MINI says the series development process for its first plug-in hybrid model is almost complete.
Powered by a combustion engine and an electric motor, the option of pure electric propulsion will be available for the first time in a MINI.
Head of brand management Sebastian Mackensen explained how a ‘go-kart’ feel was retained: “With this model we want to convince MINI customers of the benefits of hybrid drive and impress everyone who already has hybrid driving experience with MINI’s unique go-kart driving feel". The key to achieving this lies in intelligent energy management which is used to control how the combustion engine and electric motor operate together. For this reason, the first MINI plug-in hybrid model is not solely focused on efficiency, but uncompromising in pursuit of driving fun. In a hybrid MINI model, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience. This means that entirely electric driving is not limited to speeds of 18mph or 25mph, but to speeds well beyond city traffic pace."
The charging socket for the high-voltage battery is integrated in the left Side Scuttle, while everything else looks familiar in the cockpit. The start/stop button in the centre of the dashboard glows yellow instead of red. Once pressed the car will remain silent as the hybrid model always starts in electric mode. [Article continues after the video]
A few years back, we were given access to test out an all-electric MINI prototype. Check out our video review...
The RPM counter in the instrument cluster on the steering column has been replaced with a power display, informing the driver about the electric motor’s power reserves, before the combustion engine fires up. When exactly the combustion engine starts varies depending upon on the vehicle’s speed and the intensity with which the driver operate the accelerator pedal.
Head of MINI series management Peter Wolf added: "After a short time, the driver gets a feel for this. And this new driving experience promises a lot of driving fun. The hybrid MINI makes full use of the electric motor’s entire torque, which is available right from standstill, allowing for catapult-like acceleration. Even after leaving the slower pace of the city, this vehicle maintains its zero-tailpipe emissions at motorway speeds. The high-voltage battery under the rear seats provides power for long-lasting electric driving. AUTO eDRIVE standard mode permits speeds of up to 50mph, whilst in MAX eDRIVE mode speeds of up to 77mph are possible.
MINI says that nothing has changed with the chassis and suspension from the conventionally driven model variants. However, thanks to the eDrive components, which are positioned very low down at the rear, the car’s centre of gravity is lowered and the weight is evenly balanced between the front and rear axle – ‘ideal’ for achieving an even higher level of agility claims MINI.
The electric motor transmits its power to the rear wheels, the combustion engine to the front wheels. Since the intelligent energy management is linked to the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), traction and drive stability are optimised via the drive system. “As soon as there is any risk of drive slip, the second drive unit is activated to provide additional traction when starting off or ensuring a high level of steering precision when cornering”, explains Wolf.
A third mode can be activated with a ‘eDrive toggle switch’ - SAVE BATTERY. In this mode, the combustion engine powers the car whilst at the same time, the high voltage battery can retain charge at a constant level or increase charge via a generator. Extended driving in SAVE BATTERY mode enables enough power generation for purely electric driving later.