The average American driver spends about 27 minutes commuting to work one way. In distance, that’s just over 12 miles. Most days you go to work and come home, maybe stopping at the grocery store or swinging by the middle school to pick up your kid on the way home. If you’re only doing 30 miles of driving per day for an hour or maybe two, why would you need more than the 110 miles of range that the Mini Cooper SE provides?
And keep in mind, that’s average. About half of this country spends less time and fewer miles than that on their daily commute. No, the Mini Cooper SE won’t work for you fringe cases who drive half way across Texas to get to work. But here’s the kicker, not everything is about you. And you don’t have to make it about you. This one is just for the suburbanites who park in their own garage every night and work just a few miles from home.
This isn’t just going to be a good car for people who work in big cities, either. I grew up in rural Michigan and my longest commute was 23 miles one way. Even on a nasty winter day with sub-zero temperatures the Mini would have gotten me there and back again with plenty of range.
Yes, the Mini’s range is significantly shorter than the Chevrolet Bolt’s 259 miles, and about 40 miles shy of the Nissan Leaf, but Minis are known for being cute, fun, and zippy, plus it’s several thousand dollars less expensive than the Bolt, and undercuts the Leaf by a hundred bucks or so. Neither the Bolt or Leaf are known for being particularly fun to drive, either. Which leaves the Mini Cooper SE as the only option if you want to be both frugal and fun.
We can forgive a lot for a nice price point, and I think the just-barely-sub-$30,000 price tag is a very nice one for an EV. State and federal EV tax credits can take a huge chunk out of that, getting the electric Mini down as low as $18,750, depending on where the car is sold.
For the most part, a Mini Cooper SE is not going to be anyone’s only car. It will fill the position of commuter car in a family with two vehicles. In my own personal example, my wife and I share a commute in which we both go to the gym in the morning and she drops me off at my office and continues on to her office before returning to pick me up in the evenings. We could easily run this Mini as a daily driver and burn no fuel until we need to leave the city. Which is why we also have a Buick Regal TourX.
We need to have a conversation about what exactly electric vehicles are for, and how we travel as humans. No, EVs aren’t for everyone yet. But they are excellent at filling some of our needs all of the time, or all of our needs some of the time.
All I need to know about the Mini is that it’s a Mini. Aside from about 300 extra pounds of drivetrain weight, and a bit of strengthening to the roof pillars to help maintain that weight in a rollover accident, the shell is identical to the standard Mini Cooper S. Inside, the extra stack of batteries and the electric motor at the front do not intrude into the interior, keeping cargo and passenger space identical to its gasoline-powered counterpart.
Former Jalop Patrick George said of the Mini Cooper SE:
What I can tell you after driving one, albeit briefly, is that it absolutely nails all the qualities that the fans love about Mini, translating those cars’ strengths to an experience free of gasoline and emissions. It is a lot of fun.
He also questioned the validity of the SE’s range, but as automotive enthusiasts aren’t we willing to overlook a lot of shortcomings (like range) in favor of something that is “a lot of fun”?
Think about it and get back to me.