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by Tim Beissmann

The first generation of MINI E owners will be forced to return their cars to BMW later this year, although the cars are unlikely to be crushed like many EV test cars before them.

BMW North America manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy, Richard Steinberg, told the Wall Street Journal that the 450 trial vehicles were likely to be disassembled, with some parts to be reused in other projects.

“We are not thinking of offering them for sale to the customers,” Mr Steinberg said.

“We’re definitely working on secondary use models. We recognise that the batteries in particular have value, but also the components.”

General Motors famously crushed almost all of its EV-1 trial vehicles after it discontinued its public electric program in 2002.

Ford’s early electric trial vehicles met a similar fate, while Toyota took a different approach and decided to let lessees and other motorists buy its electric RAV4 test vehicles. Many of these cars are still on US roads today.

Of the 450 MINI Es originally launched in the US two years ago, only 130 were leased for a second year. The other cars are in test fleets in China and Europe.

The first-generation vehicles were rather rough, with no rear seats and overly strong regenerative braking. But that didn’t stop some drivers, like Tom Moloughney from New Jersey, from falling in love with them.

“It’s kind of sad. It’s a wonderful little car, I’ve grown attached to it, and I wish they would sell it to me,” Mr Moloughney said. He has clocked up almost 100,000km in his pre-production MINI E in around two years.

In the next phase of the program for BMW Group, it will begin leasing the BMW 1 Series ActiveE later this year. It will be priced from $US499 ($473) per month.

At the end of the 24-month ActiveE lease, it is likely that fans of BMW EVs will be able to move straight into the BMW i3, which is expected to enter production in 2013.




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