Mini built an electric prototype in 2009 to help parent company BMW gather the data it needed to develop the i3, but it didn’t receive its own battery-powered model in return. The i3’s technology will finally trickle down to the Mini family when the British firm releases its first series-produced electric car, the Cooper SE, in 2019. The model’s testing phase is almost over, but engineers saved the most grueling task for last. Mini released a video of a preproduction EV towing one of Lufthansa’s cargo planes.
We got our first look at the Cooper SE when Mini introduced a concept car named simply Electric (pictured above) during the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show. The production version will look markedly less futuristic than the design study; Mini took its styling in a more low-key direction. It will nonetheless stand out from its gasoline-powered counterpart with a powertrain-specific front end, and a few additional exclusive touches like the design of the alloy wheels. It will ride a little bit taller, too, because engineers needed to lift the body to stuff a battery under it.
The electric powertrain consists of a motor shared with the i3, according to British magazine Autocar, and a lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the passenger compartment and in the space formerly occupied by the fuel tank. The motor zaps the front wheels with 181 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, which is enough for a 0-to-60 mph sprint in the mid-seven-second range. Range remains up in the air, but don’t expect to travel for more than 200 miles on a single charge.
The #MINI Electric on the way to the runway: Silent, emission-free and extremely powerful
— BMW Group (@BMWGroup) May 31, 2019
There are pros and cons associated with adding a battery pack to a small hatchback like the Mini. On one hand, the pack is heavy — it adds 286 pounds to the car, which is not an insignificant amount. On the other hand, it lowers the car’s center of gravity and places more of the weight over the rear axle. What this means in real-world conditions, and how it affects the hatchback’s famous go-kart-like handling, remains to be seen. The instant torque provided by the electric motor should make it quick off the line, however. It’s also what helped such a small hatchback tow a Boeing 777F freight plane, so future owners will be able to volunteer at their local airport in their spare time.
The 2020 Mini Cooper SE will make its global debut in July and production will begin in England before the end of the year. Mini hasn’t released pricing information yet, but we expect the model will cost approximately $30,000 before federal incentives enter the equation. One of its main rivals will be the battery-electric, second-generation Fiat 500 that will make its debut in 2020.
Updated on May 31, 2019: Added towing video.