From this research BMW is building a picture of its Megacity electric car, due in 2013, and how its customers will use it.
We've seen sketches and computer images of the car, but more important than its looks are its capabilities. These are the boxes that BMW says the Megacity must tick to satisfy :
• Range - more than 100 miles, ideally around 130 miles
• Seats - four
• Boot - usable space, not have intrusive battery pack
• Engine set-up - rear engine, rear wheel drive to make it fun and create as much room inside the car as possible
How will we own them?
The ownership of the batteries is a hot topic. Renault seems to be going down a purchase/leasing route where the car is purchased but the batteries are leased. Nissan, however, is looking at outright purchase or outright lease options.
BMW also thinks the car should be bought outright. Perhaps their customers have more cash, but BMW believes they will want this mode of ownership and, says BMW, it will help to keep resale values high. When the batteries come to their end of their life in a car after around 10 years they can be used in other applications, so they retain a lot of their value.
The second UK Mini E trial starts in September. It will last for six months, by which time BMW will also be running trials of its next electric car, a converted 1 Series.
It will be heavier than the Mini E, but it will be using the latest battery technology, so expect it to have similar capabilities. BMW UK is in discussions as to whether it can get cars to take part in a trial here. If the UK does get them, chances are they will be left-hand drive.
When the 1 Series trial ends, sales of the Megacity will follow soon after in 2013. We will already have the Nissan Leaf, Renault's Fluence and Zoe, and possibly Toyota's plug-in Prius. Then we will have a much clearer idea of how people really use their electric cars.