MINI has revealed it is developing a plug-in hybrid powertrain that’s expected to go into production as part of the 2017 MINI Countryman range.
While the PHEV MINI Countryman will feature a standard combustion engine and electric motor combo, it will differ from most other hybrids by allowing electric only speeds beyond a measly 40km/h.
Head of MINI brand management Sebastian Mackensen [pictured below with Head of MINI series management Peter Wolf (right)] says the focus of the hybrid MINI is the pursuit of fun and efficient driving.
“With this model we want to convince MINI customers of the benefits of hybrid drive and impress everyone who already has hybrid driving experience with MINI’s unique go-kart driving feel,” says Mackensen.
“In a hybrid MINI model, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience.”
The Countryman hybrid is expected to have the same power set up as the BMW 225xe featuring 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine as well as sharing basic underpinnings.
It will come in two electric modes: The standard AUTO eDRIVE which permits speeds of up to 80km/h, and MAX eDRIVE mode with speeds of up to 125 km/h.
Handling will also be a priority, helped by a lower centre of gravity and equal distribution of battery weight and an intelligent energy management which is used to control how the combustion engine and electric motor operate together.
Apart from the quieter ride, there will be little to distinguish the hybrid MINI from conventional models, with the charging socket integrated in the left side scuttle above the front wheel arch.
Inside will also look familiar with a few subtle differences including the start button in the centre of the dashboard glowing yellow instead of red.
The rev counter in the instrument cluster has been replaced with a power display, to let the driver know how much battery power is left before the combustion engine kicks in – unlike some hybrids it will always start in electric mode to give you that nice, futuristic silent drive off.
While this is the first MINI hybrid to go into production, it isn’t the company’s first foray into electric vehicles. In 2009 it released the MINI E, a limited edition pure electric model with a 120km range that was offered to selected customers for short term lease.
BMW Australia is yet to confirm if the plug-in hybrid version of the MINI Countryman will make its way to Australia as part of the 2017 range, due in showrooms in the middle of next year.