All-Electric MINI Cooper SE

MINI has been easing into electrification for some time now. It’s been years since the MINI E electric vehicle plied the roads as a lease-only, limited test fleet in L.A. and New York. Now the MINI Cooper SE is here.

The MINI E was a pretty cool car based on the MINI Cooper two-door hardtop, fun to drive and pretty attention-getting with its unique, yellow electric plug graphics. We were sorry to see it go and really expected to see a production version introduced shortly after the MINI-E’s 2009/2010 field trials came to an end…but that wasn’t to be.

More recently, MINI has been offering its Cooper SE Countryman ALL-4, a plug-in hybrid model featuring gasoline engine power and 18 miles of all-electric driving. It’s not all-electric, but does champion MINI’s continuing interest in electrification. Now, after a long wait by MINI fans, the follow-up all-electric 2020 MINI Cooper SE has arrived.

The earlier Mini E’s battery pack replaced the rear seat, making it a two-seater. Contrasting this is the T-shaped battery pack in the new MINI Cooper SE that’s located beneath the rear seat and runs between the front seats. Thus, the Cooper SE remains a four-seater without compromising passenger or luggage space. While the MINI E had a range of about 100 miles on its 35 kWh lithium-ion battery, the Cooper S E improves on this a bit with an EPA estimated range of 110 miles with power from a smaller 32.6 kWh battery. It’s also energy efficient with an EPA rated 108 combined MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).

Powering  the Cooper SE is a synchronous electric motor featuring 181 horsepower and 199 lb-ft torque.  Since maximum torque is available from standstill, the front-drive Cooper SE accelerates from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 7.3 seconds. To prevent slip during launch, the electric traction control system was integrated into the MINI’s primary electronic control unit (ECU), enabling computer control to shorten the time between wheel slippage and system response.

Four driving modes are offered. The default MID setting brings comfort-oriented steering characteristics, while a GREEN mode results in greater efficiency to increase range. GREEN+ disables features like heating, air conditioning, and seat heating to further increase range. SPORT mode, as you would expect, provides more sporty driving.

A driver can control the car’s degree of regenerative braking to increase or decrease deceleration intensity. A stronger regen setting can be selected if one-pedal driving is preferred. With aggressive regen, a Cooper SE begins decelerating as soon as a driver’s foot is lifted from the accelerator, enabling the car to be slowed at low speeds without using the hydraulic brakes. The softer regen setting is available for those who prefer a more conventional driving and braking feel.

Cabin heating is provided by an energy-efficient heat pump system that collects waste heat from the motor, drive controller, high-voltage battery, and outside temperatures. The result is 75 percent less energy use than a conventional electric heating system, thus saving all-important battery power to gain additional driving range. On hot or cold days, cabin temperature can be pre-conditioned by activating heating or cooling through the MINI Connected Remote App on a smartphone. The app also displays battery state-of-charge, available range, and energy consumption statistics. A map shows nearby public charging stations.

Standard equipment includes either Connected Navigation or Connected Navigation Plus, depending on the trim level. Connected Navigation includes a 6.5-inch central touchscreen. It enables Real Time Traffic Information to help a driver navigate around traffic congestion, along with Apple CarPlay and the internet platform MINI Online. Connected Navigation Plus includes an 8.8-inch color screen and adds wireless cellphone charging.

Speed, remaining range, battery charge level, and power demand are shown on a 5.5-inch digital instrument cluster screen behind the steering wheel. Also shown are navigation directions, selected MINI driving modes, status of driver assistance systems, and traffic sign detection.

The Cooper SE can be charged with a 120 volt AC household outlet or quicker with a 240 volt Level 2 wall or public charger, the latter taking about 3 1/2 hours from depleted to full charge. When 50 kW Level 3 fast-charging is available, the Cooper SE can be charged to 80 percent battery capacity in only 35 minutes. Charging is via a charge port above the right-hand rear wheel, the same location where you refuel a conventional MINI.

MINI’s Cooper SE is what fans of the marque have been waiting for. It’s packed with technology and promises a fun driving experience, at a reasonable base price of $29,900. Sign us up!