Mini puts a charge into Countryman

Engine powers the front wheels, while electric motor works on the rear

Published: October 17, 2016, 9:45 PM
Updated: October 21, 2016, 4:37 AM

Mini Plug-In Hybrid plugged in

Having field tested an electric Mini Cooper back in 2010, Mini finally brings an electrified Mini to market in the form of a plug-in hybrid.

Mini Plug-In Hybrid

The idea in creating the Mini Plug-In was to meet the future of motoring in light of ever-restrictive fuel economy and tailpipe emissions, while not giving up on the past successes of Mini handling dynamics. Though little is known about the electrified Mini, images indicate it’s a Countryman version and will likely come to market after the new Countryman debuts in the near future.

The plug-in features an internal combustion engine in tandem with an electric motor, and Mini says it features the first time a Mini has been driven purely by electricity (maybe intentionally distancing itself from the Mini E dedicated electric vehicle, though it wasn’t a production car as much as a limited production test vehicle).

“With this model we want to convince MINI customers of the benefits of hybrid drive and impress everyone who already has hybrid driving experience with MINI’s unique go-kart driving feel”, says head of MINI brand management Sebastian Mackensen.

As with many plug-in vehicles, the charging socket is located behind a flap on the front fender, between the driver’s door and the front wheel well. It won’t be as well disguised in the production car, with a traditional paint job, but its innocuous enough.

Mini Plug-In Hybrid interior

Although we don’t know the engine or motor sizes of the new hybrid, we do know powersources work in Auto eDrive or Max eDrive (in a way similar to the BMW i properties), and Mini promises “catapult-like acceleration.” The Auto mode allows dedicated electric power up to 80 km/h, while Max will work up to 125. There is also a Save Battery mode that at highway speeds uses only the engine, while also diverting a bit of power to the batteries.

The batteries are located under the rear seat, which helps to balance out the front-to-back weight distribution.

“In a hybrid MINI model, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience. This means that entirely electric driving is not limited to speeds of 30 or 40 km/h, but to speeds well beyond city traffic pace,” says Mackensen, adding that the accelerator pedal has to be pressed very firmly for the secondary powersource (engine) to kick in. As per other Minis, engine power is sent to the front wheels, while electric power is sent to the rear, which aids with stability control.

The interior is pretty close to the fuelled Mini Countryman, with the main noticeable difference the absence of the large centre mounted tachometer, replaced by an electric power usage display. As with the gasoline model, the driver simply presses the start/stop button in the centre of the instrument panel to start the car. The car initially operates in electric mode, with the engine only kicking in beyond an undisclosed speed, and depending on the driver’s use of the throttle.