Head of MINI brand management Sebastian Mackensen and Head of MINI series management Peter Wolf preview the first plug-in hybrid model by the British premium brand.
Munich. Hallmark MINI driving fun combined with zero tailpipe emissions. With the introduction of the first plug-in hybrid model by the British premium brand, this will soon be a reality. The series development process for this car has almost been completed. It features a combustion engine and an electric motor enabling purely electric propulsion for the first time in a MINI. This marks the beginning of a new phase for MINI, and offers a glimpse into a future that is charged with excitement for MINI customers and those drivers yet to experience the thrill of a hybrid.
Head of MINI brand management Sebastian Mackensen and Head of MINI series management Peter Wolf offer insight into this new near-series test vehicle, and explain how it retains go-kart feeling in the true spirit of a MINI during a test drive of this model.
'With this model we want to convince MINI customers of the benefits of hybrid drive', says Mackensen, 'and impress everyone who already has hybrid driving experience with MINI's unique go-kart driving feel.' The key to achieving this lies in intelligent energy management which is used to control how the combustion engine and electric motor operate together. For this reason, the first MINI plug-in hybrid model is not solely focused on efficiency, but uncompromising in pursuit of driving fun.
At first glance, you wouldn't recognise the test car as a hybrid model. And that's not because of the camouflage foil used. The charging socket for the high-voltage battery is discreetly integrated in the left Side Scuttle. Everything also looks familiar in the cockpit. The start/stop button in the centre of the dashboard glows yellow instead of red. As usual, you simply press the button to start the car – this vehicle, however, remains silent as the hybrid model always starts in electric mode. The rpm counter in the instrument cluster on the steering column has been replaced with a power display. Keeping a close eye on this display is particularly worthwhile for the first few miles as it informs the driver about the electric motor's power reserves before the combustion engine fires up. When exactly the combustion engine starts varies depending upon on the vehicle's speed and the intensity with which the driver operate the accelerator pedal.
'After a short time, the driver gets a feel for this', promises Wolf. And this new driving experience promises a lot of driving fun. The hybrid MINI makes full use of the electric motor's entire torque, which is available right from standstill, allowing for catapult-like acceleration. Even after leaving the slower pace of the city, this vehicle maintains its zero-tailpipe emissions at motorway speeds. The high-voltage battery under the rear seats provides power for long-lasting electric driving. AÚTO eDRIVE standard mode permits speeds of up to 50 mph, whilst in MAX eDRIVE mode speeds of up to 78 mph are possible. For Mackensen this is a question of character: 'In a hybrid MINI model, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience. This means that entirely electric driving is not limited to speeds of 30 or 40 km/h, but to speeds well beyond city traffic pace.'
Testing the vehicle himself, Mackensen puts the car through its paces and demonstrates that you need to step on the accelerator peddle very firmly indeed to activate the second power source. Then things really start happening. With the combined output of both drives, the first MINI hybrid vehicle demonstrates unparalleled acceleration performance when compared with its combustion-only siblings.
However, MINI's go-kart driving characteristics consists of more than just fast acceleration. Above all, this hybrid MINI has to prove how precisely it handles when taking bends on the most exciting, twisting roads. This is where MINI's plug-in hybrid concept plays its next trump card. 'As far as the chassis and suspension are concerned, nothing changes from the conventionally driven model variants', says Wolf, 'and the set-up benefits a lot from the hybrid concept'. Thanks to the eDrive components, which are positioned very low down at the rear, the car's centre of gravity is lowered and the weight is evenly balanced between the front and rear axle – ideal for achieving an even higher level of legendary MINI agility.
6-speed Automatic, 6-speed Manual
The Hybrid concept provides yet another benefit: the electric motor transmits its power to the rear wheels, the combustion engine to the front wheels. Since the intelligent energy management is linked to the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), traction and drive stability are optimised via the drive system. 'As soon as there is any risk of drive slip, the second drive unit is activated to provide additional traction when starting off or ensuring a high level of steering precision when cornering', explains Wolf.
Intelligent energy management offers a further opportunity for both power sources to work together effectively. Driving on the motorway, Mackensen activates a third mode with the eDrive toggle switch: SAVE BATTERY. In this mode, the combustion engine powers the car whilst at the same time, the high voltage battery can retain charge at a constant level or indeed increase charge via a generator. Extended driving in SAVE BATTERY mode enables enough power generation for purely electric driving later.
After driving in SAVE BATTERY mode, the MINI drives back into town in silence at the end of the test drive. The status display in the cockpit reminds the driver to recharge the battery via wallbox or power socket. Refuelling is not necessary yet because the MINI plug-in hybrid model merely took a small sip from the fuel tank. Yet another new dimension of MINIMALISM.Source - MINI
The British Motor Corporation came into existence in 1952 by the merging of two manufacturers, Nuffield Motors and Austin. Nuffield was known for its Morris line of vehicles, while Austin had its 'Seven' model line. The transition for the two manufacturers was difficult and had been forced out of necessity. After World War II, many vehicle manufacturers could not stay in business due to destroyed factories, recovering economies, strained resources, and lack of funds. Combining the two companies was a means to stay in business.A fuel shortage was occurring. German engineers quickly adapted and began producing fuel-efficient vehicles. Examples include the Volkswagen Beetle. Leonard Lord, Chairman of BMC and former head of Austin, commissioned Sir Alec Issigonis to design a vehicle to compete with the German-made vehicles. Alec Issigonis was a graduate of Battersea Technical College. After graduation he worked as a draftsman for a plethora of engineering projects. Later, he joined Morris Motors where he was tasked with creating and fitting suspensions to the Morris vehicles.
Issigonis was outfitted with requirements to create a fuel-efficient, affordable, safe vehicle capable of carrying four individuals including luggage. To save on development costs, it was requested that an existing BMC engine be used. What he created was a vehicle that sat atop of 10 inch wheels. By using smaller wheels there was little need for wheel wells.
The car was expected to carry four individuals; the combined weight of the passengers being greater than the entire vehicle. A suspension was needed that could accept this pay-load. With his prior experience creating and working with suspensions, Issigonis designed a rubber cone suspension. A 950 cc, four cylinder, BMC engine was selected. It was mounted in the front and expected to power the front wheels, a system that was revolutionary at the time. Instead of mounting the engine longitudinally, it was place transversely. The transmission was place under the engine due to space constraints. When Issigonis presented his designs and recommendations to Lord in 1958, changes were requested. Instead of the 950 cc engine, a 34 horsepower, 848 cc engine would be used, making the vehicle slower but more importantly, more safe. The other request was to make the vehicle two inches wider.There were two versions of the car when it was first introduced on August 26, 1959. The only difference between the 1959 Austin and Morris versions was their badges. John Cooper had designed vehicles that successfully won the Formula One championships in 1959 and 1960. He proposed a marriage between his 1000 cc Formula Junior engine with the Mini. Lord approved the idea and in 1961 the Mini Cooper was born. It was fitted with a 997 cc engine producing 55 horsepower. Later, the Cooper S came into being with the advent of the 970 cc and the 1275 cc engine - the latter capable of 76 horsepower.
From 1964 through 1967 the little car dominated the Monte Carlo Rally. The car easily achieved these victories using a 91 horsepower engine.
Minis became more than just a practical car, they became a fashion statement. This, combined with their practicality, fuel efficiency, and success on the race track, created an overwhelming demand for the little car. In the 1980's, the Mini was starting to loose momentum. Rover tried to revitalize the Mini brand by creating special editions. In all, there were more than 40 different editions created between 1980 and 2000. A merger with British Motor Corporation and another company produced the Britsh Leyland Company. Later, it became Rover Group. Currently, it is owned by BMW. In 2001, BMW introduced the MINI. The MINI currently has three Cooper models. Their main differences being the size of the engine and the horsepower rating. A convertible has also been included to the line-up. By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2007
Three generations of driving fun: The MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S through the years.
For three generations and over 50 years, the Cooper name has identified a MINI offering even more in the way of driving fun. The idea, hatched by brilliant Formula One designer John Cooper, to fuel the agile small car with an extra hit of performance and turn it into a sporting machine for the road and track has lost none of its appeal. But the Cooper has never been about horsepower, as a comparison between the classic Mini and its two successors resoundingly proves. The key here is the basic principle of the creative use of space, combined with the inimitable go-kart feeling that runs like a thread through the three generations of the legendary small car. These famous handling traits are enjoyed by drivers on bendy country roads and city streets around the world, with the classic Mini and 21st-century MINI still regularly crossing each other's path.
The small British car positively craves twists and turns demanding quick and precise changes in direction; this is where it feels most at home. The classic Mini was tailor-made for tackling hairpins and corner-strewn roads, and it still looks the part today – aided by the healthy 46 kW/63 hp available in a Mini Cooper towards the end of its production run. The classic Cooper was built up to autumn 2000, by which time its successor was already twitching in the starting blocks. In contrast to the original Mini, the new model was available in Cooper guise from the outset. And with 85 kW/115 hp under the bonnet, it would do its nameplate proud. From the word go, the car's powerplant and chassis formed a harmonious alliance to deliver unbeatable driving fun. As John Cooper realised, sometimes you actually can't have too much of a good thing. 50 years ago he unveiled the 70 hp Mini Cooper S. And today, its youngest descendant places 135 kW/184 hp at the disposal of its driver. As if that wasn't enough, the turbocharged engine powering the latest MINI Cooper S also sets the benchmark for efficiency in its output class.
When Alec Issigonis set out to develop a new small car for the British Motor Corporation in the mid-1950s, his priorities were space and price. Indeed, at a touch over three metres in length, the classic Mini offered astonishingly generous accommodation for passengers and their gear alike. Issigonis settled on a front transverse installation for the four-cylinder engine, under which lay the gearbox, plumb between the wheels. The positioning of those wheels at the far corners of the car and the Mini's short overhangs did the rest. The Mini was small on the outside but roomy on the inside, not to mention – at around 600 kilograms – extremely light. The principles underpinning its design remain the template for small and compact cars in the modern era.
However, it was left to another key figure in the brand's history to uncover the vast well of sporting talent under that diminutive shell. John Cooper, a friend and business partner of Mini creator Issigonis and winner of two Formula One constructors' world titles, was quick to spot the car's dynamic potential, and in 1961 the first Mini Cooper hit the roads. Production of the Cooper was temporarily suspended in the 1970s, but by that time the Mini Cooper badge had long since become the signature of a sporty and agile small car.
As well as the intervention of John Cooper, the launch of this famous sporting career also relied on the brilliance of the classic Mini's chassis. Issigonis had broken new ground with the steering and suspension of his new creation, and in so doing laid the foundations for the go-kart feeling appreciated by drivers to this day. Homokinetic joints reduced torque steer, a subframe (to which the rear wheels were fixed) improved directional stability, and rubber springs and small telescopic dampers ensured accurate responses and progressive spring action. The wealth of ideas packed into this small car still impresses. And the result of those ideas – the classic Mini's much-celebrated handling – explains why the car continues to enjoy such a loyal community of fans. When the successor to the original car came along in 2001, it was clear that highly advanced chassis technology would be needed in order to set the pace in driving fun all over again. The MINI Cooper rose to the challenge in some style, thanks to MacPherson spring struts at the front axle, axle shafts equal in length, a multi-link rear axle unique in the small car segment, disc brakes on all four wheels, and DSC (Dynamic Stability Control).
The latest-generation MINI Cooper S also features Electric Power Steering with Servotronic function and a DSC system including DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) and an electronic locking function for the front axle differential. Known as Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC), this system gives the MINI a crucial edge through the tight bends of Alpine passes, for example, by braking a spinning wheel as required to enhance drive out of corners as well as the car's steering properties. Added to which, pressing the standard Sport Button in the MINI Cooper S makes the steering even more direct and stirs up a particularly sporty soundtrack from the engine. All of this was unimaginable 50 years ago, of course, but you get the impression John Cooper would have wholeheartedly approved.
Additional featured vehicles include the World Premiere of the first-ever BMW M3 CS, North American Premiere of the BMW X7 Concept, the BMW 8 Series Concept, and the BMW M5.
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