BMW Group launches all-electric Mini Cooper in SA

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 25 Sept 2020
The Mini Cooper SE’s exterior copies most of the features of the combustion version.
The Mini Cooper SE’s exterior copies most of the features of the combustion version.

BMW Group has introduced the first all-electric Mini Cooper SE to the South African market.

The three-door hatch, which has a 217km range, will officially be available in SA from next week.

Billed as the first small vehicle in the premium segment to run purely on electrical power, BMW says the new Mini was developed as part of its strategy to remain a premium supplier of electro-mobility in SA and globally.

The German multinational vehicle manufacturer has been an early developer of electric vehicles (EVs) in SA since 2015, with the introduction of the BMW i3 and i8 models.

BMW says its electrification strategy continues as the Mini Cooper celebrates its 61-year history this year.

The Mini Cooper SE, which was made available in other parts of the globe from last year, comes with a price tag of R642 000.

Tipping the scale at 1 365kg, the Mini Cooper SE is powered by a 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which is situated deep in the vehicle floor, ensuring there are no limitations in terms of luggage compartment volume as compared to the conventionally-powered Mini three-door.

Charging takes around 12 hours using a standard household socket. It also comes with an optional Mini Electric Wallbox, which allows a full battery charge in three-and-a-half hours.

The luxury vehicle combines sustainable mobility with “expressive design, riding fun and premium quality” – characteristics that are typical of Mini, according to BMW.

Its main features include cruise control with regenerative braking, adaptive LED headlights and BMW’s electronic platform ConnectedDrive, which provides a connected navigation system, an infotainment system and Mini Connected mobile applications.

BMW acquired Mini in 1994 when it bought Rover Group (formerly British Leyland), which owned Mini, among other brands. BMW broke up with the group in 2000, retaining the Mini brand.

A total of 145 815 electrified BMW and Mini vehicles were sold worldwide in 2019 – an increase of 2.2% over the previous year, according to the automaker.

In 2018, the German vehicle manufacturer delivered more than 140 000 electrified (pure electric and plug-in hybrid) vehicles to customers.

“The BMW Group aims to remain a leading premium supplier of electro-mobility in SA, since the introduction of the BMW i3 and i8 models, and we are deliberately focusing on pure electric and hybrid options in our ramp-up to electro-mobility in SA,” says Hailey Philander, specialist: product communications at BMW Group South Africa.

“The Mini Cooper SE’s most distinctive feature is its 135kW/270 Newton metres electric motor that is located in the vehicle’s underbody. This results in a low centre of gravity that, along with the suspension adapted specifically for this model, ensures the typical ‘Mini go-kart feeling’ does not go amiss.”

The three-door hatch has a 217km range.
The three-door hatch has a 217km range.

Race to EV rollout

The Mini Cooper SE’s exterior copies most of the features of the combustion version except for its revamped front grille which is almost closed.

It comes in a range of colours to choose from for the body, roof and mirror caps, and the front blade, which BMW says is unique to the Mini Cooper SE.

Internal features include seat heating, front and rear park distance control, including a rear-view camera, 17-inch power spoke two-tone alloy wheels and wing mirrors, and two-zone automatic air-conditioning.

The Mini Cooper SE mobile app provides traffic reports, weather forecasts, charging station locations and general points of interest.

According to charging infrastructure mapping Web site PlugShare, the local public charging network currently consists of 249 charging stations throughout SA.

There were around 12 million vehicles registered on South African roads by the end of 2019, with just over1 000 being EVs, according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Locally, Nissan Leaf was the first EV introduced in 2013, followed by BMW’s i3 and i8 in 2015, and Jaguar Land Rover’s Jaguar i-Pace early last year.

Volkswagen is currently trialling its e-Golf vehicle model in SA, as the first step in a series of events that will see the automaker rollout EVs in the near future.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4MATIC and Audi’s e-tron are expected to make their way to South African shores this year, but it is not clear if the COVID-19 pandemic will delay the planned launches.

While BMW will discontinue production of the BMW i8, the vehicle manufacture says its EV models remain the market leaders in their respective segments in SA, and it remains committed to rolling out more EVs locally.

“By the end of 2021, we aim to have a total of more than one million EVs on the roads. We expect electrified vehicles to account for 15% to 25% of our global sales before 2025.

“By 2023, we will have at least 25 electrified vehicles in our portfolio, of which half will be fully-electric and the rest will be plug-in hybrids,” notes Philander.

The Mini Cooper SE comes with an optional Mini Electric Wallbox.
The Mini Cooper SE comes with an optional Mini Electric Wallbox.