An afternoon spent exploring our sunny island in a MINI Electric gives this writer a new perspective on sustainable living.
Due to the pandemic, many of us are satisfying our wanderlust by being tourists in our own country. It’s given us the opportunity to explore places in Singapore that even those who have lived here all our lives may not have known about or visited.
I spent a Friday afternoon in the new MINI Electric, the first pure electric model from the British marque. I checked out a few interesting places that offer insight on how sustainability can manifest itself in myriad forms, from the built environment to fashion, and of course, automotive.
DESIGNING NEW NORMS
My first stop was The Tembusu, a condominium that was conferred “Design of the Year 2018” at the President’s Design Award Singapore.
Columns of greenery extend from the ground all the way up the 18 storeys of each of the five towers. These “living façades” have a tapestry-like quality inspired by the garment factory that used to occupy the very same site.
Like how our skin protects us, these green envelopes act as an environmental filter against the harsh tropical elements and bring the landscape closer to residents.
The architectural design reflects a new paradigm on humanising high-rise, high-density design and rethinking communal spaces. Similarly, MINI models across the generations have always been pioneers of urban mobility with their groundbreaking design principles.
Six decades ago, the classic Mini revolutionised the concept of “maximum interior space with minimum surface area”. The MINI that was relaunched in 2001 was a modern re-interpretation of creative space usage and unique riding fun that redefined the premium small car segment.
And now, with the new MINI Electric, the brand paves the way towards a sustainable yet highly emotional driving experience.
Heading away from the suburbs and into the heart of town made me appreciate the relevance of a car like the MINI Electric in an urban context like ours.
With a range of up to 270km, most of us probably need to charge the car only once every few days. I started my journey on a full charge and was surprised to see the range showing only 140km.
However, after covering a distance of 85km on the odometer, the range only dropped by 30 km, to 110km. This is because the range displayed takes into consideration the driving efficiency of the person behind the wheel.
So, depending on driving habits and usage patterns, a full charge could very well last some drivers a whole week.
If you do not have a wall charger installed at home, with the increasing network of public charging points, finding one at a convenient location should not be too difficult.
I stopped for a quick recharge at Shell Alexandra. As this station is equipped with the 50kW fast charger, it only took 18 minutes for the range to increase by 60km, just enough time for an ice cream and a juice.
The MINI Connected App allowed me to keep track of the charging progress remotely. The charge status, the estimated time to achieve full charge and the current electric range, are all indicated on the app.
I am able to lock and unlock the doors remotely, as well as check whether the windows, boot and bonnet are closed. One feature I found most useful, especially on a hot day, was being able to pre-cool the cabin before getting to the car.
STYLE AND SUSTAINABILITY
I was keen to check out The Fashion Pulpit, Singapore’s first permanent clothes swapping boutique. I am guilty of over-buying and often discard clothes that have only been worn a few times.
A clothes-swopping culture allows us to keep our wardrobes refreshed without wasting precious resources to the detriment of the environment.
Being eco-conscious does not mean compromising on style or stifling our individual expression. And in my opinion, nobody is a stronger advocate of this belief than MINI.
Signature MINI proportions such as the short overhangs and wide set wheels remain, as do characteristically MINI styling cues such as the all-round greenhouse and roof, and hexagonal grille.
What sets the electrified version apart visually are the closed grille and yellow accents on the grille, mirror caps and in the cockpit. The MINI Electric also gets a special signet on the grille, side scuttles and tailgate, as well as 17-inch wheels with an asymmetrical MINI Electric Power Spoke two-tone design.
CHARGED UP TO SLOW DOWN
Despite being powered by an electric motor instead of a combustion engine, the MINI Electric retains driving traits characteristic of a MINI.
In order to accommodate the battery unit below the vehicle floor, the ride height had to be raised. Even though it is merely by a matter of a few centimetres, it did feel perceptibly higher.
Thankfully, however, the weight of the battery keeps the centre of gravity low, so the planted, go-kart feel is not compromised too much.
The stiffer suspension also reminded me of a go-kart, but the car’s acceleration soon distracted me from any discomfort in my lower back.
On paper, the MINI electric zips from 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds, but the instantaneous unleashing of torque in typical EV fashion made the scenery whirl pass in a heady blur. If I got too carried away, there was just that bit of torque steer to rein me in.
The one-pedal drive is a feature that can be found in many EVs. For the uninitiated, the pronounced deceleration when you lift off the throttle can be somewhat disconcerting, even annoying.
However, once you get the hang of easing off the accelerator pedal gradually until the vehicle comes to a complete halt, you will grow to appreciate the convenience of one-pedal driving.
As I approached Labrador Park, the final destination on my itinerary, I could feel myself relaxing in a way that surrendering to the embrace of nature always makes me feel.
If anything, the pandemic has taught us to slow down and appreciate the beauty and inspiration that is all around us, be it in nature, places or objects.
I have always believed that the pandemic is nature’s way of hitting the pause button on environmental degradation. It is a reminder that we cannot continue with our unsustainable habits.
By being more eco-conscious and making more discerning choices in terms of how we live, what we eat and what we drive, we can make a difference.
A greener lifestyle need not be dull and boring. It can be fun, as exemplified by the MINI Electric. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Friday afternoon than by experiencing a car and exploring local places that embody sustainability in their own unique ways.
And the best part is, the entire afternoon’s jaunt was done emission-free. I had my fun, but not at the expense of the environment.