Back in 2009, BMW built many hundreds of electric Minis for its lease program around the globe, designed to test their technology and customer acceptance. After completing field trials in several countries, most of those Mini Es got crushed. The second evolution was the fleet of 1-Series ActiveEs that met the same fate as the Minis. But we got the series production i3 as a result, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Now, BMW is taking two steps back and one forward, launching yet another plug-in hybrid to have green things until they figure out how to expand the i division’s lineup. Mind you, the new 530e iPerformance doesn’t sound half bad with its ~28 mile electric range.
Mini says the development process for its hybrid has almost been completed. They also claim that since all Minis should feel like go-karts, their first production car capable of pure electric drive “is not solely focused on efficiency, but uncompromising in pursuit of driving fun.” That’s mostly because “as far as the chassis and suspension are concerned, nothing changes from the conventionally driven model variants.”
As you would expect, the hybrid Mini looks pretty much like a regular one. The charging socket is integrated in the left side scuttle, while inside, the start/stop button in the center of the dashboard glows yellow instead of red. The rpm counter has also been replaced with a power display.
The car always starts silently in electric mode, switching on the combustion engine only once you “step on the accelerator pedal very firmly indeed.”
In AUTO eDRIVE standard mode, speed is limited to 50 mph, while in MAX eDRIVE mode speeds of up to 78 mph are possible. Range? No world on that yet, nor on the size of the battery pack.
Mini says the plug-in hybrid also has a “trump card,” if you can believe that. Since the electric motor is driving the rear wheels, once the front tires loose traction, the Mini will switch to all-wheel drive immediately to correct your line using the stability control. You also have the option of switching to SAVE BATTERY mode, in which the gas engine powers the car whilst the battery retains its charge, or increase it via a generator.
Did somebody say Minis just got way too heavy? That is incorrect. The Countryman has been in production since 2010.