Mini Electric Pacesetter previews a racy EV

Published: 30 March 2021

► John Cooper Works goes electric
► Pacesetter safety car is a preview
► But Mini is already planning a real one

Mini is rather cleverly teasing us about its ability to do an electric hot hatch with this: the Mini Electric Pacesetter.

Outwardly, the racy, decal-covered EV is to be the new safety car for the Formula E racing series, but it shows that electrification will be the next step for the hottest of Minis. ‘It reveals one of the directions we could take with the electrification of the JCW brand,’ Mini boss Bernd Körber said, ‘and for me the message is clear: electrification and John Cooper Works are a good fit.’

mini electric pacesetter rear

This Electric Pacesetter has the same powertrain as the regular Mini Electric, so there’s a 174bhp/206lb ft electric motor driving the front wheels. But, due to race-spec lightweighting, the Pacesetter sprints to 62mph in 6.7sec, instead of the regular Electric’s 7.3sec. Along with a stripped out interior, complete with rollcage, and decals aplenty, the Pacesetter also features the rear wing and brakes from the mad Mini GP.

Will there be a real JCW EV?

Mini is working on making an EV version of its hot JCW cars, teasing us with camouflaged prototypes. It’s not a surprise that JCW will have to electrify – or even that it’s happening so soon – but what is relevant is that when it comes to tuning operations such as this it’s not just about squeezing more power from the car.

Given the sharp, engaging chassis of the existing John Cooper Works GP, the bold aerodynamic aids and aggressive stance, the Mini Electric JCW will almost certainly achieve the true aim – which is to ignite a bit of passion, aspiration and visceral appeal around the small, affordable end of the electric car market.

Whether there’ll be a significant bump in power is yet to be revealed. Given the short range of the existing Mini Electric, it would be quite an achievement to keep a lithe, light car, a more powerful motor and a range long enough to enjoy the experience.

mini jcw electric nurburgring

Perhaps there’s an implication this car will be more focused and aimed at delivering short bursts of fun on the track contained within that camo wrap.

Mini’s electrified sales doubled with the introduction of the Electric hatchback, suggesting the appeal of a small BEV is just as strong as the more rational choice of a plug-in hybrid SUV (the Countryman Cooper SE PHEV).

There’s even a touch of humour – where the bold central exhaust of the Mini would normally sit, there’s a large gap that’s arguably more obvious than the exhaustless trend of modern designs (EV or not).

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches