Mini E versus Mini Cooper – which is better?

With the recent announcements of the Nissan Leaf’s and Chevrolet Volt’s fuel economy labels, the future of environmentally friendly cars seems pretty bright.  However, a car’s gasoline thirst – or lack thereof – is not the only factor that contributes to its friendliness to the environment.  And in order to evaluate which is better, it is necessary to compare cars that consume gasoline to those that do not by using the same standards.

Our first comparison of an electric vehicle and its gasoline equivalent will be the Mini E and the Mini Cooper hardtop.  These hatchbacks usually attract the customers with fun driving, quality engineering, original style, and sporty performance on their minds.  But being in the small hatchback category, can they also attract the eco-conscious clients?

Based on their AutoEcoRating scores, they should be able to.  While the Mini Cooper hardtop scored a respectable 120, which was on the lower end of our comparison of automatic transmission hatchbacks priced below 20K; the Mini E scored a 199, which is by far one of the better scores to date.

The “fuel” consumption of the Mini E is calculated with a simple conversion of the electricity equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, which is provided by EPA.  EPA rated the Mini E at consuming 34.3 kWh of electricity to charge the battery for 100 miles of travel.  This energy consumption corresponds to 98 miles per gallon of gasoline on an energy-equivalent basis. Compared to the Mini Cooper, which is rated at 28 mpg, we can see that the consumer’s energy savings is huge in a Mini E.

But to get a full eco-rating, we need to take into account the emissions from generating the electricity that goes into charging the Mini E.   The Mini E also weighs more than the gasoline Mini. That means more pollution was emitted during materials manufacturing, which also has to be taken into account. Nevertheless, the Mini E’s zero tailpipe emissions and high efficiency more than make up for the impacts from manufacturing and electricity generation and related impacts, accounting for the big boost in its score. This AutoEcoRating finding is consistent with what one gets from a greenhouse gas emissions comparison alone, as seen in a story last year. In short, the Mini E an eco-friendlier vehicle than the Mini Cooper hardtop.

Vehicle MakeModelTransmissionEngineEPA Fuel Economy$MSRPeRating
MiniCooper (hardtop)6-speed auto1.6 L28 mpg (combined)20,100120
MiniE98 mpg equivalent (combined)18,800199

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