Representatives from Germany’s BMW Group and China’s Great Wall Motor broke ground on their joint venture plant in China’s Jiangsu Province on December 1. The plant will be producing the MINI Cooper SE, which is a fully electric model within the famous MINI series, as well as electric vehicles (EV) under Great Wall’s brand name. According to the formal statement on the groundbreaking ceremony, the plant is scheduled to finish construction and begin operation in 2022. The facility’s production capacity is expected to reach 160,000 vehicles annually.
Due to their agility and charming design, the MINI Cooper models hold a special place in the hearts of car aficionados. The MINI Cooper SE is the first fully electric, mass-market model in the series, and its release this July was met with enthusiastic response from consumers. As of now, orders and reservations for the MINI Cooper SE have come to almost 80,000 vehicles. In some ways, the MINI Cooper SE is very well-received for a battery electric passenger car. By comparison, cumulative sales of the hybrid MINI Cooper Countryman total just slightly over 30,000 vehicles.
The price of the MINI Cooper SE starts from EUR 27,900 in the EU states and from USD 29,900 in the US. Compared with the cheapest three-door model in the MINI range, the MINI Cooper SE is priced just about 10% higher. When the joint venture plant in Jiangsu finally enters operation after three years as scheduled, consumers in China may be able to buy the electric MINI at the lowest price worldwide.
In 2018, BMW and Great Wall announced the formation of their partnership company Spotlight Automotive. The entity focuses on developing EVs to meet the growing domestic demand in China. The construction of the car manufacturing plant in the city of Zhangjiagang in Jiangsu this year represents the next major step in their roadmap. The factory is wholly dedicated to producing electric models under the MINI marque and the brand name of Great Wall Motor.
All electric MINI models are currently manufactured at BMW’s plant in Oxford, the UK. Since China has become the world’s largest EV market, establishing local production capacity will help lower the price of the MINI Cooper SE and make it more competitive there. Spotlight Automotive, which controls the Jiangsu plant, has taken on a distinctive strategy for production and marketing. The entity will be collaborating with BMW and Great Wall to develop and manufacture new EVs. However, promotion and sales of vehicles will be conducted through Spotlight’s own channels.
The production of electric MINI vehicles will remain solely in the UK until 2022, when China will see the release of the domestically manufactured MINI Cooper SE. It is worth noting that around 300,000 MINI vehicles are sold in China annually. Furthermore, the country accounts for almost 20% of the worldwide sales of the hybrid MINI Countryman. It is therefore not surprising that BMW has decided to set up a factory within one of the major regional markets for this vehicle series.
MINI Cooper SE stays true to the classic design of the MINI range
A look at the appearance of the MINI Cooper SE indicates that the transition to the battery electric powertrain has not led to a radical departure from the original style of the MINI series. After all, the main attraction of the MINI models is their endearing vintage design. The fully electric model has the additional yellow plug-in icons that are affixed on the front nose, the rear hatch door, and the sides. The front grille has been mostly blocked off since the vehicle’s electric motor does not need as much air for cooling as does an internal combustion engine. Other than this feature, the differences in appearance between the MINI Cooper SE and other current MINI models are quite minor. The electric motor and charging port are respectively located at the same spots as the engine and fill cap of a petrol-powered MINI.
Based on the core technology of the BMW i3 (another electric model), the battery electric powertrain of the MINI Cooper SE can reach the maximum horsepower of 184 and the maximum torque of 270NM. In terms of speed performances, the MINI Cooper SE can accelerate from the stationary position to 100km/h in approximately seven seconds. Its top speed hits the 150km/h mark. The 32.6kWh battery pack provides a fully charged range of 230km. The onboard charging system needs just three and a half hours to completely power up the battery in the AC mode. A DC fast charger (with an output of up to 50kW) can fill up 80% of the battery’s capacity in 35 minutes.
The MINI Cooper SE adopts front-wheel drive in keeping with the traditional engine and transmission layout of the MINI series. However, this also makes it an outlier among the current EV models. Car makers can leverage front-wheel drive to save space and improve the design of the car’s interior, but switching to a battery electric powertrain nullifies this advantage. Most EV models that are on the market do not adopt front-wheel drive. Nevertheless, this configuration is a recognized feature particular to the MINI vehicles. Even if there is no need to retain front-wheel drive, the future electric MINI models will likely make the shift to all-wheel drive in order to appeal to drivers that are not accustomed to rear-wheel drive.
Other design and feature highlights of the MINI Cooper SE include a keyless entry system, an HVAC heat pump that can be activated before entry, and a programmable security feature that prevents the yanking of the charging cord when it is plugged into the vehicle. The MINI Cooper SE also comes with an external speaker system that emits warning sounds to alert nearby pedestrians when the vehicle is traveling at a low speed. Moreover, the MINI Cooper SE has a regenerative braking system that enables single-pedal operation (i.e., decelerate and stop without using the brake pad). With regard to instruments and controls, the MINI Cooper SE sports a fully digital instrument cluster. However, the center console is still quite traditional as it has all the usual buttons and knobs. Many of the latest electric and petrol models feature a large touch screen in place of the center console, and this design decision can be off-putting for drivers. The driver interface that BMW has devised for the MINI Cooper SE is not only optimized for greater convenience but also preserves a high degree of familiarity for all drivers.
(This article is an English translation of news content provided by EnergyTrend’s media partner TechNews. Photo credits: MINI.com.)