Mini believes its first series production electric model, which is currently being tested in prototype form in the Arctic Circle, marks a pivotal point in its history because it directly links to the core values for which Mini was created.
At the 2018 Mini launch in Brussels, brand boss Sebastian Mackensen said he believes the Mini Electric is the car that Alec Issigonis, who was responsible for the original Mini, would have created had he been alive today. “We always joke and say if Issigonis would invent the Mini today, it would definitely be an electric car,” said Mackensen. “It is the answer to current challenges, as the original Mini was in 1959.”
The car, first previewed by the Mini Electric concept of 2017, is undergoing cold weather testing, where the components and range of a development mule based on the pre-facelift Mini is being examined in sub-zero conditions. Its handling is also being assessed in these extremely slippery conditions; Mackensen has confidently predicted that the Mini EV will actually handle more like the original Mini due to its lower centre of gravity.
“We always talk about go-kart feeling and probably the electric Mini will bring that to another level,” he said. “The torque and the responsiveness, combined with the low centre of weight – it will stick to the ground even more [than the combustion-engined car].”
Although the car’s range is not yet confirmed, the latest i3 of Mini parent BMW offers clues about what’s possible using the group’s electric technology. The i3 uses a synchronous electric motor delivering up to 181bhp and 270Nm while offering up to 300 kilometres of range, according to NEDC tests.
Mini is undecided whether other variants of the electric hatchback, which will be based on the three-door body shape, will be launched in the first generation. Consistency across the brand’s line-up suggests a Cooper model could follow, but Mackensen said finding the balance between performance and range was the first priority.
He suggested the design of the Mini Electric will be toned down from the concept because “Mini doesn’t need to make a big statement saying we want to be cool and electric any more”. Instead, the final production car’s design will mix the updated look of the 2018 Mini models with aerodynamic features of the concept.
These include veins that channel air around the body and a grille-less nose, as well as an air extractor slot behind the front wheel – similar to the one featured on the BMW 8 Series concept. The electric Mini concept also has a more heavily sculpted bodyside and a neat intake with a tiny spoiler in front of the rear wheel.
Mini exterior design boss Christopher Weil referred to this as the “efficiency layer” at the concept’s reveal last year. He admitted that the unusual asymmetric wheel design is heavily influenced by 1980s car design.
Mackensen suggested several of these features could remain on the final car, but that “it will be a car that clearly shows it’s part of the latest Mini hatch family”. He described the finished product as a “fusion” that “will definitely be recognisable as being the electric Mini, but it will not be the concept entirely”.
Mini Electric production will be handled at the brand’s Oxford plant in 2019, 11 years after the Mini E was launched. Although the first electric Mini was limited to 600 examples, the future model will be produced with no cap on total numbers.