Mini Scots electric challenge 10 | 01 | 2011

    IT WON'T HAVE escaped your awareness that suddenly, it appears everywhere you look there's a story about electric vehicles. Much of that is down, simply, to the fact the government has stated 2011 'will be the year electric vehicles become mainstream'; it also coincides with the introduction of the £5000 Plugged-In Car Grant.

    Understandably, manufacturers — including Nissan, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, Ford and Mini — who have interests in EVs are doing everything they can to make the motoring public aware of the environmentally attractive alternative to the combustion engine.

    While Mitsubishi has today listed its 13 EV Sales Centres, including two in Scotland — one in edinburgh and one in Cupar — the BBC is attempting to drive a Mini E from London to Edinburgh this week.

    It's quite a challenge, given the fact the Mini E only has a battery range of between 70-80 miles. BBC business reporter Brian Milligan is the man charged with the attempt, and given the fact weather forecasters say we're in for something of another cold snap this week, he'd better make sure he's well wrapped up inside the Mini E

    I loved the comments from Ben Stratford from Mini UK when he told Brian, before he set off from Covent Garden: "You might be able to use the heater on occasions, if you see what I mean, to heat the car up for a period of time, then switch it off and allow the cabin to cool ... then switch the heating back on, rather than using it constantly." Why? Because using the heater reduces the Mini E's range by 10%.

    Of course, the biggest problem will be finding recharging points, and the 87 miles from Newcastle to Edinburgh is a tad over the car's 'real world' range. As Calvey Taylor-Haw from Elektromotive, the company which manufacturers the recharging points, said: "From Newcastle up to Edinburgh might be a bit of a challenge because I believe it's a little bit longer than the current range of the vehicle.

    "The driver's going to be very nervous; he's going to have to be driving very, very carefully and sensibly to get into Edinburgh."

    And how's this for a route? London-Milton Keynes, stopping in Leicester overnight; Tuesday on through Nottingham, Sheffield and overnight in York; Wednesday, Stockton, Durham and overnight at Wark in Northumberland. Thursday is the big one: Wark to Edinburgh ... in cold weather! The distance is 87 miles, and in the cold the Mini E's range is around 70-80!

    Coincidentally, tomorrow morning I'm driving from a point 60 miles north of London to Glasgow for a meeting and then on to Edinburgh; it'll take me between five and six hours and cost me around £50 in fuel in a Mercedes E220CDI. If — and it's a big IF — the Mini E makes it to Edinburgh (a similar distance), it will have taken Mr Milligan the best part of FOUR DAYS, and cost him THREE NIGHTS' ACCOMMODATION!

    It's going to be an interesting and nervous drive .... for Mr Milligan.

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    Jim McGill

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