► Mini's going fully electric
► New hatch in 2023 will be smaller
► Plus e-JCW concepts and production-spec Urbanaut
Mini's announced a huge roadmap on just how the whole brand will go electric across the next decade. While it's started with the Mini Electric hatch, and the Countryman plug-in hybrid, the entire range will be revised from 2023 onwards with the prime directive of going all-electric.
CAR spoke to Bernd Körber in late October, and he revealed just what was rattling around inside his head for the future of the brand. 'We've got the next five years pretty much buttoned up,' he tells CAR, 'but even thinking about the platform that will replace the matrix introduced in 2023 is still spooky stuff right now.'
Everything from an entirely new Mini hatch, the possibility of electric JCW models and the revival of old and current nameplates is all on the cards. Read on for all we know.
Back up a step – how is Mini currently electrified?
Mini's electrified range currently spans between two models: the Mini Electric BEV supermini and the Countryman S E All4 – a plug-in hybrid.
The Mini Electric is three-door only, powered by a 32.6kWh battery pack and a single e-motor on the front wheels for 181bhp and 199lb ft of torque, meaning a 7.3sec 0-62mph time and a top speed of 93mph. Mini claims up to 145 miles on a single charge – not a huge number compared to rivals, with it only bettering the Honda E in terms of its claimed range.
As for the Countryman plug-in hybrid, that comprises a 1.5-litre petrol engine, a 10kWh battery pack and a single e-motor for 217bhp and 283lb ft, with claimed economy figures of around 149mpg and emissions of 40g/km.
But there's a lot more to come, with the first big step coming in 2023.
New electric Mini hatchback in 2023
Mini's starting with its bread-and-butter hatchback supermini, with an all-new generation coming in 2023 with an electric three-door version first. Codenamed AO, the new EV models will be distributed on a global basis exclusively through the Mini network. Unlike the i3, the motor of the three-door Mini EV drives the front wheels.
'The three-door hatchback kicks off as EV in 2023 while carrying on as ICE version until mid-2025,' Bernd tells CAR, 'but here's a surprise: the visual difference between the two cars will be hard to spot. How come? Because we won´t mess with our prime icon. A Mini is a Mini, no matter whether it is battery- or petrol-powered.' Just like the current Mini hatchback and its electric counterpart, then.
What's going to happen to the five-door variant, you ask? It soldiers on in combustion-engine form, but there won´t be a battery-operated equivalent. Ditto the Mini Convertible, which will remain engine-powered until 2025.
Larger family cars from 2024
The year 2024 is the scheduled launch date of a brand-new five-door zero-emission CUV, which will almost certainly also be available with all-wheel drive. Think of it as a reimagined four-door Paceman, but with a less rakish roofline and a new XXL body-colour grille. Except for image and price, it plays in the same league as the Peugeot e-2008 and Vauxhall Mokka-e.
The next Countryman will be built in Dresden (the first Mini ever made in Germany) will however drop the familiar components set in favour of the bigger hardware from the next-generation X1 and its electric iX1 counterpart; both the ICE version and its all-electric sibling are to share the same platform and the same design. 'The plan is to market the CUV as small electric-only crossover and to position the bigger third-generation Countryman SUV about half a notch above the current model,' says Körber. 'Thanks to the modular layout, there should be no practical downside for either drivetrain option.'
What else is on the electric product plan?
By reading between the lines, it seems clear that Mini will also use the second half of the decade to move its bookends further apart.
At the bottom of the range, we expect a smaller three-door electric hatch along the lines of the Rocketman design exercise and the on-off 'MiniMini' project. This city car should eventually replace the barely larger three-door hatch.
At the other end of the scale, a less extreme yet even more versatile version of the Urbanaut is tipped to address the people and cargo mover segment. According to an inside source, the Urbanaut effectively replaces the Clubman which will be discontinued in late 2023. It adopts the Clubman name and features the sliding door, the packaging and the lounge layout of the show car, sources say.
But what about performance cars? What of JCW?
Mini's already teased that it's experimenting with making an all-electric JCW car, with a prototype model teased by the brand covered in camo, wearing the Mini GP's wild wheelarch extensions and wing but without the exhaust.
'We know for sure that JCW will eventually also go fully electric, but perhaps we should kick off one more truly radical project before the high voltage revolution strikes,' says Bernd. Interesting thought - but would such a decontented JCW GPR with more power, a manual transmission and carbon-ceramic brakes not point the brand in the wrong direction?
Apparently, this is an ongoing debate, and there are those who believe Mini should instead accelerate its electrification efforts. In either case, extra performance is the name of the game. While the 2.0-litre four currently rated at 302bhp in the Mini GP has very nearly reached its limit, the ultimate electrified JCW GT could easily muster between 350 and 400bhp. To keep the weight down, insiders predict relatively small 40 and 60kWh batteries, modest ranges of 190 to 250 miles, and a fast-charging 400V system.
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