Mini Cooper SE – Is SA ready for EV’s?

In this tough economy we live and with the ever-increasing fuel prices, surely an electric vehicle is the way to go? That is yet to be answered as we do struggle with loadshedding, we are currently under stage 6 now, which is ridiculous. I recently has the Mini Cooper SE on test during this time and I have very mixed feelings.

The Mini Cooper SE is the cheapest EV (electric vehicle) you will currently find in SA, priced at R680k. My unit had extras that hiked up the price to almost R710k. Upon arrival, I was extremely excited, naturally because, well, this is my first EV, and I was highly keen to see how this new future of motoring is to experience on a daily. It has an electric motor, which produces 135kW and 270Nm. Might seem like small figures but I can assure you, when you put your foot down, this car moves. Being a single-speed automatic, there is no turbo lag at all + it helps that it has a low center of gravity. It’s a spritely little thing, feels eager to go and as though it’s got a lot of energy. If you want more kick, you can put it in Sport mode, but it fares simply fine in Mid, Green or Green+ mode. It is insanely agile and handles beautifully. Overtaking was a breeze, highway and city driving as also very enjoyable. It does give an “electrifying” driving experience. However, the regenerative braking really messed with me, on the first day, I exited the car with a tension headache because it pushed me forward so violently. This happens when you take you foot off the accelerator, so it sort of slows down itself to recuperate energy and reserve the range.

The interior is small, especially considering that it’s marketed to be that “errands” or “short commute” car, you know, the school runs etc. The boot space being only 211 liters could at best fit my handbag and laptop bag, but that’s about it. The cabin has amazing quality all around and that jukebox-esque infotainment system that’s synonymous with Mini was very cute to look it. Lift the boot flap and you will find the two charging cables. I went to BMW Montana to charge it with the grid and had a conversation with the sales executives, and as they were trying to sell me this car, I was not too impressed. The conventional school run with, for example, 2 kids with all their bags and the like, would not work with this car. It is perfect for someone who’s single, in my opinion. Charging it at home was not much of an issue as I did it overnight, so a full charge took 8 hours. I had to plan around loadshedding, so I did have my work cut out for me. I did try to go to the Rosslyn plant, which is about 5 minutes from home, yet I was told the charging grid was for the directors only, and that frustrated me because of this is the direction we are heading with regards to mobility, why isn’t charging easily accessible? On a full charge, I got 168km. I had a lot of range anxiety during my time with the car, and for someone who used to do a 120km return trip to my workplace daily, it would not work. Yes, the are other electric vehicles with better range, but they cost almost R2million – which isn’t accessible for many. You will need another diesel or petrol car in the household for those long-haul trips if you have this car, and I would advise on getting the grid installed in your home.

Ultimately, the Mini is exactly what Mini aims to achieve – quirkiness, uniformity and a fun, agile driving experience. For my lifestyle, it is a bit of a total bust, but I see the reason it retails in SA, and I would recommend it for those who it would work for. I liked it a lot, yet there is so much we need to improve on to accommodate electric vehicles in South Africa. I am quite sad my first EV experience was not the most exciting, but I learned quite a lot about them and I’m super excited to see this new era of motoring we are entering.

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