A week in the Mini Cooper SE

I spent a week in the Mini Cooper SE after getting a home EV wallbox charger installed. I wanted to test the home charger for a longer stint than when I had the Audi e-tron Sportback S for a weekend. If you want to read about that, it’s published on the Mail & Guardian.

As far as testing EVs go, a week is decent amount time to spend in it to get a proper feel of how often you’d need to charge it, based on a car this size.

Quick Look:

Mini Cooper SE limited range

I wanted the Mini Cooper SE  for a week because it is the EV that has the smallest battery currently in South Africa. In August 2020, when the Mini Cooper SE was launched in Johannesburg, I had the opportunity to drive it. If you want to know more about the car, please refer to this post, I will avoid repeating the same things:

I think I was in the minority when the Mini Cooper SE launched and could see myself driving one around Joburg. Yes, it has a small battery, thus, limited range for most people. My needs are different, everyone’s are from each other.

Why the Mini Cooper SE is suited for me

I don’t have a big family, don’t make long trips across the province, work from home, do my groceries in the suburb I live (when I don’t use grocery delivery apps), and the work events I attend are not that far, usually. When I plan weekends away, it is usually because I have a test car. When it comes to boot space, considering I drive a Cooper S, I fold the seats down and my large luggage fits if I need to drive to the airport. So given all these factors, it is fair to say that perhaps an EV with around ~160km of range may be suited to my lifestyle.

Charging the Mini Cooper SE

Having the home wallbox charger meant I could charge at any time – except when there was load shedding – because I know you’re thinking it. My time with the EV was before the whole stage 6 saga, just to clarify. I opted to give it a charge usually when it had around 80km of range. This is unlike the approach I took with the larger e-tron, which I charged after driving to keep it mostly topped up as the battery was bigger. I wanted to avoid charging for a long stretch in one go.

The battery on the Cooper SE took a couple of hours to fully charge on a 32A charger with a maximum speed of 7.4kWh. I was surprised at how quickly it charged. It also made me realise I was happy with the 7.4kW charger I opted for (my house is 3 phase and can do 22kW). If I need anything quicker, I have access to a DC charger near my house.

Driving the Mini Cooper SE

I used the car as I normally would, I didn’t plan anything out of the ordinary. Definitely no getaways with that range. I had a bunch of events, appointments etc and just took it everywhere. While I had no doubt it would suit my lifestyle, there are other factors that come into play when driving a car like this.

I got around 160km of range on a full charge. Bear in mind this car launched in August 2020 and it has been driven by media for more than a year and half, and adapted to so many other’s driving styles and possible some wear on the battery.

I used the more aggressive regenerative braking setting; you either love it or hate but in all honesty, I think it’s more a thing you do instinctively if you want to be efficient. Ultimately, that’s the point of an EV, nobody is going to waste range by going flat out at every chance.

Then I chose different modes where I felt necessary for the journey, based on range and where I was going, such as sport, mid, green and green plus. I went into green more often than I thought I would, but because I wanted to get used to it. I used green plus occasionally.

As mentioned on my above tweet, my longest roundtrip was Jhb/Jhb/Pretoria/Jhb and I got back with 60km of range, which I think was excellent. I toggled between various modes and managed perfectly fine.

I also took slightly different routes than I normally would, such as avoiding inclines where possible because of the amount of range I save. This is around familiar areas I frequent and having used other EVs on, which taught me how to be more efficient.

What I learnt driving a Cooper SE for a week

Given that it integrated into my lifestyle, not the other way around, I managed perfectly fine. I didn’t think I wouldn’t survive a trip, and as mentioned earlier, I don’t do lengthy trips. Having a home charger made all the difference, and that is key to my conclusion.

Relying on public charging infrastructure would mean wasting range (and wasting money in a mall while it charges) and there was none of that. It would have been a frustrating experience, to be honest.

And for someone like me with no kids, not needing a large car, etc, I loved driving the Mini Cooper SE. I’m also aware this doesn’t apply to the majority of the population. Yes, it worked for me and doesn’t mean it will work for you.

It still remains one of the least expensive EVs out there, but since launch, the price has gone up for the base model: R694 600. It’s also out of stock at the time of publishing, and nearly impossible to get it pre-owned. That said, it is still an expensive vehicle, and something has to change sooner rather than later, looking at the cost of fuel in SA.

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