Clean Energy Futures

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The electric 2020 Mini Cooper SE: Big driving fun, little driving range

We can’t say we weren’t warned. When Mini first shared technical details about its new Mini Cooper SE battery electric vehicle last summer, it didn’t hide the fact that the little hatchback would only carry 32.6kWh of lithium-ion on board. At the time, I speculated that the car’s 148 to 167 mile (235-270km) European range would translate to about 130 miles (209km) once the EPA got hold of the numbers. As it turns out, I was being optimistic. In fact, the EPA calculates the range of this new BEV at just 110 miles (177km), a figure that is probably low enough to get some of you to stop reading any further.

Perhaps an easier way of expressing that idea would be “Mini by name, mini by nature.” If you’re looking for a BEV to fill the role of a family car, shuttling 2.4 kids and taking annual road trips, look elsewhere. But almost no one who wants those things would look at a Mini Cooper in the first place. The cars might be a lot bigger than Alec Issigonis‘ groundbreaking machine from the swinging ’60s, but they’re still dwarfed by most other four-wheelers, and people buy these cars because they look cool and they’re fun to drive, not for the last word in practicality.

And on that front, there’s ample reason to like the Mini Cooper SE. My supposition from last year regarding the high probability of the electric Mini being a good car to drive was spot-on. Minis are supposed to be fun, and this one is, with direct handling and plenty of torque. Its electric motor drives the front wheels, the way a Mini should, and with 181hp (135kW) and 207lb-ft (270Nm), it’s just about the same in the power and torque stats as the conventionally powered Mini Cooper S. At 3,009lbs (1,364kgs) it’s only 10-percent heavier than the internal combustion Mini, too, and thanks to a T-shaped arrangement for the battery pack, you don’t actually lose out on interior space in the switch to electric mobility—although this being a Mini, there wasn’t a huge amount of that to begin with.

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