The British government body that exists to promote business innovation in technology announced yesterday that a consortium led by BMW Group will be supported by a proportion of a £25m fund, enabling the MINI E to be introduced and tested on British roads by a mixture of private, corporate and public sector drivers before the end of 2009.
BMW Group’s successful application to the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board followed an invitation for proposals outlining innovative, industry-led collaborative research projects involving ultra-low carbon vehicles. The objective of the Technology Strategy Board is to encourage manufacturers to develop ultra-low carbon vehicles that customers want to buy and bring them to market as rapidly as possible.
MINI E models will be on UK roads for a twelve-month field trial that will evaluate the technical and social aspects of living with an all-electric vehicle in a real world environment. This year-long project will play an important part in informing future strategic and technological decisions.
BMW Group is bringing together an energy infrastructure provider and an academic partner, with the support of a regional development agency and local authorities, to make the MINI E research project a reality in the UK.
The MINI E UK Research Consortium
The MINI E UK Research Consortium, of which BMW Group is the lead partner, comprises several organisations which are based around Oxford and the South-East of England. All will play important roles in the collaborative field trial.
In addition to the BMW Group, the consortium includes an electric energy and infrastructure provider (Scottish and Southern Energy), an academic partner (Oxford Brookes University’s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre) and the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) as well as Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council.
Scottish and Southern Energy, the UK’s leading generator of energy from renewable sources, will be responsible for providing the infrastructure in and around Oxford and other locations in the South-East of England by installing the private and public charging points that will be required to recharge the batteries in the MINI E test vehicles.
Oxford Brookes University, under the direction of Professor Allan Hutchinson who leads its Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre, will be responsible for undertaking scientific data analysis as well as conducting customer surveys to capture the subjective feedback from users of the MINI E test vehicles.
At the end of the trial, a comprehensive report documenting the main findings of the MINI E research project will be published. This will help inform those bodies seeking to create the political, technical and commercial framework necessary to enable sustainable mobility in a low carbon future to become reality.
Electric mobility is just one of the low carbon technology options being investigated by BMW Group. The company aims to begin series production of all-electric vehicles before the middle of the next decade as part of the company’s Strategy Number ONE.
The passion to provide sustainable individual mobility for its customers is at the heart of BMW’s long-term strategy and has been for many years. Since 1995, the average CO2 emissions from its cars has reduced by 25 per cent through a variety of technological innovations, most recently encompassed by the Efficient Dynamics programme.
The company and its products have won many awards for this work, including World Green Car of the Year in 2008 for the BMW 118d. The development of all-electric vehicles is a vital element of the future plans for the company.
Andy Hearn, General Manager at MINI UK, said: “It makes perfect sense for us to undertake a research project in MINI’s home country and I’m delighted that the Technology Strategy Board will be supporting our investment and the collaborative activities of our consortium members.”
“The research results we obtain will help inform those bodies seeking to create the political, technical and commercial framework necessary to enable sustainable mobility in a low carbon future to become reality. They will also give our own engineers a clearer picture of customers’ requirements and aspirations as they develop an electric vehicle for series production.”
With 12-month research projects already underway in North America and Germany, BMW Group will be trialling the MINI E in its three largest markets by bringing the vehicle to the UK for similar test purposes.
MINI E technology highlights
The MINI E’s electric drive train produces a peak torque of 220 Nm, and power is delivered to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox. This unique engine and transmission arrangement powers the MINI E seamlessly to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds and on to an electronically-limited top speed of 95 mph.
Based on the current MINI Hatch, the car is available as a two-seater. With 204 hp at the driver’s disposal, performance is close to that of the MINI John Cooper Works.
The space normally inhabited by rear passengers is reserved for a lithium-ion battery. The heavy-duty battery delivers its power to an electric motor which is mounted transversely under the MINI E’s bonnet. This power unit is able to unleash its full thrust from a dead standstill and is complemented by its dynamic deceleration potential, which is directly coupled to the accelerator pedal.
The MINI E’s lithium-ion battery can be plugged into all standard power outlets. Its charge time is strongly dependent on the voltage and amperage of the electricity flowing through the grid. As with existing research projects in the USA and Berlin, users will be able to recharge a battery that has been completely drained within a very short period of time using a wallbox that will be supplied as standard with every MINI E. With 240V/32A, charging time for the car will be around four hours. There is also an intention to establish a network of public charging stations.
The wallbox will be installed in the customer’s garage, enable higher amperage and thus ensure extremely short charging times. Wallboxes fully recharge batteries in just four-and-a-half hours. Only lockable garages or similar buildings will qualify as suitable power stations for the MINI E.
Besides the benefit of zero-emissions driving, the MINI E offers significant economic advantages over a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine. Fully re-charging the battery using off-peak electricity at current prices will cost around £1.50. Using higher-rate daytime electricity, the cost will still be less than £4.00.
The MINI E’s 1,465 kilograms is evenly distributed across the car. Modifications to the suspension system and the car’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), adapted to the car’s specific wheel loads, ensure safe and dynamic handling typical of MINI.
Production of all cars for the UK trial is underway at the company’s Oxford and Munich sites. MINI’s Plant Oxford will be responsible for manufacturing the entire vehicle on the standard production line, with the exception of the drive components and the lithium-ion battery. The vehicles will then be transferred to a specially equipped manufacturing facility situated on BMW plant premises in Munich where the electric motor, battery units, performance electronics and transmission will be integrated.
A launch date and pricing details for UK customers interested in participating in the MINI E UK research project will be announced shortly.