BMW tests MINI electric cars on UK roads
Before electric cars can make significant breakthroughs with customers on a large scale, the technology has to be thoroughly trialled in the real world in everyday operating conditions. That’s why BMW Group has put a fleet of 40 MINI E electric cars onto the roads of the UK to test the psychological, social and technical aspects of living day-to-day with an EV.
Phase 1 of a twelve-month field trial has just finished and researchers from Oxford Brookes University are starting to crunch the numbers and evaluate the feedback from the 40 drivers who have lived with the MINI E for the past six months.
Enthusiasm for the car is already coming through in the returns from field trial participants. “I am now wearing a black arm band as my MINI E has gone back!” jokes pioneer Dave Beesley.
The trial is being successfully carried out with the support of several partners, including Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Southern Electric, Oxford Brookes University and the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA).
“It is only through such collaborative partnerships of technical, commercial, academic and political competences that we can achieve our goal of sustainable mobility,” says Dr Juergen Hedrich, MD of MINI Plant Oxford.
The support of the government-sponsored Technology Strategy Board in promoting low carbon vehicle research and demonstration activities has also been vital.
Sufficient funding was made available to subsidise the leasing cost of the lithium-ion battery equipped MINI E, cutting the monthly cost from £550 per month to £330.
Making the trial work in practice has also required a big commitment in technical back-up from BMW Group.
Two specially trained technicians are dedicated full-time to the trial, dubbed the ‘flying doctors’. Every breakdown or technical incident has to be attended by the technicians because of the advanced nature of the MINI E’s high voltage electrical systems.
Just like other electric car trials, creating a recharging infrastructure has been an important part of the MINI E project.
That has also given Southern Electric a chance to measure the load on the electricity supply network. “This pioneering trial will allow us to better understand the usage patterns for electric vehicles, a key issue for the energy industry in coming years,” says Mark Mathieson, director of distribution for Scottish and Southern Energy.