When we first heard about an Electric Mini lapping the Nürburgring, the first thing we thought was not “what lap time did it achieve?”, but rather “did it manage to lap the 20.8 km Green-Hell on a single charge?”. But then this of course is BMW’s Mini E, a zero emissions vehicle that can travel around 100-120 miles on a single charge (depending on driving style and conditions).
Power for the Mini E is provided by a front-mounted 150-kilowatt electric motor which generates the equivalent of 204 hp. The motor’s energy supply comes from a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery which is installed in the rear of the car in place of the back seats and enables it to sprint from 0-62mph in just 8.5 seconds and up to an electronically-limited top speed of 95mph.
It was still an ambitous project – driving flat out around the world’s longest circuit is not really what BMW’s most environmental model is best suited for.
BMW were keen to become the first car manufacturer to lap the infamous Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit at race speed with an electrically powered car, so to ensure they set a respectable pace some ‘modifications’ were made to the prototype Mini E to make it better suited for the job.
The MINI E Race was fitted with a special lightweight body and a roll cage in order to ensure optimum performance and safety on the track. And various other components, such as the suspension, brakes and tyres, are also race specification. Other than that, however, the car relies almost exclusively on the standard technical make-up of the MINI E. For example, it shares the same 150 kW/204 hp electric motor, supplied with energy from 5,088 lithium-ion battery cells. The control electronics and the software were reprogrammed to achieve an optimal driving performance for the Nordschleife. The power from the emission-free motor is channelled to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox with a lengthened gear ratio.
At the wheel of the electric racer for the hot lap was former DTM racing driver Thomas Jäger from Munich. “I’ve driven this circuit many times, but never in such an extraordinary car,” said Jäger, the MINI Challenge champion in 2006. “The power of the electric motor has an incredible effect, as you can access its full reserves of torque at all times. Another element of this fascinating experience is the lack of noise from the drivetrain. All in all, that was certainly the cleanest and quietest race lap I’ve ever driven.”
“The length and profile of the Nordschleife place extreme demands on the technology of our electric car. But the MINI E Race met this considerable challenge with great authority,” said the BMW Group’s Peter Krams, who headed up the project. “The aim of this unique undertaking was to provide an impressive showcase of the great potential of the MINI E and its environment-friendly drive concept.”
The MINI E Race, completed a lap of the legendary 20.8 km “Green Hell” in a time of 09:51.45 minutes reaching a top speed of 187 km/h, and you can watch a short video of the said car in action as it set off around the circuit yesterday.