Mini Electric Car Drivers: BMW “Botched” Program
As we reported last month, BMW has encountered several problems with its program to evaluate the all-electric Mini E. The program continues to stumble as a growing number of volunteers—who are leasing the Mini E for $850 a month for a year—are going public with their issues.
The Mini E—an all-electric version of the Mini Cooper—is capable of approximately 150 miles on a charge, and boasts a 0 to 60 mph time of 8.5 seconds with a top speed of 95 miles per hour. Approximately 500 Mini E cars were produced—and leased to municipalities and individuals in Southern California, New York, and New Jersey.
The list of complaints includes:
- Mini Es were delivered as EV conversions—with the back seat taken up by the battery pack—rather than finished production cars
- Months-long delays in delivery of vehicles to lessees
- A shortage of high-power cables leaving owners with 110-volt charging requiring as long as 21 hours for a full charge
- Months of delays in the installation and inspection of home charging equipment, some requiring expensive upgrades to home power service
The most serious accusation levied against BMW comes from Plug In America, the electric car advocacy group. The group said the Mini E program was “botched,” and accused BMW of establishing the program merely to get credit for California Air Resources Board (CARB) Zero Emission Vehicle mandate. BMW gets full credit for vehicles even though they are leased for one year. Plug In America also blames CARB for its confusing patchwork of regulations, which essentially created a loophole for BMW to exploit.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Mini spokeswoman Nathalie Bauters said the company made no secret of trying to take advantage of the Zero Emission Vehicle credits ahead of the June 30 deadline. Rich Steinberg, manager of product strategy for the Mini brand, added, “BMW is clearly committed to this technology. We have learned a bloody ton, and we intend to use that learning in the future.”
In fact, BMW will officially launch its first electric car—under its “Project I” program—in 2011, according to Car and Driver magazine. The BMW “City”—the name will probably change before it hits the market—is a three-door hatchback four-seater a little smaller than a Honda Fit. The styling will be “BMW-like” and the range will be approximately 100 miles.
As Car and Driver reports: “According to BMW chairman and CEO Norbert Reithofer, the City is designed specifically for the US market to meet California’s Zero-Emission-Vehicle (ZEV) requirements.” BMW is also developing gas and diesel version of the City for Asian markets, particularly China.