Small electric vehicles (EVs) with compact battery packs are best suited to the sort of stop-start driving scenarios most often experienced in bustling cities.
Here, the positive impact of regenerative braking – which sees what would otherwise be wasted kinetic energy, topping up the battery – is significant, allowing more kilometres to be squeezed out between charges.
But while stop-start traffic is the enemy of economy in internal combustion engine-powered cars, battery-powered vehicles actually thrive in such conditions. But what happens when two city-centric EVs – the BMW i3s and the Mini Cooper SE – hit the open road?
This pair was tested at the Annual South African Electric Car Test, an assessment designed to evaluate a car’s ability to travel distance on a typically hot South African day, at a steady 120 km/h on a single charge without using regenerative braking.
The inaugural test, which was supported by AutoTrader, set a national benchmark for each available EV. It laid down a historical reference point to look back on and allows consumers to evaluate battery performance advancements as more options are added to the local market each year.
During the event at the Gerotek High Speed Oval, the BMW i3s e-drive REx managed a distance of 168.527 km at a true speed of 120.02 km/h. This model is fitted with a petrol-powered range-extender, but for this test the fuel tank was emptied beforehand.
For the record, the 135 kW/270 Nm BMW i3s has an advertised range of 285 km from its 37.9 kWh battery. It is capable of reaching 100 km/h in a claimed 7.7 seconds and bears an average list price of R616 310, according to AutoTrader data covering the whole of 2021.
The Mini Cooper SE, meanwhile, employs a smaller battery with a net capacity of 28.9 kWh. It reaches 100 km/h three-tenths of a second faster than its i3s cousin, but has a lower advertised range of 215 km.
With an average list price of R612 010 on AutoTrader in 2021, the three-door Cooper SE returned a single-charge distance of 147.730 km at a GPS-verified 119 km/h. For a city car designed to excel in urban environments rather than on the highway, this open-road range is a commendable effort.
“The maximum claimed ranges of these EVs are well advertised. This open-road simulation provides an indication of just how far consumers would be able to travel on a single charge if they were driving non-stop at the national speed limit on a South African summer’s day,” says George Mienie, AutoTrader’s CEO.
Currently, the BMW i3s, the Mini Cooper SE, Porsche Taycan, Jaguar I-Pace and Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge are the only EVs available in South Africa.
While a few large EVs are scheduled to launch locally in 2022 like Audi’s e-tron range, the smallest battery-powered model on its way to South Africa in the near future is the new Mercedes-Benz EQA. Though it will serve as the entry point to the Stuttgart-based firm’s all-electric line-up, Mercedes has yet to confirm which derivatives will be offered locally.
For more information on the BMW i3s, click here.
For more information on the Mini Cooper SE, click here.