Mini only recently launched its first production battery-electric vehicle, but it has big plans ahead, with at least three all-electric models to follow, including two SUVs and a hatchback.
Some reports suggest that Mini could go even further than it’s ready to publicly announce, however, one European source suggests the British brand’s high-performance John Cooper Works models will shift to become an electrified sub-brand.
“The future core portfolio of all-electric vehicles will include the Mini 3-Door Hatch, a new crossover model in the small-car segment and a compact crossover model,” Mini said in a statement. “The brand’s small-car models and a crossover model in the compact segment will be available to choose from with conventional internal combustion engines.”
There is no question that Mini has needed to rethink its strategy going forward. In the critical U.S. market it was a hit when gas was running $4 a gallon and small cars seemed the way of the future. Today, however, SUVs dominate and the Countryman crossover is Mini’s only real solid seller.
Even in Europe and China, utility vehicles have steadily gained ground, but electric vehicles are starting to look like the way of the future, partly due to improvements in the technology, but also due to increasingly stringent government mandates that could soon see a number of cities and countries ban the sale – and, in some cases, even the use – of gas and diesel vehicles entirely.
“Mini was always the answer to very special challenges relating to individual mobility. And the willingness to reinvent the status quo continues to shape the brand to this day,” said brand boss Bernd Körber in a statement outlining the push into what the company called “electromobility.”
The Mini Cooper SE, the automaker’s first all-electric model, debuted for the 2020 model year. U.S. sales expectations were modest reflecting not just the price tag starting around $30,000 but because of the limited range it offers, an EPA-rated 110 miles per charge from a 29.8 kilowatt-hour battery.
Mini faces a challenge in going electric in that its cars don’t have a lot of space for batteries. The SE pack is slightly less than half the size of the compact Chevrolet Bolt EV which, for 2021, squeezes out 259 miles per charge, according to the EPA.
Going forward, Mini hopes to deliver better numbers by switching to a unique, skateboard-style architecture for its EVs, rather than trying to modify existing platforms which invariably results in unsatisfactory compromises.
The British firm can turn to BMW for help, its German parent also moving to electrify much of its line-up in the coming years. But Mini indicated it will also work with Chinese affiliate Great Wall Motors to develop at least one of the two battery-electric crossovers it plans to bring to market. China is today the world’s largest market for BEVs.
“This venture will enable Mini to meet the rising demand for emission-free driving both in China and in the other global markets,” the company said. “Cooperation with the Chinese partner will be based on a clearly defined principle: Production follows the market. With locally manufactured vehicles Mini will serve the growing Chinese automotive market whilst maintaining stable production at other locations.”
While the three new BEVs all will be likely to go on sale in China, Mini has not indicated which models it will bring to the State, nor has it revealed specific timing.
Another question is how it will position the new offerings. It’s becoming something of the norm to create unique electric brands, BMW offerings models such as the i3 and i8 through its BEV marque, Daimler launching the Mercedes-EQ sub-brand, and Hyundai recently announcing it will respond with the EV-focused Ioniq division.
Mini may follow suit, according to a report by Britain’s Auto Express which said that will be the future direction of the marque’s John Cooper Works. JCW models have, at least until now, been the most powerful Mini offered. That wouldn’t necessarily be a stretch, however, as most automakers are now shifting directions as they push into electromobility, using battery technology not only to deliver great energy efficiency but also to boost performance.
Mini has not yet responded to a request for comment on the Auto Express report.