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First drive: Electrogenic Mini Mk3 'Rosie'. Image by Electrogenic.

First drive: Electrogenic Mini Mk3 'Rosie'
Classic Mini goes green.

   



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Electrogenic Mini Mk3

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

The restomod scene is growing, with more and more companies springing up to tweak classics and make them more unique and more usable. The idea is nothing new, and companies such as Eagle – the firm that fettles old Jaguars – have been at it for some time now. But there’s a more recent trend to take restomods a step further, swapping the original petrol engines with cleaner and more efficient electric motors. One such company is Electrogenic, a British firm that has taken everything from the VW Beetle to the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and switched it to electric power. Now the business, which lies hidden away in Oxfordshire, has turned its attention to the iconic Mini, and we went to drive it.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Electrogenic Mini Mk3 'Rosie'
Pricing: POA
Engine: electric motor and 21kWh battery
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, four-seat city car
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Range: 80-100 miles
0-62mph: 9 seconds (est)
Power: ~52hp
What's this?

To all intents and purposes, this is a Mk3 Mini – the one with the proper wind-down windows and hidden door hinges. It’s almost exactly the same as every other classic Mini you’ve ever seen, albeit one of the tidier examples currently on the road. The paintwork is immaculate, and the array of lights on the front is a distinctly sympathetic upgrade common to Minis of the era. The only real evidence that something is amiss is the stickers that adorn the sides of the car.

They’re a result of Electrogenic’s collaboration with a London-based company called Small Car Big City, which offers tours of the capital in classic Minis. These can be self-driven or chauffeur-driven, but all involve customers piling into a classic piece of British design and bombing (well, crawling, more likely) around London.

But Small Car Big City wanted to do something slightly different with this particular car, which is affectionately known as ‘Rosie’. The company turned to Electrogenic, which stripped out the old mechanical bits, then replaced the petrol engine with an electric motor and inserted the five-speed manual gearbox from a Citroen C1, albeit with some upgrades to deal with the new motor’s torque.

Electric motors require batteries, so Electrogenic also inserted some of those. One pack can be found under the bonnet, just above the motor, while another can be found in the boot, wedged behind the back seats. Together, they have a capacity of 21kWh, which is enough to take Rosie around 80-100 miles on a full charge.

But just as there’s no sign of Rosie’s electric secret on the outside (even the charging port has been neatly hidden under a fuel filler cap), there’s nothing to suggest anything is amiss in the cabin, either. Electrogenic has left the interior well alone, so there’s a lovely burr walnut dashboard, a slim wood-rimmed steering wheel with ridged grips and the same, surprisingly large amount of space you get in all original Minis. Even the dials are original, with the fuel gauge modified to show battery level instead.

You only really spot the difference when you open the bonnet or the boot. Lift the bonnet and there’s a massive modern slab of battery pack, under which hides the motor and associated gubbins. Pop the boot and there’s a similar box behind the back seats, which reduces boot space somewhat, but keeps the lithium-ion power packs away from the driver and passengers – as much as you can in a classic Mini, anyway.

If you want greater range, Electrogenic will get more bolshie with batteries, filling the boot and even removing the back seats altogether to cram in as many kWh as possible. With every vehicle modified to your specifications, there’s plenty of choice.

However, while Electrogenic will work with you to get the conversion just right, don’t think you can turn up at the Kidlington HQ with nothing but an idea and some cash. You have to provide the donor vehicle, and the company is picky about the cars it works with. The team will put you in touch with specialists who can do the restoration, and they’ll even help you find a suitable vehicle, but all that comes in addition to the cost of conversion. And even the cheapest Mini conversion starts at more than £30,000 – more than you’ll pay for a brand-new Nissan Leaf.

How does it drive?

The Electrogenic Mini feels different but the same. All that’s really changed is the powertrain, but due to the requirement to meet Transport for London regulations, the electric motor has been tuned to match the original car’s 52hp output and characteristics. For private customers, there’s the chance to eke up to around 120hp from the system, which supposedly makes the car “really fast”.

It isn’t slow anyway, with relatively little weight for an electric car and the instant torque from the electric motor, although it doesn’t have the pace of cars with the full-fat motor. It is quieter than most Minis, though, with none of the smells, emissions and rattles that are traditionally associated with old four-cylinder petrol engines.

Interestingly, Electrogenic has elected to retain a manual gear shift, despite the transition to electric power. The modified Citroen C1 gearbox works just as it would in a Citroen, but there’s one slight difference: there’s no need to use the clutch when setting off. Because the motor is doing zero revolutions, the car can’t stall or move even with first gear engaged, so you just need the throttle to pull away. We never really got used to that, and stuck with the old-school method purely out of habit. When you’ve got three pedals, you just want to use them.

Once you’re on the move, there’s still some of that old Mini magic, even if the car is a little heavier and quieter. The steering is heavy, but the car handles quite well thanks to its naturally compact footprint and the wheel at each corner. It doesn’t feel quite as light as a conventional Mini, either, although it’s still a decent city car – as long as you can cope with the lack of safety equipment. But that’s true of all original Minis, not just Rosie.

Predictably, though, Rosie isn’t especially comfortable. Our test drive took place on relatively smooth roads, but the car still bobbles and thuds like an Italian Job Mini, albeit one with lithium on board, rather than gold. It isn’t as stiff as, say, a Porsche 911 GT3, but it’s still going to be a bit firm over speed bumps and other city-centre obstacles. But that’s fine, because this car is off to become a rental vehicle, used for a few hours at a time as an experience to be savoured, warts and all.

Verdict

The Electrogenic Mini is undoubtedly impressive, making the classic car quieter, easier to live with and, potentially, much faster. It’s a sympathetic and classy upgrade, which doesn’t detract from many of the things that made the Mini so great. If you’re hell bent on switching your classic to electric power, there are few better ways of doing it. But we won’t be joining that queue. While we’re impressed by the engineering on show, the internal combustion engine is the beating heart of a classic car, and removing it fundamentally changes its character. ‘Rosie’ will undoubtedly be very good at its job, but it’s no longer a real Mini.


4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

2 2 2 2 2 Luggage Space

0 0 0 0 0 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


James Fossdyke - 7 Mar 2022



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Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.

Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.Electrogenic Mini Mk3. Image by Electrogenic.








 

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