THE launch of BMW's first electric Mini has been hailed as a 'huge vote of confidence' for the company's Oxford plant.

The Mini Electric was unveiled in Cowley today, with production set to begin in November before the car hits the streets in March.

Company bosses called the new model an 'exciting milestone' for the plant, amid fears Britain's decision to leave the EU could affect investment in Oxford.

Read also: BMW 'will consider' Mini's future in event of no-deal Brexit

Meanwhile, the leader of the city council said the Mini Electric 'sets out an exciting future' for green vehicles in Oxford.

Six decades after the first Mini rolled off the production line, David George, director of Mini UK, claimed building the new model in Cowley was significant for the city.

Oxford Mail:

He said: "We're hugely proud it will be built here. It's a huge moment for the brand but possibly an even bigger moment for Plant Oxford.

"BMW Group has invested billions in recent years in production facilities across the UK. It remains a really important part of the group's infrastructure.

"It's a huge vote of confidence and really exciting for the team at the home of Mini."

Read also: Mini drivers recreate Italian job for film's anniversary

The Mini Electric means Oxford will become the first plant in the BMW group to build fully-electric and combustion-engine-powered cars on the same production line.

The factory employs 4,500 people but they face uncertain times, with senior BMW representatives saying in March that a no-deal Brexit could force the company to move 'some or all' of Mini production to Holland.

Oxford Mail:

Oliver Zipse, BMW AG board member for production, said he was confident the new model would be successful but issued a warning about Brexit.

He said: "We're entering an era in which electric cars will become a common choice for our customers. The automative industry is in the middle of a transformative phase.

"We're committed to the UK as a manufacturing base, but we need certainty of the future relations between the UK and the EU."

Read also: Limited edition Mini on offer during 60th year

Mr Zipse also confirmed BMW had stopped producing petrol engines at its Warwickshire factory for cars built in South Africa because of fears over post-Brexit tariffs.

The Mini Electric is set to cost £24,400, or a monthly 'lease' of £299.

The 100 per cent battery-powered vehicle has a range of up to 144 miles and can reach 80 per cent charge at a DC fast-charging station in 35 minutes.

It comes with home and public charging cables and is part of BMW's aim to boast 25 electrified models by 2023.

Oxford Mail:

The emission-free car accelerates from 0 to 62mph in 7.3 seconds and Mr George claimed the new model is 'everything people love about Mini, with the added benefits of electric'.

He said: "This could be the tipping point for the wider adoption of electric vehicles in the UK marketplace.

"One of the main barriers has been cost, but we're in a place that's below its petrol equivalent."

Read also: First Mini goes back to where it all began

The Cowley plant has been operating since 1914 and builds one Mini every 67 seconds, with about 80 per cent exported to more than 100 countries around the world.

Chris Fryer, a Mini UK product executive who grew up in Wallingford and worked at the plant for 11 years, said: "This is the place where it should be built, it's Mini through and through."

Oxford City Council leader Susan Brown said she hoped the Mini Electric could help the city tackle climate change.

Oxford Mail:

She said: “We are taking steps to lead the way on cleaning up our air and cutting carbon emissions. Oxford City Council is on the journey to zero emissions and tackling pollution with our zero emission zone proposals and our Citizens’ Assembly on climate change in the autumn.

“BMW has a very successful history here, and is very important to our city’s economy, providing jobs and in its relationships with other local business.

"The launch of the BMW Mini Electric sets out an exciting future for electric vehicles both here in Oxford and nationally.”

Read also: Mini plant shuts early due to Brexit

Business secretary, Greg Clark, added: “Our automotive industry has long been a source of national pride, and the unique collaboration between Government and industry through our Industrial Strategy has helped put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacture of zero emission vehicles, with one in five electric cars in Europe now built in the UK.

“The production of the electric Mini in the UK will play a key role in accelerating the adoption of cleaner, greener vehicles and I am delighted this modern British icon will be manufactured in Oxford."

Oxford Mail:

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, welcomed the new Mini but called for even more environmentally-friendly methods of travel.

She said: “The future of transport is founded on ‘active’ transport, walking and cycling, and for longer distance built on affordable, convenient, reliable public transport, particularly buses."

The Mini Electric is available to pre-order now.