Do not adjust your sets.
Yes, it is the same 2021 Mini Cooper SE, and yes it is the same ‘Will it meet the range claim?’ premise we put to the test last year. But, based on your feedback, this time we’re trying things a little differently.
On our first outing to challenge the claimed 230km range of the electric Mini Cooper, no-one took issue with me spending a very long five hours rolling about urban Melbourne and travelling over 120km on a half ‘tank’ of electrons. It was, however, our late-night cruising stint that ruffled a few feathers.
Commenters both here and on YouTube made a fair point. The traffic conditions were not realistic, nor was the sustained speed of 80km/h. So, in order to put the Mini’s range to the test in an accurate touring environment, we would have to start again.
So, here we are.
This time around we plan to leave Melbourne with a full charge, head north along the Hume Freeway, and then turn around when the battery hit 50 per cent. The theory being we would make it back to the charger (or get pretty jolly close) before the Mini’s 32.6kWh battery ran out.
We would deal with traffic, run the car in its standard drive setting (with climate control on), and set the cruise control to 100km/h to manage a realistic long-distance cruising scenario, keeping everyone happy in the process.
And, as we don’t like doing things without a net here at CarAdvice, we also opted to drag a twin-axle trailer behind our production Ford Everest, just in case things didn’t go to plan and the Mini needed a hand to get back to civilisation. Worth noting that there are no additional electric charging stations along the Hume, and that having backup for an EV is a lot more cumbersome than a jerry can and funnel!
We used the Chargefox high-speed charger at Airport West as a start point, as it offered both a DC fast charger (the Mini can draw up to 50kW) and quick access to the freeway.
With clear skies and a balmy temperature of 23 degrees, the Mini and I set off!
The first leg, from the charger along the Western Ring Road, is posted at 80km/h but things rise to 100km/h after about 12km, then to 110km/h about 18km further than that.
This enabled us to work up to an average of 100km/h on the trip.
But, it also meant we wouldn’t get much use of the regenerative braking system. This didn’t matter too much on the previous test, as the car used an average of 14.4kWh per 100km around town and then 12.4kWh/100km on the highway stint.
|2021 Mini Cooper SE|
|Engine||Single electric motor|
|Power / torque||135kW / 270Nm|
|Transmission||Single-speed automatic with 2x stage regenerative braking|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Range (WLTP claim)||233km|
|Boot volume (min/max)||211L / 731L|
|Length / width / height||3845mm / 1727mm / 1432mm|
|Warranty||Three years/unlimited km|
|Price as tested (plus on-road costs)||$58,900|
However, running the air-conditioning is considered to reduce the car’s range anywhere between 10 and 20 per cent. Interestingly, it’s considered even less efficient to run the heater.
With that in mind, and assuming our climate control of 21 degrees doesn’t need to work too hard on a 23-degree day, we’ll consider anything above 200km (about 13 per cent under the 230km claim) to be a successful test.
Things started well enough, too, with the Mini cruising along for 20km at the same 14.4kWh draw we experienced around urban Melbourne.
Unfortunately, we didn’t account for the fact the Hume Freeway goes uphill, quite considerably, as you leave the northern outskirts of town. From the moment you merge onto the freeway in Thomastown, with an elevation around 100m, it heads up to near 400m from sea level near Wallan.
I know, this is hardly ascending the Pyrenees, but it was enough to increase our average use to 16.1kWh.
That said, as we passed the 50km milestone, or a quarter of our goal trip, the battery was at 76 per cent, suggesting we had only dropped a quarter of our charge. So far, so good!
A decent downhill section enabled the Mini to regain some efficiency, even without using the brakes, and by the 90km mark the average use was down to 13.8kWh with just 39 per cent of the battery used.
I will say that at this point I was feeling confident that despite seeing it in my rear-view mirror, I would not have to put the little Cooper on the trailer.
It is, despite its size and stature, a pretty comfortable place to spend time. The ride quality is good, and the cabin reasonably well insulated against the harsh white-noise of high-speed coarse-chip tarmac passing beneath. I am 6' 3", and do find the front seats supportive and the head room decent. So much so that I used to own a three-door Cooper as a family runabout!
We stopped to briefly change the camera rig set-up, clean some bugs from the windscreen, and hoped the minor diversion wouldn't cost us any precious charge.
What we still weren’t sure of, as we didn’t run the car to flat on the previous test, was whether the battery dissipated in a linear fashion, or if like the fuel gauge in your car, it either front- or back-loaded the amount of ‘fuel’ it communicated.
So, would our 49 per cent battery use at the 110km mark, where I turned around to head back to town, equate to a total of 98 per cent at 220km, or would we fall under the line and onto the trailer?
It turned out that wasn’t going to be the biggest issue weighing on my mind for long, as that downhill boost which saw our use drop was now a long and gradual uphill slog.
Whereas every 10km ‘marker’ had been causing the battery to decline at about four per cent charge, the return path raised this to over five per cent.
This meant at the 130km mark we were down to 42 per cent remaining, and just 36 per cent at the 140km marker. For clarity, we've added charts for the full breakdown.
More crucially for our fun day in the countryside, at the 145km point the car was suggesting a remaining range of 56km, which did place us over the 200km target, but unfortunately left us about 20km short of a return to the Chargefox station in Airport West.
And, if you’ve been following Australia’s adventures in electric charging infrastructure, you would be aware there aren’t an awful lot of other chargers lying around.
The trailer was looking more and more likely.
My only hope was an early crest of that initial climb out of Melbourne leading to a pleasant downhill coast to charging freedom, or that the Mini would have a few extra electrons up its sleeve, kind of like your petrol tank does once the light goes on.
And truth be known, I was at this point counting on both these scenarios quite heavily.
However, at the 190km mark, with just nine per cent, or 2.9kWh of the Mini’s 32.6kWh battery charge remaining, I called it. We were in Kalkalo, about 30km from the charger, and at the current average use rate of 14.4kWh per 100km, only had another 20km possible under the Mini’s wheels.
It was the same average use we achieved at 80km/h without the climate control on, would theoretically see us travel over the 200km goal, and there was a safe place to pull up with the trailer, so it was felt that all’s well that ends well. Right?
It seems that the 128mm ground clearance and 2495mm wheelbase of the Cooper were not enough to clear the angle of the trailer ramps and get the car onto the deck. Part of the transmission housing was hitting the edge of the trailer’s bed. We would have to find a way to alter our approach angle, or find another charging solution…
The Plugshare app showed nothing, but the Chargefox app indicated there was a Type-2 charger at a new supermarket development in Greenvale.
Back on the road, with a new destination set, and we had a new challenge.
The Mini was suggesting it was 12km to the new charger, and that it coincidently had just 12km worth of range. What’s more, the car was now throwing up errors noting ‘Electric range severely restricted’, which was hardly encouraging.
The run required us to drop off the freeway and deal with suburban traffic, which might just have been the saving grace we needed.
This was the little Cooper’s home turf. Cruise control was off, and the car could now use its regenerative braking to eke every possible inch of efficiency from the battery. At the 200km trip meter mark, we had four per cent battery left, and had achieved our overall goal.
We arrived at the charger with just two per cent spare, which I have to say is probably not an ideal way to drive your electric car.
The 7kW charger would take a few hours to give the Mini enough juice to get back to town, so we elected to plug it in and leave it under the safe green glow of the Woolies sign, so we could return and collect it later in the evening.
Crisis averted, but what did we learn?
Hopefully, this more realistic test shows that in an unrealistic scenario, the 2021 Mini Cooper SE can still do what it claims, and achieve a 200km or greater range at sustained highway touring speeds.
I say 'unrealistic' as who would actually do this in a car like the electric Cooper?
Compact EVs work particularly well in an urban scenario, where the regen system can benefit your driving range, and where you can work from known, or a series of known, charge points to keep your car full of those handy electrons.
If you do need to manage longer distances, and still want to look at an EV, look for something with at least a 50kWh battery and try to ensure you head downhill!
For our next electric range test, we’ll see if we can do better than what the manufacturer claims by trying to hypermile the car by driving as efficiently as possible. Any suggestions on things we should try? Let us know in the comments below.