If you’re considering making the switch to an electric car, but not sure how it works with being in Cornwall, I’m here to answer some Qs with Ocean MINI!
I must admit this is somewhat of a ‘pinch-me’ moment because I’m very excited to have been working with with Ocean MINI as they are one of my favourite brands and I’ve been a loyal customer for years; I LOVE my own petrol MINI and so I jumped at the opportunity to see what it’s like to make the switch to their electric version.
When I was first looking into electric cars, there were so many things I didn’t know about or felt confused about… How does the charging work? What’s a ‘type 2’ charger? What is considered a good ‘range’? etc. so I wanted to share some insights and tips for anyone thinking about going electric ⚡️.
What is it like to drive the MINI Electric?
Because of the size and layout of the MINI Electric, it feels very similar to my current petrol MINI when you’re sat inside (I’ll chat more about the dashboard & interiors later on), but the big difference is the way you drive it.
First of all, all electric cars are Automatic (it probably sounds obvious when you think about it, but it took me a moment to realise🙈), which is great because it means that eventually we’ll all end up phasing out to using Automatic cars instead of Manual in the future. Even though I enjoy driving a Manual now, I do always wonder why this is still such a thing in the UK when other countries must surely think we’re backwards for this…
But the main driving difference is something called ‘regenerative braking’; this is where the car brakes as you take your foot off the accelerator, and in doing so the energy created from this slowing recharges the car battery. It means that often, you’ll find yourself driving around, not having to use the actual brake at all!
This was something I was nervous about trying, because it sounded confusing and I am a self-confessed ‘cautious driver’!
After about 10 minutes of using it I got used to the feeling of simply lifting my foot to slow and brake, and it ended up feeling a bit like driving a go kart – in a fun way! Of course, the brakes are still there if you need to stop quickly, but the rest of the time it actually ends up making your drive even easier.
You can switch off this feature if you like, but it’s actually quite fun and SO useful when you’re in traffic as you end up not using any charge/battery at all!
I also LOVE the car’s rapid acceleration. Again, I am a very cautious driver (NOT a boy racer by any means!) but I still had a lot of fun, pulling away super quickly from junctions and overtaking everyone up hills with ease. It takes off a bit like a rocket, in a very satisfying way.
What is the ‘range’ and cost of charging the MINI Electric?
When looking at electric cars, you want to be aware of the ‘range’ the car will give you. This is the number of miles it’s possible for you to travel on one full electric charge (equivalent to working out the miles per gallon on a normal car), and the current MINI Electric’s range is marketed as up to 143 miles.
HOWEVER, it’s important to remember that this is the maximum possible range based on an average, economical drive, and the actual range you can cover in your real life driving will depend heavily on a number of different factors, including driving styles & speeds (whether you’re driving faster or slower), the load of the car, weather & terrain, and how much electric you’re using inside the car for things like air conditioning as well.
It also doesn’t take into account your ‘regenerative braking’ either, so for example, you could driving in slow traffic for 3 miles, and your remaining range may only go down by 1 mile because of this feature enabling the car to recharge while you slow.
As you drive, your MINI dashboard will tell you your anticipated range based on your current driving, so you can easily keep track of how far you’ll get.
In terms of the cost to recharge, this will depend where you’re charging; if you charge the car at home, you will be using your home’s electricity supply which will take longer to charge but will cost less (depends on your electricity provider’s tariff), and if you charge the car at a public, paid rapid charge point, this will take a lot less time but cost more (depends on the company’s tariffs). For home charging you might expect to pay between £8 and £10 for a full charge, and at a rapid charge point (I’ll talk more on these in a moment), it could be from £18 to £25 – but again it totally depends on where you’re charging. But rest assured it’s a lot cheaper than petrol or diesel, especially right now!
What is it like driving an electric car around Cornwall?
I wasn’t sure what sort of actual range the MINI would get when driving around Cornwall, as we have a mixture of slow country lanes, faster A roads, and a fair few hills! So I therefore kind of assumed that it wouldn’t get anywhere near the ‘maximum range’ it’s marketed at.
However, I really put it to the test and did a little road trip around west Cornwall!
After picking up the MINI Electric from Ocean Mini in Falmouth with a full charge, I drove back home to the outskirts of Truro, and then via Lanner to get my friend Liv, and then drove down the A30 to Marazion to have a picnic and a swim at the beach.
We packed up the car again and drove from Marazion over the Gwithian, and took the scenic route back to just outside Truro to chill at home for a bit (I didn’t charge the car here as I forgot!). Then we went out again from home over to St Agnes cliffs for a quick walk, and then went back home again via Lanner to drop Liv home.
Overall, this little road trip totalled up to 80 miles, and by the time I got home I still had over 30% charge left – and I hadn’t charged it at all during the day! I was incredibly impressed with this, because we covered a few fast A roads and plenty of hills and country lanes too, but it didn’t seem to have a huge effect on the maximum range.
I think this was mostly due to the fantastic regenerative braking feature, as this kicks in when slowing around Cornish country lanes, and in August summer holiday traffic! If you play around with your air conditioning/heating, and driving more economically, you can vastly alter how much range you’ll get out of the car as well, so where we were losing range quickly driving fast on the A30, we countered this by turning the air con right down (and you can always slow down or opt for slower road routes too).
As a Cornish local, this is the kind of ‘day out’ I would have on a summer weekend day, and it was great to see that I wouldn’t have to worry about charging all day if I did this, as I didn’t need to and was then able to charge at home overnight.
You could definitely go further of course, and just plan your route so that you maybe stop for or dinner at somewhere with an electric charging point to help.
I can’t speak for how well the MINI Electric would fare on the motorway (as we don’t have one in Cornwall!), but for days out adventuring and exploring even more remote areas of Cornwall, it’s great to know this would be fine.
How do you charge the MINI Electric?
Charging the MINI Electric was way easier than I thought! The charging port is located in the same place your petrol cap would be, and the car comes with 2 different cables that you simply slots onto your port and slots onto the charging point port at the other end. One cable is for home charging (which means you can connect it to a 3-pin plug socket), and one cable is for EV (electric vehicle) charging points designed to charge electric cars.
When the car is plugged in, the lights by the charging port indicate when it’s charging and when it’s fully charged, and you can also see on the screen inside the car how much charge you have and roughly how long it will take to finish charging based on the speed of the charger. You can also lock the car, leave it, and check on the charge and time via the MINI app which is super handy!
There are a few different types of EV charging points to be aware of as well, as they all charge at different speeds. You can use an app like ZapMap or PlugShare to find charge points near you, and this will also tell you want type of charge point it is and how fast it will charge.
2.3kw charge points are the slowest, and will take 12 hours to give a full charge, so are really just useful to top up a little bit if you’re parked somewhere for a while. Meanwhile, the typical ‘fast’ ones you might see are either 7kw or 11kw, and these will typically take 3-4 hours for a full charge, and 22kw are a bit faster again.
Meanwhile (usually on motorway services), there are also ‘rapid chargers’, which will charge super quickly, around 50-60 minutes in my experience when you take into account the fact that the chargepoints are sometimes a bit old and don’t always run at 100% capacity. It’s also important to bear in mind that the car will charge more slowly when it has less than 20% or more than 80% charge, in order to protect the battery.
What is EV charging like in Cornwall?
Being more remote and in the countryside means that Cornwall can sometimes be a bit behind with newer technology, but I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a lot of places in Cornwall with public EV charge points!
As I say, there are apps (like PlugShare and ZapMap) where you can search and filter for the type of charge points you’re looking for, and it will show you the nearest ones, and also display reviews where people have left a comment about the locations as well.
If you’re a Cornish local doing typical daily journeys (or even long adventure days like mine above!), it’s unlikely you’ll actually need public EV charge points anyway, as you have plenty of range to get around on one charge, and it’s very easy to simply plug in overnight and charge at home.
If you do need to charge, there are restaurants, cafes and service stations dotted around Cornwall that have their own chargepoints installed, and if you’re leaving Cornwall I can highly recommend Exeter services which has the largest number of EV chargepoints and rapid chargers I’ve seen!
MINI Electric: The Highlights
I thoroughly enjoyed driving the MINI Electric, not only because it’s so comfortable (and still delightful compact like my current MINI), but also because of the ‘oomph’ you get with the acceleration and the feel of driving with regenerative braking.
The MINI app is a great additional feature for the car and is definitely a necessity for the Electric because you can keep an eye on your charging remotely, but another cool thing it can do is remotely ‘pre-condition’ your car. This means you can control how hot or cool you want the car to be from your phone, so that it’s ready and acclimatised for you by the time you get in!
The comfort & look
The car I drove from Ocean MINI was their ‘MINI Electric Level 3’ in Moonwalk Grey and a Leather Chester interior in Satellite Grey. The different levels basically determine the spec and features you get inside the car.
I loved the leather seats and comfort of the inside, and while the MINI Electric only comes in with 3 doors right now, it still felt spacious and the boot can still pack in a lot like my current 5 door petrol MINI.
What’s next for electric driving?
MINI have got a lot in the pipeline for developing more of their cars for electric over the next couple of years, and I definitely think it’s the way to go.
I haven’t tried the MINI Electric out on long motorway journeys, and I think electric driving is trickier in this type of situation as going faster does use up more of the charge and reduces your range, which means you have to stop potentially more frequently and for longer as well. Pretty much all service stations nowadays have EV charging points, but I know that sometimes issues can arise when there aren’t enough or they’re out of order. But it just means that you have to plan your journey in more detail and leave plenty of time to allow for things like that, and eventually places will need to start adding more and more as more of us switch to electric!
That being said, for Cornish locals driving around the county for daily work commutes or longer days out & adventures, this felt really doable and easy, and of course saves plenty in petrol costs when you want to go around exploring as much of our beautiful county like I do!
*This post is sponsored by Ocean MINI, but all these are my honest opinions. I am personally a loyal MINI customer and they encouraged me to share my real honest thoughts & experience driving the MINI Electric.