Mini has on Tuesday announced it will produce a new range of electric cars at its Oxford factory, though they’re not exactly ‘new’…
It confirmed the launch of its ‘Recharged’ project, an official in-house programme that will take an owner’s iconic Mini from between 1959 and 2000 and convert it into a fully-electric car that retains its classic looks.
For an undisclosed fee, the Cowley factory – which is where the current BMW-Mini is built – will replace the original car’s four-cylinder A-series engine with a powertrain of a 121bhp electric motor and battery. As a result it will accelerate to 62mph in 9 seconds, have a range of 99 miles and produces zero tailpipe emissions.
While many will call sacrilege on the stripping of an original car’s motor, Mini says it will number and store the engine and removed parts so that cars can be returned to their internal combustion originality if requested at a later date.
Recharging the Mini for the 21st Century: Mini has setup a dedicated division at its Oxford car factory to take original cars, strip them of their A-series engines and fit a battery and electric motor
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an original – Alec Issigonis-designed – Mini being fully converted to an EV.
In 2018, This is Money got behind the wheel of Mini’s one-off electric adaptation based on a 1998 Cooper (read our driving impressions on that car below).
Bosses said it was the positive public reaction to this car that led to the conception of the new Recharged programme that will run alongside production of the current Mini hatchback and Mini Electric at the Oxford factory.
There are also specialist firms in Britain that will convert classic Minis to EVs.
This includes Swindon Powertrains stunning Swind E Classic Mini, a run of 100 creations with a starting price of £79,000 – more than you’d pay for a flawless 1959 original car with a low-mileage internal combustion engine under the bonnet.
However, if you already have a donor Mini, the Swindon-based firm will fit a 12kW battery and 107bhp electric motor at a cost of £10,620 including VAT.
This is the original conversion created by Mini in 2018 ahead of the New York Motor Show that year. It was based on a 1998 car and retained its manual gearbox, unlike the new Recharged series of conversions
Built and re-built in Britain: Swindon Powertrains announced in 2019 that it would produce 100 electrified classic Minis, each costing from £79,000
While only 100 of these stunning electrified classics were created, owners of existing Minis can have Swindon Powertrains fit their donor cars with a 12kW battery and 107bhp electric motor at a cost of £10,620 including VAT
What makes the Recharged series big news is the fact it is an official conversion, controlled and completed by the manufacturer rather than being outsourced to a third party.
The project will be led by a separate division of workers at the firm’s Oxford plant and will ‘tell the story of the classic Mini in the 21st century, in a sustainable way’ – though every car that’s completed can be returned to its original factory settings.
Mini says the Recharged series will make ‘reversible changes’ to the ‘substance of the vehicle’ and that conversion will not need to be registered as new cars.
It added: ‘Careful handling of the car’s historical heritage is an important part of the concept. This makes it possible to restore the classic Mini to its original condition at a later date.
‘During the conversion, the original engine of each vehicle is marked and stored so it can be reused in the event of a future retrofit of the classic Mini.’
The Mini Recharged programme will be led by a separate division of workers at the firm’s Oxford plant and will ‘tell the story of the classic Mini in the 21st century, in a sustainable way’
With a range of 99 miles from a full charge. Mini says the Recharged conversions will be able to drive from its Oxford factory to the centre of London without needing to stop – as we as avoiding charges for entering the ULEZ and Congestion Zone
Mini says the Recharged project will make ‘reversible changes’ to the ‘substance of the vehicle’ and that conversion will not need to be registered as new cars
It will see original cars relieved of their four-speed manual gearboxes and replaced with a single-speed transmission to accompany the electric motor.
The predicted range of 99 miles from a fully-charged battery would be enough to travel from the Oxford factory to Piccadilly Circus without having to stop – or pay the ULEZ or Congestion Charge.
Mini has yet to announce the battery size being fitted to Recharged cars, though its limited range of less than 100 miles and need to be compact and light in order to not destroy the go-kart-like handling of the original means it will likely be relatively small pack compared to what you’d get in a Tesla and other in-market EVs.
Owners will be able to charge their electrified Minis by plugging into a port under the original filler cap (pictured here without the flap cover in place), with the battery capable of accepting charging speeds of up to 6.6kW
During the conversion, the original engine of each vehicle is marked and stored so it can be reused in the event of a future retrofit of the classic Mini, says the brand
Mini Recharged cars will have their original instrument clusters retained, though revised to incorporate a new gauge that shows remaining range
Apart from the modified Smiths gauge and the additional of an automatic transmissions, there will be little difference to tell a Recharged Mini from an original. This also means it should be a straight-forward process to return the cars to original spec
Owners will be able to charge their electrified Minis by plugging into a port under the original filler cap, with the battery capable of accepting charging speeds of up to 6.6kW.
Plant Oxford will also revise – though retain – the original dials but incorporate a new gauge cluster that shows remaining range.
Bernd Körber, Head of the Mini brand said: ‘What the project team are developing preserves the character of the classic Mini and enables its fans to enjoy all-electric performance. With Mini Recharged, we are connecting the past with the future of the brand.’
No price for the Recharged conversion has been announced as yet but will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
What makes the Recharged series big news is the fact it is an official conversion, controlled and completed by the manufacturer rather than being outsourced to a third party
The 2018 electric Mini conversion (red) can be identified by its modified badge and pin-stripe. Recharged cars will unlikely have these features, meaning they will look totally original
Would you choose to convert an original Mini to an electric car? The Recharged programme will unlikely appeal to enthusiasts and collectors of the iconic classic model
What’s it like driving an original Mini converted to electric power?
by Ray Massey (July 2018)
Superb or sacrilege? Ray Massey pictured with the classic Mini Electric produced by the factory in 2018. Here’s what he said about driving the car shortly after it was first unveiled
We were lucky enough to be one of the first to try the original electric Mini conversion created by Plant Oxford in 2018. Unlike the Recharged cars, this example was fitted with a manual gearbox, which is a rarity for any EV. Here is Ray Massey’s driving impressions from that day…
When I stepped inside this bright-red pocket rocket it looked, felt and even smelt like an original Mini.
Maybe it was the leather and horse-hair filling that was skewing my senses. Or perhaps some residual vapours that imbued themselves into the upholstery.
But in my head I could swear I was getting some whiffs of four-star 95 Octane in my nostrils. Or maybe it was just my imagination making subliminal sensory associations.
My first genuine thought wasn’t of the electric motor, but actually of what a genius Issigonis was to cram so much car into so little space. It is incredibly small.
I looked around. There were manual wind-up windows rather than the early slider ones. And there was a door handle. Early ones had a pull-wire.
And a cleverly designed swivel ash-tray for nicotine addicts in those less politically-correct days.
The dashboard dials were original though some were not functioning and remained for display only.
The only visible change I could see was a small and very discreet electronic monitor which showed the amount of charge and range, though to be honest it was so small I couldn’t read it anyway.
The normal three pedals were all there, though I was warned that the clutch had been disabled as it was not required. So that left just the brake and the accelerator to negotiate.
Unusually for an electric car there was, however, a fully-functioning four-speed gearbox (plus reverse) which I needed to engage to get going.
The Mini Cooper’s original 1,275cc 63 horsepower engine has been stripped out and replaced with an electric motor and lithium phosphate batteries
The classic Mini Electric has a top speed of 75mph and a range of about 65 miles, which is 34 miles less than the Mini Recharged series
I was told I didn’t need to start in first gear, but could happily slot it straight into second to pull away – and drive at speeds of up to 30mph.
For speeds higher than that I’d best put it up into third, and then top gear. But there was no need to press the clutch to disengage the gears.
It was rather weird and counter intuitive. I don’t think I’ve ever driven an electric car with manual gear shifts, and doubt whether any other exists. I started rather tentatively but, out on the open road, I quickly got the hang of it.
Turn on the ignition. Slot the elongated gear stick into second, press on the accelerator and away we go.
There’s no conventional engine noise, but this car is anything but silent.
The harder you push the pedal to the metal, the louder the whine of the electric motor. No need to do anything more than steer on local 30mph roads.
But once onto country lanes with limits rising to 50mph and above, it was time to move up a gear.
As the whining crescendo reached its peak, I slotted the gear stick into third and pressed on. By now I’m really moving – an effect increased by the nearness of one’s posterior to the tarmac below. You do feel every bump.
It’s not the most refined ride. And some of the go-kart nimbleness of the petrol version has been lost. But this little beauty really can shift.
I could even slot it into reverse to park up for a recharge or to manoeuvre around some tight parking spaces.
Ray Massey took to the wheel of the classic Mini Electric around the roads near Mini’s Oxford factory in July 2018
While the range isn’t the longest, the charge time of 4 hours is reasonably short for an electric vehicle
Changing down a gear took a little more finesse – remembering not to hit the disabled clutch – and required feeling the car’s speed and deceleration before choosing the right moment to move down. Letting the car coast or hitting the brakes also helped regenerate more electricity.
And even though the two rear seats have been removed to make way for the 30 lithium phosphate battery pouches which make up the rear bench cell, it does feel incredibly spacious.
Like Dr Who’s Tardis. Bigger on the inside than it looks from outside.
Astonishingly, despite the bulk of the batteries, the absence of the petrol engine means it still weighs the same as the original.
The old petrol cap hides the slot for the charger and a painted symbol alerts you to the electric power.
The one-off conversion was carried out for BMW in just a week by Moritz Burmester and his specialist company Old-Youngtimer ahead of the  New York Motor Show in April where it was first shown.
’It was non-stop work but we finished it just in time,’ he said.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.