Sam Cobb on behalf of BMW NA & MINI USA

Mini claims to have received over 45,000 deposit orders for the new electric Mini Cooper SE, and considering that’s about double the European sales of the BMW i3 last year running similar hardware, maybe the i3 should have always been a Mini.

MINI E Project Leader Elena Eder recently updated the order figure for the new electric Mini from over 40,000 to over 45,000, according to BMW Blog. In 2018, BMW sold 24,252 BMW i3's in Europe. The new Mini uses the same motor components as the BMW i3, just as a front-wheel drive setup instead of rear-mid-engined like the i3.

Considering the significant interest in an electric Mini now, it begs the question why BMW, which owned Mini back when it began development of the BMW i-Series of electric cars, decided to ignore the fact that it owned the most iconic city car brand in the world and didn’t bother producing a series production electric version.

Advertisement

It’s a question worth asking, because BMW’s CEO just stepped down after coming under pressure for having a strategy that was too cautious, and somehow, inexplicably falling behind on electric vehicle development despite massive initial investment to competitors like Tesla, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Group, even as it became more apparent that electrification is the direction of the industry.

The BMW i3 was introduced in 2013, but it was far from anything like an electrified Mini would have been. It was far more complex, with a modern design, advanced and very expensive carbon-fiber bodywork, funky doors, and a clean-sheet approach to electric city cars. For that purpose, it wasn’t a bad car in any regard. But it was expensive for its size, and just not as stylish as a Tesla, and it’s only recently dramatically grown in sales, at least in Europe.

Advertisement

BMW even used a prototype electric Mini as part of the development of what became the BMW i3. But while BMW was busy trying to push all of this innovative production processing and new materials, they could have invested in the unassuming, capable electric Mini we’re now getting, six years later, with the Cooper SE.

A car that doesn’t ram the future down your throat, a car that doesn’t need complicated carbon fiber bodywork, but instead a retrofit with enough juice to hit somewhere between 146 to 168 miles which is enough for most European city dwellers.

Advertisement

Part of me can’t help but think this car will be successful because it’s a popular, stylish car that happens to be electric, and not a cold techno box on top of a chemical reaction.

But oh well. The electric Mini is here now. It’s really fun to drive, and it’s the perfect car for the European market. The true test will be how interested Americans are in a car with aging styling and less range than a Tesla. Maybe it will come down to price, whenever we find out how much it will cost in the U.S.