MINI Will Introduce Plug-in Countryman in 2017, and EV in 2019
BMW this month announced that it will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the MINI Countryman compact utility vehicle in 2017—followed by a pure all-electric version in 2019. These new plug-in models come in addition to its current offerings—BMW i3, BMW X5 xDrive40e, BMW i8, BMW 330e—and the BMW 740e, which is expected before the end of the year. There will also be an all-electric BMW X3 crossover by 2020.
Most of BMW’s current plug-in models sell in relatively low numbers. But deploying plug-in electric technology to such a wide array of platforms positions BMW to expand the prominence of its electric vehicle program in the coming years.
In the short-term, the most exciting development for consumers is the return of MINI cars to the EV market. About 500 all-electric versions of the MINI E were produced in 2009—with drivers in California, New York and New Jersey leasing the car in a trial program in the years that followed. The learnings from the MINI E evaluation program were utilized in the creation of the ActiveE EV (another trial vehicle) and then the BMW i3 production car. And yet, participants in the MINI E program were especially devoted to that limited-run vehicle—clamoring for the combination of MINI’s urban styling, sharp handling, and all-electric powertrain.
Reports about the return of an electric MINI have been published in the blogosphere since at least 2014—but few details have emerged. The press release in early November establishes a 2017 target production date for the vehicles. In early 2016, Andreas-Cristoph Hoffman, Mini’s chief of brand communications, indicated 2018 for the release. “We will see a plug-in hybrid for MINI pretty soon,” said Hoffman.
The introduction of a wide range of plug-in hybrids into BMW and MINI vehicles will apparently occur concurrently with the further development of the company’s i brand—a line of vehicles to showcase electric, autonomous and connected vehicle technology (starting with the so-called iNext car in about 2021).
“BMW i remains our spearhead in terms of innovation and it will continue to open up groundbreaking technologies for the BMW Group,” said Harald Krüger, BMW’s chairman of the board. “When it comes to electric drivetrains, we’ve already successfully managed to put this technology transfer on the road. The next technological advance we will address is automated driving, where the BMW iNEXT will set a new benchmark.”
In July, BMW introduced a second-generation of the iconoclastic i3—this time with a 33 kWh lithium ion battery bumping up the range to about 114 miles compared to the original version’s 80 or so miles of driving range. Since the i3 debuted in late 2013, BMW has sold about 60,000 units—a solid showing but not the game-changing outcome that some expected. As we enter into 2017, the new benchmark for all-electric range from a small EV is closer to 200 miles—as found in the Chevy Bolt.
The launch date of the all-electric MINI was set for 2019, to allow for further development of battery technology, according to Peter Schwarzenbauer, who leads the MINI brand. "It's the next step in battery tech,” said Schwarzenbauer in an interview with Autocar.
The official expected range of the Mini plug-in hybrid and electric cars has not yet been announced.
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