The One Question I Had After Driving an EV Around Melbourne For a Day

MINI Electric Hatch

Australia has been a slow adopter of electric cars, but all signs, including more charging station infrastructure, more affordable options, and a government EV subsidy, point to the transition now accelerating.

Full disclosure: I was recently invited to Melbourne to try the Mini Electric on a driving day around the city so I can share the experience with our readers and people who might be considering the switch to an EV. I was left asking one question.

First, a bit of history on the Mini. It launched in 1959, when petrol prices soared in Europe and there was a real need for small, fuel-efficient cars. Tasked with the brief, engineer Alex Issigonis pushed the wheels all the way to the corners of the car to create more room in the cockpit and turned the engine sideways to give the car more stability in tight turns and more room inside. Since then, the Mini has become an iconic car, with the “mini skirt” even reportedly named after it.

MINI Electric Hatch
Image: MINI Electric

Now the Mini is owned by BMW Group, and, in 2008, got an electric twist with the Mini Electric. It’s aiming to be the first BMW brand to transition to an all-electric line-up by 2030.

Since 2020, it’s been working to sustainably source its lithium and cobalt for its battery cells through Australia and Morocco and from that time, has also manufactured using 100% renewable energy. 99% of the material waste generated from its production is recycled. From 2024, its interiors will be fitted with cloth or vegan leather only.

So back to my test and review. I tried the Mini Electric Hatch, the first electric Mini, introduced to Australia in 2020. The car is equipped with a 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery that’ll give you 233kms of drive from a single charge. I was able to drive to six destinations within Melbourne CBD and its surrounds, including Armadale, Southbank and Malvern, plus a trip to the Tullamarine Airport the next day, all on a single charge.

Mini Electric
Image: MINI Electric

The biggest and probably only difference I noticed about driving the Mini Electric, as opposed to a petrol car is that when I took my foot off the accelerator, the car almost stopped completely. I did still need to press the brake to make the car fully stop, but taking my foot off the accelerator pedal essentially decelerated it. Of course, this was to conserve electric power.

If you’re confused by what I mean, when you take your foot off the accelerator in a petrol car, it’ll continue to cruise at the same speed, eventually slowing down.

Because I wasn’t having to use the brake until when I was nearly at a red traffic light, I wondered whether the car behind me would be alerted to the fact I was slowing down. They’d see the red light ahead, too, but could they see I was braking? Yes, they could, I found out. The car turns on its rear lights as soon as your foot is off the accelerator.

MINI Electric
Image: MINI Electric

So, is the Mini Electric worth its $64,975 price tag? It’s certainly expensive, but, like with any EV, it’s an investment. I spent the entire day driving around Melbourne and then to the airport, essentially for free, if you have an at-home EV charger. Still, though, it is pricey for an electric car, considering some start at around $45k.

At the moment, Australia doesn’t yet have too many charging stations — though, Victoria has roughly 450, including 12 new chargers at Queen Victoria Market’s underground carpark. If you were wanting to take the car for a weekend away in Mornington Peninsula, about 75kms from the CBD, you might find yourself running out of electric charge and unable to find somewhere to charge it.

Even if you do, it would ideally need to be a charging station where you can leave it overnight, considering the Mini Electric takes roughly 3.5 hours to fully charge.

With all this in mind, if you’re looking for an EV that’ll mostly be used for short trips around the city, not to mention is easy to drive with a display screen showing rear camera footage, aesthetically pleasing both on the outside (at night, a “MINI” light reflection appears on the road when you open the car’s door) and inside (it can be turned into a rave car with fluro lights), the Mini Electric is absolutely worth it.

Related: I Tried an Electric Car for a Weekend Away — Here’s What I Didn’t Expect

Related: Say Hello to This New Solar and Electric Car That Never Needs Charging

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