► Fully electric with five-speed manual
► Up to 120bhp on tap
► Urban range of around 80 miles
The original Mini has certainly seen its fair share of engine swaps over the years, with all manner of different motors crammed under its stubby nose. But it’s not just high-powered four-pots donated by Honda, Vauxhall or a superbike, the Electrogenic Mini is one of the latest examples of an all-electric version.
Things have come a long way from the slow and short-range lead acid-powered conversions of decades past. Modern batteries are far more power-dense while electric motors are more efficient and punchier, too. With the cells hidden beneath the bonnet and boot floor, there’s enough juice for an urban range of around 80 miles.
Although our test car looks like it drove straight out of the 60s on its tiny 10-inch wheels, this is actually a 1994 Mini Cooper that’s been backdated to look significantly older. Electrogenic says they’d happily take on any age of Mini, a fairly minor feat given the massive variety of cars it’s converted.
Land Rovers of the Series and Defender variety have been electrified by the company along with a Citroen DS that retains the original hydropneumatic suspension, a Triumph Stag, Porsche 911 and even an original 356.
It certainly can be. The Hyper 9 electric motor used is capable of 120bhp and 173Ib ft of torque, although in this application it’s dialled down to around 65bhp. That’s because this particular car belongs to Small Car Big City, a company that offers Mini tours and hire in central London.
Not only is the idea of a tourist with a 120bhp Mini in central London a terrifying prospect, but the electrified car’s performance has to closely match the original’s to gain Transport for London’s approval.
Why bother? Well, electricity is cheaper than petrol and the car can easily be charged overnight. Besides, original gearboxes only last around 45,000 miles, so its replacement with a stronger five-speed unit from a Citroen C1 should help the bottom line, too.
Not really, no. The boot is slightly smaller on account of the floor being slightly raised to hide batteries where the spare once lived, but space inside is unchanged and the weight penalty is only around 80kg.
Although that could be a slight worry given the non-servo assisted brakes, a small amount of regen braking is built in to help out. Everything else feels pure Mini, including the instrumentation, skew-whiff driving position and cosy interior.
Despite the familiarity of the controls and dials, you drive this electric Mini slightly differently to one with an internal combustion engine. You don’t need to touch the clutch at all to pull away, only when changing gear. Even then there’s no slipping of the clutch and feeding in power, it’s lift off throttle, press clutch, change gear, lift off clutch then add throttle.
Not that you’ll need to change cogs that regularly. First is a bit short given the low-rev peppiness of the electric motor, second gives decent acceleration up to 30mph while third is a pleasant urban cruising gear. The shift is light if not the most precise, but certainly involves you more than a single-speed auto would.
The steering is heavy at low speeds, getting appreciably lighter on the move whilst delivering good feel through the thin-rimmed wooden steering wheel. The added weight of the battery and more even weight distribution means the Electrogenic Mini isn’t quite as flighty as a combustion powered one, yet it still dives into corners with pleasing agility and has plenty of grip given the performance available.
The ride is still as firm and bouncy as you’d expect although the electric motor’s whine isn’t as intrusive as the original gearbox’s. In other words, those used to the ease of modern cars will probably find the 80 miles of range is more than enough driving for the day.
Electrogenic make sure all of their components simply bolt into the existing car without requiring any permanent modifications. That’s right, you won’t have to cut, drill or weld your prized classic to get any of the electric gubbins in.
That means everything is reversable, so if you’re selling or just miss the oil patch on your garage floor the old internal combustion powertrain can slot back in.
While some classics possess engines that are integral to the car’s character, there are plenty more (Mini included) where the standard powerplant leaves more than a bit to be desired. Besides, the idea of being able to just get into your classic and go rather than endlessly tinkering will appeal to many, including this writer.
Crucially, the Electrogenic conversion still retains most of the original’s car character. Apart from what lives under the bonnet, the Mini still feels like a Mini to drive, and the retention of the manual gearbox is a nice touch. Some might hope for more range, but without replacing the back seats with heavy batteries, it’s not really practical.
Naturally this type of conversion is anything but cheap, especially if you want to convert a car that’s not been electrified before. However, the sympathetic nature and high quality of the work makes it easy to see where the money’s gone.