BMW is expanding trials of the electric-powered Mini E to include the UK, the German carmaker announced.
Forty cars will be built at the Mini assembly plant at Oxford and at Munich for use in field tests.
Mini E is already undergoing extensive testing in the US and Germany and the announcement that the UK will now be included came as BMW Group pledged its support for the Government’s plans to develop an ultra-low carbon transport system.
BMW group sales and marketing director Ian Robertson joined business secretary Lord Peter Mandelson and transport secretary Geoff Hoon in Scotland as they launched the project, which will support sales of electric or plug-in hybrid cars by offering customers between £2,000 and £5,000 to help them buy vehicles when they arrive in the showrooms.
Both Ministers drove a Mini E electric car at the event.
“We believe the Mini E is an excellent vehicle for trialling this alternative form of sustainable mobility,” Mr Robertson said.
“And what better time to do this than in the year we celebrate the 50th birthday of Mini. We look forward to extending our German and American trials to the UK.
“Such a trial cannot be conducted by any single organisation on its own as it goes far beyond the simple test of a prototype electric Mini.
“To make electric mobility a reality, organisations in both the private and public sectors will need to think differently and act together.”
BMW recently applied to the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board in response to a funding competition announced in December 2008. Proposals were invited for innovative, industry-led collaborative research projects involving ultra-low carbon vehicles.
The UK trial would bring together central and regional government departments, regional development organisations, energy infrastructure providers and academic partners.
The objective is to develop ultra-low carbon vehicles that customers want to buy – and bring them to market as rapidly as possible.
BMW has already formed some key partnerships for the UK trials, including Scottish and Southern Energy, a leading generator of energy from renewable sources, which will be installing the private and public charging points required for the Mini E test vehicles.
Academic support will come from the Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre at Oxford Brookes University to carry out the data analysis and report the findings.
At the end of the one-year trial a comprehensive report documenting the main findings of the Mini E research project will be published to help set up the political, technical and commercial framework needed to make ultra-low carbon transport a reality.
Based on the Mini Hatch, the Mini E is a two-seater as the rear passenger space is occupied by a lithium-ion battery.
The car’s electric drive train produces a peak torque of 220 Nm, and power is delivered to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox. The engine and transmission arrangement powers it to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds and on to an electronically-limited top speed of 95 mph.
Trials in the USA and Berlin have shown that users can recharge completely drained battery using a wallbox – which is supplied as standard with every Mini E – in about four hours.
Fully re-charging the battery using off-peak electricity at current prices will cost UK drivers about £1.50 and under £4 at daytime rates.
Mini’s Plant Oxford will be responsible for manufacturing the entire vehicle on the standard production line, with the exception of the drive components and the lithium-ion battery.
The vehicles will then be transferred to Munich where the electric motor, battery units, performance electronics and transmission will be fitted.