Mini has just provided the world with a preview of its first hybrid model that employs petrol-electric power to propel its wheels. Derived from the second generation of the Mini Countryman that is bound to be released for the 2017 model year, the Mini plug-in hybrid would mark the brand’s first entry into a system of propulsion that employs not only a conventional engine, but also an electric motor.
The preview of Mini’s first hybrid vehicle – albeit in camouflaged form – was conducted by Sebastian Mackensen, head of Mini brand management, and Peter Wolf, head of Mini series management preview. This preview comes as the new Mini hybrid is now in the final phases of series development. This means that soon enough, there will be a new hybrid version of the Mini among the brand’s elegant offerings.
At a glimpse, it would be difficult to recognize the prototype as a hybrid model since Mini has discreetly integrated the charging socket for the high-voltage battery in the left Side Scuttle. To start the Mini hybrid, the driver just has to press the yellow start/stop button in the center of the dashboard. Making use of the electric motor’s silent operation, the Mini hybrid is set to start in electric mode, provided that the battery has enough electric charge.
A number of interior changes have been made to indicate the hybrid nature of this vehicle. For instance, Mini has replaced the rpm counter in the instrument cluster with a power display, which keeps a tab on the electric motor’s power reserves before the combustion engine kicks in. As to when the combustion engine kicks in depends on the hybrid model’s speed and on how firm the driver stepped on the accelerator pedal. Mackensen demonstrated this on a test drive – the combustion engine started to kick in as soon as he firmly stepped on the accelerator pedal.
Mini customers might be concerned that a hybrid would take away one of the beloved attributes of Mini vehicles – that distinct go-kart driving feel. No need to worry. Mackensen assured that just like any Mini vehicle, the upcoming series production hybrid would retain the brand’s unique go-kart driving feel while providing the known benefits of a hybrid drive. According to Mackensen – who himself has already driven the unveiled prototype –this was achieved by controlling the collaboration between the combustion engine and the electric motor. This means that the new hybrid is not just as efficient as any hybrid vehicle, but is also as fun to drive as any Mini car.
Wolf disclosed that the new Mini hybrid is able to optimize the entire torque of the electric motor. Since torque is readily available even when the vehicle is at standstill, the Mini boasts of catapult-like acceleration as well as zero-emission electric driving. Interestingly, the new Mini hybrid is able to travel as fast as 125 km/h – compared to other electrified offering which speeds are limited to around 30 km/h or 40 km/h.
With both the electric motor and the combustion engine at work, the new Mini hybrid offers a more intense level of accelerations compared to its conventional siblings. Good news is that the Mini hybrid remains as agile and as maneuverable as its conventional siblings – thanks to the fact that its chassis and suspension are the same as the combustion-powered models.
Moreover, since the eDrive components are positioned low down at the rear, the hybrid boasts of lower center of gravity and better weight balance the front and rear axles.
The vehicle’s hybrid system allows for three driving modes: Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery. As standard, the Mini hybrid operates on Auto eDrive that permits speeds of up to 80 km/h. Max eDrive mode – making use of both propulsion systems – allows for speeds of up to 125 km/h.
Interestingly, the hybrid model is configured in such a way that the electric motor sends power to the rear wheels, and the combustion engine to the front wheels. Mini has connected an intelligent energy management to the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to ensure optimized traction and drive stability. In fact, when the system detects any risk of a slip, the second drive unit will be activated to ensure extra traction during start-offs or to ensure a high level of steering precision during cornering.
Drivers, through the eDrive toggle switch, could activate the Save Battery mode in which the combustion engine does not only power the Mini hybrid to keep the battery’s charge level at constant, but also a generator to recharge the power storage unit while on the move. Once the battery charge level becomes low, the status display in the cockpit would constantly remind the need to recharge the unit through a power socket or a wall box.