BMW can rightfully claim to be South Africa's most significant electric vehicle brand.
The German company has been marketing both its i3 and i8 vehicles here for the last few years, and although sales have been negligible, BMW has spearheaded a great deal of electric vehicle infrastructure development.
The Mini Cooper SE
Mini is now joining the electric vehicle mission of its German parent company, with the first battery powered Cooper SE expected to go on sale locally, before the end of the year.
Fans of the compact car brand will not notice much difference with the Mini Cooper SE, but for the absence of an exhaust pipe jutting out from the under the rear bumper.
Powering the Cooper SE is a lithium-ion battery pack, assembled into the car's floor section, therefore having the least adverse influence on cabin space and passenger comfort. These batteries have adequate energy density to power 135kW and 270Nm to the car's electric motor, which powers its front wheels.
Claimed performance is brisk, with the electrified Cooper capable of 0-100kph in 7.3 seconds, despite being 145kg heavier than an equivalent Cooper S, powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine.
Range is less than you'd expect
Range anxiety is a huge issue for potential electric car buyers, even early adopters and brand fashion customers, the like of which constitute most of Mini's target market. The 32.6kWh battery pack will provide a driving range of 235- or 270km, depending on the topography of your route.
There is no disputing that the Cooper SE electric's range is low, compared to a conventional petrol-fuelled rival. For those who wish to make an environmental or lifestyle statement with their vehicle choice, it might be less of an issue, especially if your driving is limited to urban commuting.
Recharging the battery pack to 80% capacity from your household socket, using BMW's high-capacity Wallbox, is achievable in two-and-a-half hours. If you have access to a fast-charging station, available at BMW/Mini dealerships, you reduce the recharging time to only 35 minutes.
Although the Cooper SE might be short on range, it has a superior centre of gravity to other Minis, which should make the electric version even more entertaining and stable to drive, with minimal bodyroll.
Pricing for the zero-emission Mini will start at R642,000, making it by far South Africa's cheapest electric car.