Could the MINI E be Making a Comeback? Quite Possibly

Back in 2009, a limited number of all-electric MINI Cooper cars rolled off BMW’s production lines in Oxford, England. With the rear seats sacrificed for a lithium-ion battery pack, the two-seat MINI E electric cars were sent around the world to form BMW’s first global electric car test fleet.

The original MINI E was made as part of a limited-production electric car test-fleet program. It only had two seats having lost the rears to batteries.

The original MINI E was made as part of a limited-production electric car test-fleet program. It only had two seats having lost the rears to batteries.

Quirky, stylish and powerful, the MINI E test fleet cars proved popular among those who leased them as part of BMW’s electric vehicle test program. Replaced in 2012 by the BMW ActiveE — a second-generation test-fleet vehicle which in turn was replaced earlier this year by the BMW i3 production EV — the MINI E is still fondly remembered by many who drove it and, by those still driving it – A few MINI E can still be found today on the streets of some US cities where Vehicle-to-grid testing is ongoing.

Yet the BMW Mini E could be making a comeback to the ever-expanding MINI family, says Automotive News (subscription required). What’s more, the site claims, we could be seeing an all-electric version join the lineup as early as next year, presumably as a 2016 model year.

Mini E 19th December 2009While Automotive News isn’t giving a source for the information other than BMW execs at a recent event– and last we heard BMW was only weighing up pros and cons of  an all-electric MINI — we think it’s worth examining the rumour a little further to see if it has any merit.

The first point to lend credence to this particular rumor is the fact that BMW has been fairly open about the possibility of a plug-in hybrid — rather than all-electric — variant of the current generation MINI Cooper. In fact, when the all-new 2015 MINI Cooper was unveiled late last year at the Los Angeles Auto Show, BMW bosses were eager to confirm that a plug-in hybrid version was in development, along with a potential diesel variant for the U.S. market.

The BMW i3 proves BMW can make a high-quality electric drivetrain -- could it be modified for the UKL platform?

The BMW i3 proves BMW can make a high-quality electric drivetrain — could it be modified for the UKL platform?

Second, the UKL platform on which the all-new 2015 MINI Cooper is built has been designed by parent company BMW to handle a wide range of different front-wheel drive power trains, including plug-in hybrid and all-electric variants. Like the MQB platform used by Volkswagen for its MK VII Golf (among other VW models) the BMW UKL platform is extremely versatile.

That second point is vital when designing an electric car. Unlike the limited-production MINI E — which had to sacrifice its rear seat in order to fit its 35 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack on board because it was never designed as an electric car — the current-generation MINI could accommodate a battery pack without sacrificing cabin space.

Third, we’ve seen a selection of all-electric MINI prototypes from BMW over the years, including the beautiful MINI Superleggiera.

This beautiful MINI Superleggera concept car is powered by electricity.

This beautiful MINI Superleggera concept car is powered by electricity.

Finally, thanks to the all-electric BMW i3, we know BMW has a drivetrain which works incredibly well. While the i3 is rear-wheel drive instead of front-wheel drive as required by the UKL platform, we see lots of potential for the i3’s torquey motor and responsive throttle being transplanted into BMW’s retro-styled hatch.

At the moment of course, BMW has yet to officially unveil an all-electric MINI Cooper or Countryman. But with more and more plug-in cars on the market, we think it’s only a matter of time before we see one.

After all, this isn’t the first or even second time we’ve seen an all-electric MINI. If you don’t believe us, check out this Pathé News footage from 1966.

(Sadly, no audio)

Would you buy an all-electric MINI? Would you prefer it over the BMW i3, or do you think it would be just too small to be an everyday practical driver?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

Could this, the scene of a 2009 MINI E meet up return?

Could this, the scene of a 2009 MINI E meet up return?

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  • Michael Thwaite

    I’ve always thought that the i3 should be a MINI, and be a bit more MINI at that. The i brand at BMW is a muddled thing – one car’s an electric city car, the other a front-wheel-drive 2-seat sports car that’s also a hybrid – odd?

    • vdiv

      The goods are odd, but the odds are good. :)nnYes, absolutely, pick a car, any car, and an electric version of it would be better. The Mini E had a limited, but a rather strong following (Tom Moloughney wouldn’t give his up for an Active E). There is no better endorsement than that for the Mini E coming back.

  • Surya

    if anything outside of the i brand should be electric, it’s clear it should be the Mini. Makes total sense.