Green for go Mini's electric appeal
WE plugged into another small glimpse of the future yesterday as we took to the streets in an electric Mini prototype.
There are 612 of these in the world being tested in everyday conditions by ordinary drivers.
The one I took for an energetic spin in north Dublin was Number 610.
It is called the Mini E for obvious reasons, and the word is that a full production version isn't that far off -- possibly within a couple of years.
Before then, however, Mini has to overcome the big difficulty with electric cars -- how your range is limited by the amount of charge the batteries can hold.
As well as that, if we are honest, there is a sort of unspoken understanding that green cars aren't much fun. And if you own one you are a 'responsible' citizen who would never take pleasure in giving it a bit of welly . . . because that would be wasteful, wouldn't it?
This Mini E is the first I've come across where there's real zip built into the DNA of the vehicle. Without breaking speed limits, we led something of a charge of the light brigade in short sharp bursts of acceleration and swift cornering.
It certainly dispelled the myth that 'green' is slow; 'green' can mean 'go' as well.
This has power that is not far short of the high-performance Mini John Cooper works.
But, of course, the faster I drove the quicker the remaining charge ebbed away.
And that remains the biggest hurdle for Mini and for all electric carmakers -- pushing the boundaries of how far you can travel on one charge. It doesn't matter if most journeys are relatively short. Psychologically, people in a car like this have to feel comfortable with starting out on a long journey without fearfully monitoring the charge-gauge.
Most electric cars have a range of around 150km. But that can easily be reduced to 100km in the harsh reality of prevailing traffic conditions or making up time.
The car's arrival coincides with the ESB rollout of charging points.
There is a logic to it all. And that is bolstered by some startling financial inducements. In studies carried out in the UK, it is reckoned the equivalent petrol version Mini costs an average of around €200 a month on fuel. Using night-rate electricity, this Mini E tots up an estimated bill of €20.
That is the sort of 'E logic' we all want to hear.