2nd Gen E BMW unplugs the electric Mini

Discussion in '2nd Generation: 2007+ R55 through R61' started by Nathan, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

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    The Irish Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2010
    DONAL BYRNE

    BMW HAS DECIDED not to proceed with plans for the electric version of the Mini. Despite a clamour by car manufacturers to produce electric cars – Nissan will launch its first electric car in Ireland later this year and companies such as Mitsubishi and General Motors are well advanced with launch plans on the European market – BMW will now divert its resources to a “sub-brandâ€.

    The company has had members of the public testing the electric MINI for a year now, but costs have proven prohibitive.

    “Each one of the cars has cost around €100,000 to build and develop and there are too many restrictions. There have been problems not just with the cost but also with the range,†BMW’s UK head of corporate communications, Wieland Bruch, told The Irish Times .

    In Britain, where 40 electric MINI’s have been on the road for almost a year now, the nominal range of the car on one charge is 150 miles, but drivers have been getting an average of 100. In winter time, when there are extra demands from the battery, that has been reduced to 80 miles. “With the battery we are where we were 100 years ago with the internal combustion engine. The problem is that there are issues with the durability, cost and weight of batteries,†said Bruch.

    Asked if BMW’s competitors were proceeding in the wrong direction with the push to go electric, he said some companies were heavily subsidising their electric cars (after subsidies, Nissan’s Leaf will still cost €29,000 in Ireland). “What we offer for sale has to make money for us. The MINI e would cost too much to produce.â€

    The company will now proceed with an electric car for its Megacity range, due around 2013. Bruch said this was where the expertise gained from the electric MINI project would go. “That will be the focus now. We know now that we will have to start from the beginning with that new range. The MINI e was a conversion and we realise that we have to start with a completely new platform.â€

    Speaking of the problem with the driving range of current electric cars, he cast doubt on the notion that people would be happy to interrupt their longer journeys to charge the car. “We think a system of swapping or exchanging batteries quickly at a service station would be a better option than charging. What we don’t want to have to do is interfere with someone’s enjoyment of driving the car.â€

    At the moment, an electric car would probably not complete the journey from Dublin to Galway on one charge. Stopping for half an hour to charge would make the journey almost what it was before the new motorway was completed.
     
  2. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

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    Jim McDowell had some interesting comments as well

    when asked about the MINIe. He said that it was fun to drive, but not practical enough with only two seats. And that BMWs next effort, based on the 1-series, was where the next effort at electrics would be. Also, when asked if he could bring one to the Palo Alto Concouse, he said no, they stay close to thier bases because of charging issues. While I feel that was a dodge, it is what it is.

    Overall, the MINIe program was a huge success. No, it didn't make money directly, but boy did it get tons of free marketing, and it got BMW to learn a lot about electric cars. Here's an example. The MINIe uses air cooled batteries. So they get very cold in winter when not being driven and the range suffers. The 1 series converstion will use liquid cooled batteries. Then they use a system to keep the batteries at a minimum temp when the car is plugged in and not being driven, and the range doesn't diminish. Another thing the program did was illustrate to MINI where the hurdles in launching electrics are: and the biggest one is getting chargers into homes.

    Nissan will be dealing with this very same issue by having "Leaf Experts" in each dealership that will be offering the cars who knows the local regulations and zoning, to help the car purchaser to navagate what it takes to get the charging infrastructure installed in the home.

    Anyway, this isn't a surprise. I think anyone who thought that this was a prototype of a production car was dilusional. It's a conversion based on a AC Propulsion electronics kit. That's not a viable way to mass produce a car. Anyway, seems to me it was always sold as a research project and marketing study. So in a way this story is a bit of a red herring. It's reporting the termination of the program that never was.

    Matt
     
  3. Rixter

    Rixter Well-Known Member

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    I wonder in a hotter climate if the heating of the batteries reduces their life span? From what I understand heat and batteries don't mix well.

    I recall that BMW was boasting how many MINI-E's were going to be provided for the 2012 Olympics in London, hopefully they'll still be providing MINIs, it's a great marketing op.
     
  4. jcauseyfd

    jcauseyfd New Member

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    Wonder what is going to happen to the existing fleet?
     
  5. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

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    hotter climates aren't bad...

    then the temp regulation system may have to extract heat from the batteries, but really, they have to do this anyway, even in cold climates when they are running hard. It's really the temp at long rest that has an effect on storage capacity and hence range....

    As far as the existing fleet, I'd heard that they may extend the lease to a second year, but this wasn't for sure. But the long term prospects for MINIes aren't good. They should take a page from GM and let museums, engineering schools and the like get their hands on them. But they can't be sold cause then they'd have to be supported, and this would just flush tons of money down the toilet.

    Matt
     
  6. lotsie

    lotsie Club Coordinator

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    They could give me one, and I'd waive support:lol:

    Mark
     
  7. Sideways

    Sideways New Member

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    As long as they dont CRUSH them (like GM foolishly did), and continue to allow testing...even if it is NOT through public leases. I agree with the donation of them to Museums and Universities and the like. This is short term...What is one of these going to look like in 4 years time??? 10 years time??? it is still a viable test bed even if they plan to launch the MEGAcity car in 2013
     
  8. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

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    Nope...

    really, the costs of running a program like this are huge. When one has learned most of what one can lean then it's time to part them out and put them to bed.

    Really, these are conversions. They bought subsystems from AC Propulsion, hacked them into the cars, put on a nice paint job and did the program. The cars aren't based on technologies that BMW will bring to production. They don't even use what has become the "standard" charging plug. And the air cooled battery pack is a limitation in a lot of climates.

    And while there are good bits in the cars for the hobbiest electric car junky, the costs of taking the drivetrain out and selling the shells and the drivetrains separatly is probably less than they would make doing it. Maybe if they could return the propulsion system in bulk to AC Propulsion, maybe AC could sell them as "refurbished" units. (AC sells kits for cars for about $25k). Then at least the hart of the cars could live on.

    If I were BMW, I'd extend the lease an extra year to keep current owners happy, give them the opportunity to move to the next 1-series electric, and try to find some homes for the fleet. Those that don't get "adopted" I'd part out, I'd repaint the shells, then send them to scrap yards. The economics of anything else just doesn't make sense.

    While we may have a lot of emotional attachement to the MINIe cause it's one of "our" cars, really, the program has done what it needs to do and the marginal return on what will be learned keeping them on the road longer doesn't really justify the costs of doing it.

    And I say this as a big fan of electric transportation.

    Matt

    ps, one might make a case for one or two fleet deployments like what Mitsu is doing with the iMEV in Sacramento and the like. But this is with a car that they are putting into production. Wouldn't it be nice if the cars found a nice home as say, the public works transportation of Bolder Colorado or something like that...
     
  9. maxmini

    maxmini New Member

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    We had 3 mini e's at our mini car show this morning. There was no talk of this development but one of the owners said he was signed up for a second year on his lease. This was always a test bed , they were never going to offer a electric version limited to two seats.

    Randy
     

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