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Fully electric MINI Cooper SE will stay steel, retain much of original structure

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Announcements | Repair Operations | Technology
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MINI’s upcoming fully-electric MINI Cooper SE shouldn’t impose a dramatically altered structure or set of materials upon collision repairers, according to the OEM.

The vehicle will remain steel, just like the gas-powered MINI Cooper S.

“One of the key production efficiencies of this car is that it utilizes the same steel body structure of the MINI Cooper hardtop with the internal combustion driveline. This eliminates the need for costly changes to the body stampings,” MINI corporate communications head Andrew Cutler wrote in an email Friday. “There is no significant use of alternative materials in the body structure to lighten the car as the car’s small size and compact battery pack do not present a significant weight penalty.”

MINI in July 2019 said the OEM had designed the MINI Cooper S around the idea of producing an electric version. It said the only measurable difference involved hiking the body up nearly 0.71 inches (18 mm) to “ensure the relevant ground clearance for the high-voltage battery installed in the vehicle floor.”

The battery fits into the old structure well enough that the MINI Cooper SE retains the Mini Cooper S’ 7.45 cubic feet of luggage space (more if you fold down the rear seats).

“The ‘T-shaped’ battery pack is designed to fit into the space once occupied by the fuel tank, and down the center tunnel space otherwise occupied by the exhaust and cable parking brake assembly,” Cutler wrote. “As a result, we’ve used an electric parking brake system to replace the manual cable parking brake assembly.

“The electric drivetrain and control units are built as a sub-assembly inside a protective cage made of high-strength, tubular steel that bolts up into the same mounting points used for the internal combustion driveline. This not only provides excellent crash protection but efficiencies in manufacturing and servicing the vehicle components.”

BMW said the vehicle would be safe in the event of a crash.

“All components of the electric drive are protected by means of model-specific structural features and immediately switched off in the event of a collision,” MINI wrote in July.

“… The power electronics are shielded by the reinforced bumper support and the motor support frame, while the high-voltage battery is protected by a solid base plate. ”

‘Fun to drive,’ not too pricey

The MINI Cooper SE is estimated to get 110 miles worth of range and charge completely in 8 hours with a 240-volt home charger. It can reach 62 mph in 7.3 seconds.

Starting at $29,900, the vehicle already has “over 15,000 hand-raisers and growing,” according to MINI USA. So repairers are definitely likely to see some around once it reaches dealerships in March 2020.

“On the emotional side, “fun to drive” is the number one reason why consumers purchase a MINI, and this new MINI Electric offers the same fun-to-drive, go-kart reflexes we’ve built into our MINI Cooper S hardtop,” MINI of the Americas Vice President Michael Peyton said in a statement. “On the rational side, 80% of all MINI house-holds own two or more cars, and with an accessible price, the MINI Electric is a perfect complement in offering more customers attainable, emission-free driving.”

MINI called the car “the most affordable premium EV in the US.”

The 2017 National Vehicle Travel Survey found a two-vehicle household only puts in less than 60 miles of driving a day, with most of it done by the first vehicle. So 110 miles ought to be plenty, and MINI owners could always use their combustion-engine second or third car for a longer-distance journey. (However, a DC rapid charger can fill the “tank” to 80 percent in 40 minutes, so it’s not out of the question.)

MINI also estimated that anyone who would be buying premium gas at $3.30 for their baby MINI Cooper S would save $3,700 over six years by switching to a MINI Cooper SE.  The OEM also pointed out that you could qualify for $7,500 in federal tax credits and even more in state tax breaks. “In some cases, qualified consumers can get a MINI Cooper SE below $20,000,” MINI wrote.

Cutler said that reusing much of the MINI Cooper SE’s structure helped get the product to market more quickly and more affordably than coming up with a new platform.

“Compared to developing a completely new body structure, this all has allowed for an accelerated development time, and the proven performance of the body’s crash protection in the event of a collision,” he wrote. “This helps to offer the car at a very compelling and attainable price point.”

Other body features

MINI described a few other SE body elements.

“The central element of the MINI Cooper SE front section also features the hallmark hexagonal contour, but this is closed because the electric motor requires very little cooling air,” the OEM wrote. “A yellow decorative bar on the grill and exterior mirror caps are finished in the same color, thereby rounding off the model-specific design features. The MINI Cooper SE is fitted as standard with LED headlamps.

“Like the model-specific front radiator grill, the largely closed undercarriage and the distinctively designed rear apron contribute to reducing aerodynamic drag. The fact that the electrically powered MINI does not require an exhaust system likewise facilitates air ducting in the undercarriage and at the rear.”

Those side-view mirrors also come heated on all trims.

Potential finishes include “Moonwalk Grey,” “White Silver,” “British Racing Green,” and “Midnight Black” metallics; “Chili Red”; and “MINI Yours Enigmatic Black”

The side-view mirrors and radiator grille horizontal bar come standard painted as “Vigorous Grey,” but MINI offers a yellow finish as an option. The tailgate handle also comes painted Vigorous Grey.

“Regardless of the equipment package selected, all exterior finishes can also be combined with a roof and exterior mirror caps in body finish (not available in conjunction with the body color White Silver metallic), or else in black or white,” MINI wrote.

Those roof panels come standard with a panoramic moon roof equipped on the Signature Plus and Iconic trims.

More information:

“THE NEW MINI COOPER SE. ELECTRIFIED PERFORMANCE.”

MINI, July 9, 2019

“MINI USA LAUNCHES ORDERING SITE FOR ALL-NEW BATTERY ELECTRIC MINI COOPER SE”

MINI, Dec. 17, 2019

Images:

The electric MINI Cooper SE hits dealerships in March 2020. (Provided by MINI)

Charging stats for the electric MINI Cooper SE. (Provided by MINI.)

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