Electric Mini E trial kicks off

* 40 cars take part in the trial * Six-month project * Costs 330 a month including incentive...

Electric Mini E trial kicks off

Mini's electric car trial kicked off in Oxford yesterday, as 40 customers picked up their cars from the factory.

The first phase of the project will run for six months, and is designed to evaluate the psychological, social and technical aspects of living with an electric car.

More than 500 people applied to take part in the trial through Mini's website, and the 40 successful applicants (hailed as 'the pioneers' by Mini) have all had special charging points fitted at their homes.

Every Mini E is fitted with a data-logger, with the information collected over the coming six months by Oxford Brookes University, and then shared with governments and other car makers across the globe. The aim is to improve the design and the infrastructure of electric cars.

About the Mini E
Top speed 95mph (electronically limited)
0-62mph 8.5 seconds
Maximum range 155 miles
Charge time 4.5 hours
Power 201bhp
Torque 162lb/ft
Battery 35kWh, Lithium-ion
Weight 1465kg

The Mini E is based on the Mini hatchback, but it has just two seats because the space usually reserved for rear passengers is needed to store batteries.

The 35kWh lithium-ion battery powers a 201bhp electric motor, so performance is impressive. In fact, the 'E' accelerates faster than a petrol-powered Mini Cooper, even though it weighs around 300 kilos more.

Will it save the planet? Well, it could certainly help. If you charge it at home, the overall CO2 impact equates to roughly 68g/km.

That's around half the CO2 emitted by a 1.25-litre Ford Fiesta, and will reduce over time as more of the UK's electricity is generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind- and solar power.

The costs
BMW charges 550 a month for every Mini E, but thanks to a helping hand from the Government's Technology Strategy Board, each of the 40 UK customers has to find only 330 a month.

That's about the same cost as leasing a Volkswagen Golf, and includes all servicing, insurance and maintenance bills.

The only other cost to Mini E drivers is for the electricity and, by charging it overnight at home, that equates to about a penny a mile that's 1.50 for a full charge from empty. During peak hours, the cost rises to about 4.00.

To sign up for the second stage of the trial due to start in mid-2010 log on to www.electricmini.co.uk.

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