Mini Concludes UK Trials of Electric Car, Participant Response Positive

Mini’s year-long electric vehicle trial in the UK has ended, and the results show that the majority of participants would consider purchasing an EV after taking part in the test. Conducted over two six-month periods, the trial consisted of 168 London residents driving 40 Cooper-based Mini E models. The trial cars were doled out to both private owners and company motor pool fleets. It’s likely that the data collected from the trial will be used in the development of the upcoming i3, BMW’s dedicated EV model expected to launch in 2013.

The study’s hard facts were collected by onboard data-loggers and from home chargers. These numbers give you an idea of driver behavior and the car’s performance. One interesting fact is that daily commute distances didn’t differ much compared to the study’s control group, comprised of drivers of conventional cars like the BMW 116i and Mini Cooper. In fact, the average distance driven per day was slightly higher for Mini E drivers, at 29.7 miles versus 26.5 miles for the control group. Another finding of note was that 82 percent of all participants used their home charging unit almost exclusively, perhaps due to the UK’s lack of an adequate public charging infrastructure. Since the average driving distance was less than 30 miles per day, data showed that most drivers didn’t charge the car every night, with the average charging frequency being 2.9 times per week. The Mini E has a claimed real-world range of 112 miles.

In addition to collecting technical data, the trial also conducted survey research, helping to tell the story of the drivers’ experiences. When asked if they would consider purchasing an EV after taking part in the trial, 96 percent of participants said yes. Just about half said they would pay a third more for an electric vehicle, and 30 percent said they would consider purchasing one within the next year. Many weren’t so ready to go electric that soon though, with 55 percent saying they’d wait two years or more.

When it came down to living with the Mini E on a daily basis, four out of five respondents said that the car would be suitable for 80 percent of their trips. Those drivers also said the Mini E would work for 90 percent of their driving needs if a rear seat and larger trunk were added. When driven in the cold, 80 percent of drivers said that low temperature had an effect on the distance they could drive between charges.

As for how much the participants enjoyed driving the Mini E, 100 percent of them agreed with the statement, “Electric vehicles are fun to drive.” Credit for this unanimous verdict is given to the Mini E’s electric drive system, which produces 204 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. All respondents also agreed that the Mini E had “fast pick-up and quick acceleration.” Driver enjoyment also came from trying to drive efficiently, as 74 percent agreed with the statement, “[it was] a game for me to use the regenerative braking in a way that enables me to reach my destination without draining the battery.”

While the survey results may be surprising, the UK trial isn’t the first time we’ve seen positive reactions from people who’ve driven the Mini E. The preliminary field trial of the U.S.-market Mini E saw similar responses from drivers, with the majority saying their experience made it more likely for them to purchase an EV. Mini E Lessees have expressed how much they admire their electric Minis outside of trials as well, with one user on enthusiast forum NorthAmericanMotoring.com saying, “[the Mini has] been a fantastic car to drive and…still has the same power and range as the day I picked it up…that's after over 1100 recharges and 60,000 miles of driving!”

Source: Mini, North American Motoring

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