The eMii is technically the same as the VW’s e-Up, but is not yet confirmed for production
Seat‘s first electric production car may, or may not, look like the eMii.
The eMii, as you might have guessed, is a Seat version of the VW e-Up, a 3.5 star car that Autocar first drove in 2014.
It would be a fairly easy technical challenge to have a Seat version on sale now, but for multiple reasons the eMii is still an engineering prototype with the production green light pending.
One of the issues is getting VW to release to another VW brand company a technology it originated, another is how the business case of a loss-making electric car would impact Seat’s hard-won profitable balance sheet. “It is a matter of timing, business case and other issues,” Seat finance director Holger Kintscher told Autocar.
Another consideration is pricing. Seat’s brand position would suggest a lower price than the £25k e-Up, further spoiling the business case.
Also to be taken into consideration is the £11k cost of a petrol-engined Mii and the thought of paying twice that for a BEV version. Given its common underpinnings then, it is not surprising that the eMii features an identical specification to the e-Up, which means a 204-cell, 18.7 kWhr lithium ion battery pack storing energy for a 60kW (79bhp) electric motor and a quoted range of 99 miles.
The battery pack weighs in at 230kg and the motor and direct drive transmission increases the kerb weight of a 929kg, 1.0-litre, three-cylinder by a hefty 300kg to 1229kg.
Nevertheless, the zippy electric powertrain suits a compact city car like the Mii, despite its portly mass, and in Barcelona traffic the eMii feels a wieldy machine.
There’s not much feeling to the steering and the body rolls in cornering, but otherwise the eMii steers faithfully and the compact dimensions with short wheelbase bring a natural agility to the driving experience.
Acceleration is brisk off the mark and the 0-60mph of 12.4secs makes the eMii the fastest accelerating model in the range, eclipsing the 75bhp Mii FR by 0.8sec.
There’s no official 0-30mph figure, but at such town speeds the eMii feels quick enough.
Peak torque output of the electric motor is a hefty 154lbft – the sort of figure a 1.4 turbo petrol engine might push out — but the power delivery characteristic is quite different. The accelerative shove builds evenly, and quietly. Powertrain refinement is of course outstanding for a small car.
A little whine from the motor and gearbox chirp in occasionally, and the regenerative braking system adds its own soundtrack.
But the downside is that other noises, particularly from the tyres and suspension, are no longer masked by the combustion engine, a familiar characteristic of combustion-engined cars converted to electric power.
On our very short test, we did see the benefit of regenerative braking, adding 6km to the battery range on a long-ish downhill run. The braking effort is selectable, and our guess is that an owner would become quite adept at maximising the recouperation and boosting range.
So what of the future for Seat’s potentially first electric vehicle? No doubt it could perform the role of city centre zero emissions runabout with aplomb.
But Seat first has to decide to make it available, The current plan has the eMii pencilled in for launch around 2019/2020, when it will arrive alongside Seat’s version of the VW iD, an electric hatchback designed from the outset as a BEV.
There’s a very good chance that by then rivals will also have the latest in BEV models available, which will only accentuate the six-year old eMii as an old-technology and will put more pressure on pricing to compensate.
To us, it feels like the eMii deserves its chance now, when it could help clean-up the air in British cities, and raise awareness among Seat’s younger buyers that a new wave of BEVs is coming. But the price will have to be much-more cost effective than £25k and somebody is going to have to cover the gap between the high cost of production and the market price of a compact city car.
We suspect that might be a decision too far for a company that earlier this year broke back into the black after years of losses.