The recent announcement of a new Mini probably came as no great surprise as back in 2016 the brand’s CEO Peter Schwarzenbauer stated his intentions to reform the range to a quintet of core ‘superheroes’. The first four are represented by the standard three/five door, the Clubman, the Countryman and the Convertible but there has been great speculation about the fifth car.
In October of last year, it was announced that BMW would build an all-electric Mini, which prompted further debate as to what form it would take and where it would be made. Some enthusiasts thought it might be a version of 2011 Rocketman ‘Mini Mini’ city car while others hoped that it would be the quite stunning 2014 Superleggera Vision, a two-seater convertible in the great tradition of the Austin-Healey Sprite.
But, in late July, we all learned that the latest car would have a hatchback body and that it would be made in Cowley. The plant’s MD Frank Bachmann said that ‘As the main manufacturer of the Mini three-door, with production expertise built up over many years, it makes sense for us to build this all-electric model’.
Of course, this will not be the first non-petrol or diesel Mini as two months ago, BMW introduced the Cooper Countryman Plug-in Hybrid. Many readers will also remember that 2008 marked the debut of the E with power from a lithium-ion battery and a distinctive dark silver with yellow ‘plug logo’ paint finish. 600 examples of the E served as trial vehicles across the world and demonstrated the viability of an electric Mini. The interior space was limited – the rear seat was displaced by the modified transmission- the range was limited and if battery levels fell below a certain point, power delivery was deliberately reduced but despite the extra weight, the top speed was still 95 mph. Car magazine though that ‘this car feels good enough to go on general sale, and succeed, right now.’
The 2019 Mini will mark a further stage in BMW’s plans and the company predicts that electrified vehicles will account for between 15-25% of their sales by 2025. One of the principal challenges for Superhero No. 5 will be demonstrating to potential owners that it is as suited to motorways and long commutes as it is to urban traffic. BMW has stated that ‘factors such as regulation, incentives and charging infrastructure will play a major role in determining the scale of electrification from market to market’.
The next incarnation of the Mini will enter production 60 years after the first appearance of the original Alec Issigonis masterpiece, a time when the proud owner of a new De Luxe was both delighted that there were a heater and windscreen washers as standard and amazed by its engineering. In 1959 many British drivers would have only vaguely heard of transverse engines and front wheel drive and six decades later, the Mini could be the car that spearheads an electric transport revolution in the UK. And provide ‘Wizardry on Wheels’ for a new generation of motorists.