Cowley plant to build BMW's electric Mini

BMW has announced that its next generation electric Mini will be built in Cowley, Oxfordshire.


The new battery-electric Mini will be a variant of the brand’s 3 door car and follows BMW’s corporate strategy of offering its brands and models with a fully-electric or plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

The electric Mini will go into production in 2019, increasing the choice of Mini powertrains to include petrol and diesel engines, a plug-in hybrid and a battery electric variant.

The electric Mini’s electric drivetrain will be built at the BMW Group’s e-mobility plants in Dingolfing and Landshut, Bavaria before being integrated in Cowley, which is the main production facility for the Mini 3 door model. According to Dom Tribe, management consultant and industrial sector specialist at supply chain firm, Vendigital, the plant was updated about 3.5 years ago and the tooling, equipment and automated robots in situ are only part-way through their lifecycle.

Tribe said: “The company has invested heavily in the facility at Cowley in recent years and there is plenty of production capacity to build the all-electric mini as customers are likely to choose them in place of standard petrol or diesel variants.

"Another major factor influencing the decision to make the all-electric mini at Cowley will have been the fact that it is not a brand new car but rather an evolution.”

The new electric Mini is one of a series of electrified models set to be launched by the BMW and Mini brands. In 2018, the BMW i8 Roadster will become the newest member of the BMW i family. The all-electric BMW X3 has been announced for 2020, and the BMW iNEXT is due in 2021. By 2025, the BMW Group expects electrified vehicles to account for between 15-25 per cent of sales.

“From a Brexit perspective, the production timings are bound to be a worry,” said Tribe. “The first all-electric minis are expected to roll off the production line in 2019, just a couple of months after the UK officially leaves the EU. At this point, BMW will have to work hard to ensure whatever trade agreement is in place does not affect production and their cost model. If tariffs are imposed, for example, this could impact cross-border trade with Germany on electric vehicles, forcing up import costs and BMW may need to consider passing on some of this to the consumer, which will be challenging given that electric powertrains are typically more expensive than their combustion counterparts.

“Based on BMW’s own projections that 25 per cent of car sales will be all-electric by 2025, any increase in production costs could have a significant impact on the company’s operating efficiency – as based on these figures, Cowley will be making about 90,000 all-electric cars a year.”

BMW’s announcement coincides with the launch of the Faraday Challenge, a new £246m battery technology investment programme. EPSRC will lead phase one, a £45m competition exploring technology challenges and the creation of a ‘virtual Battery Institute’. Innovate UK will build on the most promising research and phase three, led by the Advanced Propulsion Centre, will look at scaling up the technology at a new National Battery Manufacturing Development facility.