Mini Cooper SE prototype driven – battery-electric Mini based on the BMW i3

Mini Cooper SE prototype driven – battery-electric Mini based on the BMW i3

You’d have to lose the yellow disguise tape (thoughtfully decorated with little electrical plugs), but if you saw a conventional, standard, petrol-powered three-door Mini alongside this new, innovative, battery-electric version, you’d struggle to spot the differences.

This is very much deliberate. Apart from the blanked-in front grille and a rear valance with no exhaust hole in it, the two cars are virtually indistinguishable. Mini’s designers have even played with the wheel arches to hide the extra 20mm of ground clearance that the battery-electric version requires, Even the battery model’s name, Mini Cooper SE, gives little indication that it’s volts rather than hydrocarbons providing primary motive power. 

Why electrify only the three-door Mini? “This is the most urban car we have,” explained a Mini spokesman, “and that’s where most people will use the battery Mini; as a second or a third car.”

BMW claims that average mileage for a three-door Mini owner is 25 miles a day, although in my experience three-door Minis tend to be a young owner’s sole car and used as such; perhaps I don’t know people rich enough to own this pricey boutique hatchback as part of a private fleet.   

The new battery Mini’s driveline is derived from the ‘middle-of-the-range’ BMW i3S, with its 135kW/181bhp motor and 94Ah, 33kWh lithium-ion battery; the 96 cells in this case coming from Chinese supplier CATL instead of BMW’s previous supplier, Samsung. The battery weighs 200kg.

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