the last two decades that it can find buyers for its cars for even more than the kind of cash that it’s about to ask for the new Mini Electric – and that’s without a public mood of social responsibility driving customers towards those cars in quite the same way that is about to benefit this new one. Rather than whether it will actually sell, then, the bigger question encircling the new Mini Electric might actually concern whether it is quite the usable modern EV you may be hoping or waiting for.
The Mini Electric is, at a basic level, a three-door Mini. Its lithium-ion drive battery does nothing more serious to impact on practicality than very marginally raising the height of the car’s rear seat cushions. Even so you clearly wouldn’t call this one of the more versatile or accommodating EVs on the block.
Under the bonnet it adopts the same 181bhp, 199lb ft electric motor that powers the BMW i3S – except that it’s powering the Mini’s front axle, of course, rather than the BMW’s rear one. It's BMW's patented ‘hybrid synchronous’ motor design, which delivers greater power density than most electric motors by combining within its rotor design the effect of permanent magnets with something called the reluctance effect, which cuts down on the need for heavy ‘rare earth’ materials like Neodymium within its construction. That, in turn, means the rotor can be lighter, and so it can spin faster and produce power over a greater range than most electric motors manage.