If there's any brand on sale today that should go electric, it's Mini. An all-electric Cooper would appeal to the brand's favored demographic of chic, hip, environmentally conscious urbanites. With BMW supplying a modified drivetrain from the i3, it seems like a no-brainer. And it could be coming next year.
Now we've been down this road before – twice, even – and both times it was more glorified science experiment than full-fledged production model.
Back in 2009, BMW slapped an electric motor and a 35 kWh battery into the first-gen Cooper, handing out a few hundred models to pre-approved beta testers in California, New York, and New Jersey. That was the first electric pilot project that eventually gave birth to BMW's i division and the Mini E's successor, the Active E, which tested out the i3's drivetrain in a modified 1 Series.
There was also this thing from 1966, which had a brace of lead acid batteries and a range in the neighborhood of 25 miles.
The problem with the 2009 Mini E was the batteries. The range was fine (80-90 miles), but the engineers ripped out the back seat and consumed the "trunk" to fit the lithium-ion pack, leaving just enough space for a baguette and a dachshund with dwarfism.
But with several years of engineering experience and the launch of the i3 under its belt, BMW has to be considering a proper Mini EV. Hell, if Fiat can modify the 500 to accommodate a 24 kWh liquid-heated and -cooled lithium-ion pack that's essentially molded to the underside of the car, it shouldn't be too difficult for Mini's boffins to do something similar. And considering the UKL platform the 2015 Mini is based on has been developed to accommodate a range of front-wheel-drive powertrains, something electric was surely in the design brief.
Or, as AN pointed out and Transport Evolved notes, it could just be a hybrid. Mini made a big deal at last year's unveiling of the new Cooper that it was working on a plug-in hybrid version, and possibly a diesel variant, both pegged for U.S. consumption. But a fully electric version seems like maybe a smarter choice. The Mini is compact, the platform is flexible, the motor for the i3 is just begging to go into another vehicle (it's already in the i8), and if the weight is kept in check, it could a great driver to boot. Even better, maybe Mini could build this.