In the year 2020, Mini new times are coming to Slovenia. The bottom of the vehicle covers 12 modules with hidden batteries that are powered by a powerful electric motor. We were at the world premiere, and Vice President Minia asked how long the cars will be built on diesel or gasoline engines.
At the world premiere of the first electric Minia cooper SE, we spoke with the vice president of the brand Mini Bernd Körber.
Mini's electric car was introduced in 2008. Otherwise, in a smaller series, but in the presentation of the Cooper SE, which you advertise as the first electric vehicle of the brand, you said that the customer response was excellent. So why did you wait for more than ten years to show us the Cooper SE?
It's true, the response was really great. And that car did not have a second seat or a luggage compartment. He was a kind of experimental car. It was a car that was fun to drive, but it was designed for a very limited circle of people. His purpose was not sales, nor was he a car for everyday driving. Now we have a technology that does not affect the proportions of mini cars. The mini must be a small, compact vehicle that needs to be inside the space, but at the same time it must remain a dynamic and fun car. Because of the batteries we did not want to increase it, we did not want it to be much harder and we wanted it to be useful on a daily basis. That's why we presented it now because we have a complete package.
The technology, that is, the electric motor and the batteries you mention, are actually the same as for the BMW i3?
It's true, we share a lot of components with i3, as you said, an electric motor, a battery. Installation and architecture are completely different.
Interestingly, the cooper SE does not formally form a conventional gasoline or diesel coil. The BMW i3 is, however, quite different from the rest of the brand.
We wanted to keep a mini-shape. The shape is iconic. We want to provide electric mobility with iconic design. On the street it will be special enough to immediately recognize that it is an electric car. The design is a powerful trump card and a recognizable brand stamp.
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You mentioned that you did not want it to be much more difficult. However, it is heavier, but only 145 kilograms from a three-pronged cooper with an internal combustion engine. Because of the batteries placed in the bottom, sitting is also changed. How does this affect driving dynamics and how did you get a familiar "gokart" feeling?
That was very important. It's still a "gocart". Even more than before. There are several reasons for this. First, acceleration. The torque is available from the very beginning of the acceleration. The center of gravity of the car is changed due to additional weight. That's why the driver will have an even more racing feel during the bends. The recuperation also slows down the braking, which is less. You can disengage it by lowering the accelerator pedal.
Why did you use the old battery from i3 and not newer with more capacity? Is it the reason that it's just a three-sided version and not a larger five-fold model?
As I mentioned, we wanted to keep the weight as low as possible. By adding batteries, the car would be much more difficult. This would have a negative impact on driving characteristics. The Mini differs from some other brands with an important reach of an electric car as regards the use of a vehicle. The average user of a mini-per day carriage of any 45 kilometers, only less than a percentage of drivers per day transports more than 90 kilometers. This means that one charging allows the average driver to drive for almost the entire week. If we were to increase capacity, we would have to take too many compromises in other areas, but we did not want to do this. Our target group is urban drivers.
Do you think customers will understand that less than 30 kilowatt hours of battery (net capacity of a battery, gross is just below 33 kWh), enough if others advertise significantly higher reach?
I would be surprised if we did not succeed. We do not want to take irrational decisions. After all, this will also affect the price. We count that at least half of the mini-buyers will cooperate with those who already drive our vehicle.
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By 2023, the BMW Group will have 25 electrified models in its range, of which half would be entirely electric. What can we expect from the Mini brand, in addition to the countryman's hybrid hybrid, and now the SE is cooperating?
Unfortunately, I can not speak of the following models. I can say that we do not plan a five-door electrified model and convertible. The next generation of Mini vehicles will be oriented towards electrification. We believe that Mini is a brand with great potential in the field of electrification. It's an urban vehicle, most kilometers are done around the place where electric drive comes to the foremost. I think that in a few years, we will have a larger percentage of electrified models than most of the remaining car brands. I can only say that we are preparing new models, which, however, you will see.
Will you share the Platform with BMW?
Technically and professionally, it would be absurd if we did not share technology. The second is installation and electronics, which is specific. Also in the SE cooperative, there are batteries in the bottom of the vehicle, classified into 12 T-shaped modules, which is different from BMW, which also affects a different driving experience. In the case of internal combustion engine models, we also share platforms with BMW, but we place emphasis on switches, interior design. We are trying to find the right ratio, and the mini must remain mini. The same goes for an electric mini.
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At the recent Munich congress, the Group's chiefs emphasized that the diesel engines would last for at least 20 years, and the gasoline for a further decade. Especially at the expense of connecting hybrids. Minnie is different. Can, like the Smart at Daimler, Mini become the only manufacturer of electric cars?
I can not deny the ambition that the turning of the Mini will come sooner than BMW. Due to the target group. Electrolysis will first appear in cities and urban settlements, so we want to be an important player in this field. Nevertheless, at Minnie, at least initially, we will not give up on internal combustion engines. This does not seem to me either. In Europe for many years customers will be asked either for connecting hybrids, including diesel engines. It would be very surprising if the market is not segmented. Mini is likely to be among the first brands to have a large share of the sale of electric vehicles.
What will be the share of electric mines next year when the cooper SE will be on the market?
I can hardly say that demand for markets is very different, so we also direct production. Production will depend on subsidies, taxation in different countries. Prices are also dependent on this. In Norway, for example, we count that the Mini brand will sell 70 percent of electric cars. Somewhere else we will sell only 10 percent. The electric car market is currently still underdeveloped, as there is no established sales practice and it is also more difficult to plan. Much depends on the development of infrastructure, which takes place in different countries in different ways. We can only anticipate sales in markets where they already have a certain strategy and a developed market.
At press conferences, we already hear that there is a lack of battery-making material. It is a "little war" between automobile manufacturers to ensure that enough batteries are available to produce electric cars. How many cars can you produce at all?
We want to be very flexible and realistic. We did not set production targets, but we want to accelerate production at any time if there is a growing interest in a particular market for the purchase of our electric vehicles. For the next year, the supplier will surely provide enough batteries for the production of vehicles not to be limited. Even before production, we received over 40,000 orders, which is more than we expected.
Can we expect classical hybrids?
Not if you think of mild hybrids or micro hybrids. We believe that this is not a technology that would be appropriate for our brand.
More and more voluminous, popular manufacturers of vehicles, such as Ford, Mazda and others, emphasize that they are premium brands. Ford presented the countryman as a direct competitor at the presentation of the Puma cross. Where are your benefits?
There are more. First of all, heritage. Mini is a cult brand. Other are emotions that other brands do not conjure up so. The third is the iconic design and the fourth driving characteristics. It's a unique package.
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In the end, can you tell us how much electric power plant will stand in Slovenia?
Nothing easier. Initial will be 33,400 euros, excluding subsidies in your country. But we will have only three levels of equipment. We want a customer with three clicks to choose the vehicle to his liking. We do not want to complicate purchases with configurators and individual options.