Oct 20, 2008

BMW launches Mini E electric car

BMW's Mini brand has joined the growing number of car-makers saying they will have EVs ready for private individuals to buy. BMW announced Oct 18 it will build 500 units of the Mini E model by the end of 2008, for a US pilot program.

The car will make its public debut at the Los Angeles car show next month, which -- at a guess -- means the battery powered Minis will start to hit streets in early 2009. It will be sold to both corporate customers and some private individuals in California, New York and New Jersey, BMW said.

BMW says the Mini E's lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in only two-and-a-half hours -- most EVs today take 6-8 hours -- using a special 'wallbox' outlet. The wallbox is one touch that makes the Mini E stand out from the EV crowd. Mini will install the boxes in tester's garages and they'll provide greater amperage than a standard mains socket. Hence the fast charging time.

One obvious drawback here is that the batteries are bulky, even though they’re a big improvement over earlier generations of batteries. The conventional Mini Cooper is a four-seater, but the Mini E is only a two-seater, with the rear seat taken up by batteries.

The Mini E’s electric motor generates 204 hp and BMW says the car has a range of up to 150 miles. Top speed is 95 mph, but driving that fast cuts the range.

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