Driving the Electric Mini Cooper, the Mini E


Recently, the folks at had a chance to drive the “production” version of Mini’s new fully-electric Mini E. Only 500 Mini E’s will be built and all carry a forced lease agreement. The price for the lease is $850 a month and that includes service and maintenance, installation of a 240-volt converter box by the utility company so you can charge your Mini E at home and even insurance!

Only Californians will get a chance at one of these, as all of the cars are headed to the golden state. Technically speaking, the Mini E is just a conversion to an already well established platform. But there is a price to be paid as the conversion adds roughly 570 pounds to the Mini’s already porky weight. The result is a car that’s not so Mini.

Needing retuned dampers and springs to compensate for all that extra weight, the Mini E also relies on the Cooper S’s brake system for extra assurance when lugging down an extra quarter ton at speed. As you can imagine, adding all that weight also takes a toll on handling, with the Edmund’s staff noticing more body movement through fast turns. Then again, it’s fair to say that this is only a conversion and that in a custom version it would have much better results.

“A conversion is always a bad compromise,” said Peter Ratz, vice president of development for the Mini E. “The ideal architecture would be purpose-built. You have to choose the right axle for the electric motor, and the batteries should not intrude on cabin space. If I had the chance to start from scratch on an electric car with some performance, I would go for rear-axle drive.”

Rear-wheel drive, according to Ratz, makes better use of an electric motor’s instant torque response. But ultimately, the real question is what’s it like to drive?

The folks over at had a chance to drive one recently and this is what they had to say about it: We expect some Californians and New Yorkers will delight in the novelty — and yes, the celebrity potential — of driving a Mini E. And if you have a short commute and already dabble in Prius hyper-miling, then the year you spend with an electric Mini might be interesting enough to include in your memoir. We’ll likely sit this one out, though. We’re not terminally opposed to electric cars — we rather liked the eRuf. But this particular conversion drains the personality from one of the most personable cars on the market. After driving the 2009 Mini E, we want to hold the Mini Cooper S close and never let it go.

That pretty much sums it up. Though an important milestone for BMW and the Mini brand, until the electric car concept can get a dedicated platform from the German company, all they’ll have is a compromise.

Source: Inside Line

Photo: Mini USA