As the second half of the twelve month MINI-E field trial begins this week, the outcome of interviews and objective data collected from the first three months, of the December to June 2010 phase of the trial has now been analyzed.
The key results show that MINI and the BMW Group are gleaning valuable learning that will help shape the specification and operating characteristics of its Megacity vehicle which will make its debut in 2013.
The first phase of the MINI-E trial has shown that the average daily drive is only marginally different to those of standard MINI Cooper and BMW 1 series drivers. The average trip distance was 8.5 miles, just under a reported national average of 8.6 miles.
One problem users reported is that they found the two seat capacity of the MINI-E very restrictive (the battery takes up the space which usually situates the back seats) and reported that the range of the battery was much diminished during the extremely cold weather conditions in December 2009 and January 2010.
On the matter of pricing, 44% of the drivers involved in the trial reckoned they would be prepared to pay up to a third more for an electric MINI than for a conventional one. BMW’s analysis of this is that £16,000 seems to be the maximum acceptable price. For comparison, the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Peugeot iOn, which will all be on the market in 2011, cost over £20,000 to buy (or, in the case of the Peugeot, to lease for four years), even with a £5000 UK Government grant.
The key findings from the first six months of the UK field trial are as follows:
– MINI-E usage differs only marginally from a control group of MINI Cooper and BMW 116i drivers in terms of average journey distance, daily mileage and frequency of use.
– Before the trials began, users expected limitations in terms of range and charging times. In practice these have only proved to be barriers in a very few specific cases.
– Users felt reassured that both the MINI-E itself and the charging process are completely safe.
– There was a very strong feeling from both private and fleet users that renewable energy should play an important role in future electricity generation. There was also a strong feeling that the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) should be charged using renewables to optimize the ecological advantages of an EV.
– The BMW Group is trusted to provide a technically mature solution to the challenges presented by EVs.
– Users reported a need for more interior space for journeys requiring more passengers and more storage capacity.
– Users felt strongly that public charging facilities for EVs were desirable and even essential. However, at the same time, the majority claimed that they coped without public charging facilities.
– In summary, users liked MINI-E’s lack of noise, the convenience of home charging, low off peak power charges, not having to go to a petrol station and queue, driving a zero emissions vehicle, MINI-E’s acceleration characteristics and regenerative braking.
– Drawbacks include current mileage range for certain journeys, limited carrying capacity and sub-optimal car performance during the extremely cold weather conditions in December 2009 and January 2010.
The information gained in the UK trials (and similar ones in the US and Germany) is the most important part of the MINI-E project. The car itself won’t go into production – instead, BMW is working on the forthcoming Megacity Vehicle, or MCV, which is due to go on sale in 2013.