PLUG OK license plate
BMW plug-in hybrid prototype
Mar 18, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Most PHEVs these days are conversions of hybrids, but not this one. Report (including photos) is at the EVWorld Blog of EVWorld's publisher, Bill Moore (EVWorld Blogs may be available only to registered subscribers ($29/year at page=blogentry&authorid=12&blogid=221&archive=0

Meet the World's First BMW Mini Cooper Plug-In-Hybrid

Take for example the Castagna Milano's Mini Cooper hybrid conversion. Originally founded about a 150 years ago in Milan, Italy to build custom coaches for the wealthy nobility, Castagna now specializes in one-of-a-kind automobiles and specialty conversions. This year, they took the wildly popular BMW Mini Cooper and turned it into a plug-in hybrid.

Rather than go to the expense of having to engineer a hybrid drive like you'd find in the Prius or Escape, they simply left the transverse, IC engine in place under the front "bonnet" (hood for us Yankees). Instead, they re-engineered the rear axle and beefed up the car's suspension, installing an electric motor to drive the rear wheels at the flip of a switch by the driver. I am told that the battery is a ZEBRA sodium nickel chloride from MES DEA in Switzerland and that the company has warranted it for five years.

Here's what Castagna Milano's press release from the 2006 Geneva auto show says:


Retaining the vehicle's original mechanical and propulsion systems, a strengthened suspension system and an electronically controlled electric motor are fitted at the rear of the vehicle, allowing the driver to select the propulsion method he/she desires.

The latest generation batteries, managed by a specially developed on-board resource optimisation programme, guarantee a maximum range of up to 200km, at a top speed of approximately 140 km/h.

The combustion engine can be used to power the vehicle on the open road, or as a generator to charge the batteries.

A special digital instrument panel fitted to the vehicle allows the driver to check the battery charge level, the remaining range and the operating mode in use.

Thanks to a dashboard-mounted control, the driver can select either conventional or electrical mode, battery power or the utilization of the combustion engine as a generator.

There are two control options for managing the on-board electrical resources: CITY or SPEED. The former reduces consumption in order to ensure maximum range (200km) and limiting the maximum speed to 70 km/h. In SPEED mode, the top speed increases to slightly more than 130 km/h, giving a maximum range of approximately 120 km.

The batteries are guaranteed for a period of 5 years and they can be fully charged in 6 hours through a domestic power outlet.

According to Kristian Parker in Switzerland, who brought this car to my attention ("danke/merci/grazie") :

The cost for the conversion is about 40,000 euros plus the cost of the Mini. Unfortunately they have to do the stretch to have the space for the batteries and that alone costs 19,500 euros. So the hybrid part costs 20,000, of which they say 11,000 is for the battery pack.

Based on the current conversion rate of Euros to dollars, that's more than $48,000 for the conversion and more than $13,000 for the ZEBRA battery.

Kristian says, Castagna Milano has already done about 100 stretch Mini Coopers, one of which is owned by a neighbor down the road.

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