Mini goes electric! Spy photos of battery-powered Mini

Published: 18 September 2008

These are CAR's first spy pictures of the electric Mini – the miserly mini that will help BMW meet tough new American regulations requiring car makers selling vehicles in California also to offer zero-emission vehicles by 2012.

Our scoop photographer snapped the Mini out testing on the roads around Munich. And it wasn’t difficult for our man to spot the battery-powered Mini; apart from its telling lack of exhaust pipes, those ‘Hybrid Test Vehicle’ decals slapped all over the car were a bit of a giveaway…

If this is a mule of the electric Mini, when does the real thing arrive?

It’s understood that BMW boss Norbert Reithofer will unveil the battery Mini at the 2008 Los Angeles motor show in November – the perfect location for the car’s public debut.

There’s still no word on the Mini’s electric drive system, but one insider claimed it was significant that BMW was using the front-drive Mini as a testbed for its electric drive system, rather than any rear-drive BMW models.

Click 'Next' below to read more on our electric Mini scoop

When can I buy an electric Mini?

Hold your horses. Mini will produce 500 electric Minis as part of its radical ‘Project i’ programme initiated to rethink low-emissions urban mobility (see the forthcoming November 2008 issue of CAR Magazine for full details on this innovative project, out on Wednesday 24 September 2008).

Mini plans to lease 490 of the cars by the end of 2009 to selected members of the public, with the remainder set aside for show and exhibition work.

So I can't buy one in the UK?

Sadly not. At least not for now. The electric Minis are being built at the Oxford, UK plant without engine, transmission or fuel tanks before being shipped to Munich where they are being fitted with their electric innards.

All the cars will have a bespoke paint job – a silver body with a yellow roof. Not quite Duracell battery colours, but close enough.

Commenting on the Mini project, Reithofer said: 'This step will allow the BMW Group to gain an initial knowledge of how mobility can be achieved efficiently using electrically powered vehicles.

'Our task here is to combine the ultimate driving experience with an efficient electrified drive with practically no emissions.'

Despite the electric Minis being a sop to the Californian legislators, we can't help feeling it's a useful testbed for BMW's future electric car plans.

A token gesture to meet American laws or is Project i BMW's next big thing? Click 'Add your comment' and have your say.

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars