Since it was first introduced, the new MINI from BMW has been a huge hit with drivers around the world. Small on the outside but big on the inside, the car has cat-like reflexes that make driving it a joy. Think of it as a Miata with a hardtop and a hatch in the back.
MINI was one of the first auto manufacturers to offer a battery electric version of a production car. In 2009, it began leasing its MINI E, a modified version of the popular MINI Cooper, in selected US markets. That car had an EPA range of 100 miles, and at a time when charging infrastructure was virtually nonexistent, the car practically invented the term “range anxiety.” What the MINI E proved more than anything else was that the EV revolution was going nowhere fast until range and charging infrastructure improved.
Before you snicker up your sleeve about an electric car with such short range, remember that the Tesla Model S originally came with a 40 kWh battery option and a paltry 139 miles of range. Other early electric cars like the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan LEAF offered far less than 100 miles of range.
The MINI-E was withdrawn from the market as the initial leases expired and attention turned to the BMW i3, but work on the electric MINI continued in the background. Now the battery electric MINI Cooper SE is ready for its debut in world markets and the company has just announced its starting price in the US will be $29,900 plus $850 shipping and handling. The first cars will reach dealers in America in March of 2020. With federal, state, and local incentives, a new MINI Cooper SE could cost as little as $17,900 and come with special privileges such as access to HOV lanes during commuting hours.
“U.S. pricing of the new MINI Cooper SE was set to establish this new battery electric as a true class leader in making premium electric mobility more accessible to a broader range of customers,” Michael Peyton, vice president for MINI of the Americas, said in a press release. “We at MINI are pleased to offer more people the ability to experience a drive charged with passion in the form of the MINI Cooper SE, an EV that is built ‘for the drive’.
The MINI Cooper SE is nearly identical to the MINI Hardtop coupe launched in 2014. Its height has been raised 18 millimeters to accommodate the battery pack and it comes with a high-efficiency heat pump for the air conditioning and heating systems. On the outside, the only visual difference is a closed grill for better aerodynamics and a special cover over the charging port. The MINI Cooper SE will come nicely equipped with navigation, Apple Car Play, and BMW’s Active Driving Assistant with forward collision warning and an acoustic pedestrian warning system.
The new car comes standard with AC charging at up to 7.4 kW, which allows for a 100% charge at home in as little as 4 hours. DC charging at up to 50 kW allows for an 80% charge in as little as 35 minutes. According to an email to CleanTechnica, the MINI Cooper SE has a 32.6 kWh battery. No EPA-certified range numbers are available as of this moment, but the company says in European testing using both WLTP and NEDC protocols a range of 235 to 270 kilometers has been achieved.
It is popular to pooh-pooh any electric car with fewer than 200 miles of range, but in real-world driving, the MINI Cooper SE offers spirited driving characteristics and will need recharging only one or two times during a typical week. For comparison purposes, the Nissan LEAF with a 40 kWh battery and 150 miles of range has a similar starting price, so now drivers have a choice at that price point. After federal incentives, both cars can find a way into American driveways for a net cost of around $23,000! Choices are good things to have as the EV revolution moves forward. Not everyone wants to or is able to fork over $40K+ for a Tesla Model 3.