By on August 14, 2019

Mini’s upcoming Cooper SE, the brand’s first all-electric model, goes on sale in 2020. Based off its initial specifications, we assumed it wouldn’t be incredibly popular. While output is a serviceable 135 kilowatts (roughly 184 hp), the model’s small 32.6-kWh battery pack only allows for 146 miles of range using the optimistic European testing cycle. While that would have made it highly competitive in the early days of modern electrification, it’ll be at a disadvantage when stacked against the likes of the Tesla Model 3 or Chevrolet’s Bolt.

We presumed this would manifest as weak demand, leaving Mini to tug uncomfortably at its collar. But the Cooper SE is already outperforming the BMW i3 in terms of sales, and it isn’t even slated for production until November. 

BMW Blog made contact with the vehicle’s project leader, Elena Eder, earlier this week and learned the number of pre-orders for the MINI Cooper SE has already surpassed 45,000. Meanwhile, the i3’s best year in the United States (2015) garnered just 11,024 deliveries. European sales have performed better, with the BMW moving 24,252 examples within the region last year.

While the i3 is the more expensive model, similarities abound. In fact, the Mini utilizes the BMW’s electric powertrain, reconfigured from a rear drive, mid-engine setup to a front-engine, front-wheel drive one. That makes the Mini a more traditional and affordable electric offering from BMW Group, which may account for its pre-production take rate.

However, preorders aren’t necessarily a guarantee for continued volume. Mini’s sales have remained strong in Europe, with he vast majority coming from the brand’s small cars. Those electric orders could be stemming from loyalists eager to get their hands on a conversation piece. However, if regular folks are eyeballing the Cooper SE, the model may have a few good years ahead of it. But unless EV owners don’t give a spit about range, one has to assume demand will taper off rather quickly. No matter how you slice it, the SE isn’t really designed for anything other than inner-city jaunts, occasional trip to the suburbs, and modest daily commutes.

While earlier research commissioned by BMW Group indicated that battery range of up to 75 miles was sufficient for most commuters’ daily use, we remain skeptical. Either those surveyed individuals were shut-ins or most have a second car in the garage. Even in Europe, where important destinations are grouped a bit closer, a 75-mile trip doesn’t allow much room for detours. The Cooper SE will struggle on long journeys, making it unpalatable for many.

[Images: BMW Group]

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15 Comments on “Mini Cooper Electric May Be Less Daft Than Initially Presumed...”

  • avatar

    This is not “the brand’s first all-electric model.” They made a limited run of “Mini E” BEVs in 2009, all of which were leased to customers as part of a trial program. They were similar in power and range spec to this one.

    This amount of range is just fine as a second car, but a challenge for an only car. Very few people actually megacommute, so this will do fine in the daily grind. As with other EVs in this category, these will all sell to households that also have a gas car for longer trips.

  • avatar

    The Mini SE isn’t a ridiculous-looking, purpose-built micro-compact in the same way the i3 was, either. The Mini still has cachet with many because of its ’60s throwback style, now with the added capability of never needing to take it to a gas station any more and very probably more power and handling than any of its factory predecessors.

    Of course, it WILL be grossly overpriced for what it is, just as it has been since BMW took over the brand.

  • avatar

    If the interior wasn’t so odd ball my wife would love one of these. Its a perfect little run-around town car for your typical off-to-the-mall-again trips. Its biggest rival isn’t another car its Amazon Prime.

  • avatar

    If MINI was serious, they would build this:

  • avatar

    A short range electric is well suited for the city but a lot of folks living there don’t have easy access to the plug in juice.

  • avatar

    I drive an e-Golf with about a 150 mile range. Had it for a couple of months. With about a 20 mile round-trip commute, and an occasional 70 mile round trip to meet friends, so far I have never dropped below about 85 miles of range remaining. Winter driving will be somewhat more draining.

    I think as people begin to realize how little range they really need, 150 mile range cars could sell quite well.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I cancelled my preorder with Tesla after 2 years, and still didn’t buy once I drove a Model 3. Last I heard, Model 3 preorder cancellations were running about 20-25%.

    Mini won’t be nearly as successful at keeping preorders on the hook.

    As for the notion of preorders themselves, Nissan counted my email inquiry for Leaf 2.0 as a ‘preorder’. If this is what Mini is doing, they’ll be very disappointed.

  • avatar

    The Mini does not have the uglification package of the i3, so it does have that in its favor.

  • avatar

    “Even in Europe, where important destinations are grouped a bit closer, a 75-mile trip doesn’t allow much room for detours.”

    Ok … so maybe that’s why Mini has given this car more than 75 miles of range. The current estimate of the EPA-certified range is 114 miles, as far as I know. That gives you 39 miles for detours, if you want to think of it that way.

    I think the car could succeed. It could use more range, but I think there’s a strong market for it among urban singles and suburban retirees. Maybe the sort of people that want an electric, but are put off by Tesla’s totalitarian vibe and want something more individual and “quirky”.

    • 0 avatar

      I think of Tesla’s vibe as more “bankrupt” than “totalitarian.”

      • 0 avatar

        Elon Musk seems quite sure that his ideas are the best, and if you like something different, well, your preferences are wrong.

        I hear strong echoes of Henry Ford’s “any color that he wants so long as it is black”.

        • 0 avatar

          How so? Tesla has been building cars for roughly 2,400 days, and are now selling them around the world. CEO’s are being fired for not being responsive to Tesla’s impact on the market. Other automakers are launching half-baked EV’s in direct competition with Tesla. Tesla has established themselves to be nimble and respond to customers’ requests, and they make changes in real-time on the production line or over the air. Brake performance not good enough…. there, fixed overnight to every car on the road though an OTA update while you were sleeping. Unlike other automakers, that only make updates yearly to new vehicles. I own four cars, including a Tesla for about a year. If you think that Tesla should be like other automakers, then I agree that your preferences are indeed wrong.

  • avatar

    Where I live, people drive in average 17000km per year. If we divide that with 270 days, we get a daily distance of 63 km, or 40 miles.

    I couldn’t live with an EV as I drive long distances, but I could see a lot of urban or suburban people completely fine with a Mini.

  • avatar

    BMW lied about the i3 range, so they’re most likely lying here. The i3 got about 30% less real world range compared to the 89 miles it claimed to have.

    MINI electric will likely have about 110 miles of range, real world.

    In other words, slightly more than Honda’s Clarity.

    Yet another piece of BMW junk being hocked as something it’s not.

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