Monday, December 6, 2010

Little Car, Big Impact

The MINI-E is a physically small car. You don't need to park it next to big trucks to realize that.

However, the cliche "Big things can come in small packages" may never have been more appropriate to say about any other automobile than the MINI-E. Flash back to 2008 when BMW first decided to make the MINI-E. Other than the Tesla Roadster, there were no options for a highway capable electric car, and the Tesla really wasn't an option for 99.9% of the population. The only choice a person really had to drive an electric car was to build one themselves, which again, isn't much of an option for most people. When I came across the online application to test drive an electric car for a year, it was such a unique opportunity I went for it.

Honestly, I don't think BMW had any idea the car would be as successful as it has turned out to be. They originally offered only a one year, closed-end lease because they didn't know how good the car would be, if people would like driving them or if they really wanted to make a serious commitment to electric vehicles. The MINI-E was truly a litmus test to see how the public would react to e-mobility. Now, about two and a half years after BMW decided to conduct the Trial Lease program, they have offered second year renewals, expanded the program to six countries, announced the MINI-E successor(BMW ActiveE) and have announced plans to sell a purpose-built electric car in 2013, the BMW megacity.

The MINI-E has also made believers out of many of the lessees who, like myself weren't really sure that they could live with an electric car. Well, this little car proved without a doubt that we can and in fact prefer to. The smooth acceleration, instant torque, and quiet drive of the MINI-E give it an exceptional driving experience. The fact that I can use domestically generated electricity (or electricity that I make myself with my solar array) make it even more enjoyable. Energy independence is an important issue for many people. More and more people are realizing the effects our addiction to foreign oil has on America. The cumulative effects of spending (borrowing really) over a billion dollars a day on foreign oil is crippling our economy and the powerful oil lobby spends hundreds of millions of dollars to influence policy in our government. People are beginning understand how dangerous it is to rely on foreign regimes for our energy needs and want options. They want to be able to choose the fuel that they use to power their automobiles and the MINI-E came along and showed us what EV advocates have been saying for years now; that electric cars are a viable option and that there is a demand for them.

Recently autobloggreen.com posted an article titled: "How BMW created electric vehicle advocates through Mini E program" which basically said that the people that have leased the MINI-E love it so much they want to tell others how great it is. They are definitely right in saying this. Many of the MINI-E drivers like myself have become active in advocating electric cars, bringing our MINI-E's to green car events and even speaking at conferences and expo's about their experiences with the car.

About a month ago BMW announced they would be investing 560 million dollars to upgrade their Leipzig assembly plant to build electric cars and another 180 million dollars to build electric car components. That's nearly three quarters of a billion dollars! One thing is for sure, they wouldn't have made such a grand commitment to e-mobility had the MINI-E program been a failure. I'm pretty sure BMW had no idea how much this little car would effect the future of their company when they first proposed building it.

8 comments:

  1. You left out the fact that the mini-e program has been watched by the other automobile manufacturers and has undoubtedly influenced their decision making. Tesla Motors and the Chevy volt are two more examples of how one company influences others and in this case can influence an industry

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  2. Yes Arcel, I'm certain that the other auto manufacturers have been watching the MINI-E closely. In your comment you forgot to give Nissan credit for the LEAF. Nissan has definitely raised the bar by offering for sale the first mass produced, "affordable" highway capable electric car.

    Whether they rushed the engineering a bit and will regret the omission of an active thermal management system is the question I'm most interested in though.

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  3. I'm definitely an electric vehicle advocate now, miss my MINI E a lot. Saw one last Sunday near Basking Ridge, was that you? first time I've seen one drive by in quite a while.

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  4. Hi Robert, I was in that area on Sunday morning/early afternoon so it may have been me.
    Chances are it was because as far as I know, Michael Thwaite and I are the only MINI-E drivers left in this area. Morristown MINI told me that we are the only two that they service now. I know there are a few in Bergen county and some in South Jersey, but overall probably less than twenty in the whole state.

    You can stop by and take it for a spin anytime if you need an electric "fix" until you get your volt!

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  5. Tom,
    Very well-written and eloquent post. You're a great advocate for EVs!

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  6. Well said Tom! Keep up the great work!

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  7. Another interesting blog post. Well done. Thank you.

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  8. Nice post! Very well said. Good job!

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