MINI is using the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show to showcase its take on future personal mobility in the city – in the form of the MINI Electric Concept.
Designed for use in urban areas, this concept car offers a window into how pure-electric day-to-day mobility might look in the years ahead. And the MINI Electric Concept also brings the iconic design, city-dwelling heritage and customary go-kart feeling of the MINI brand into the electric mobility age. MINI will present an all-electric series-production model in 2019.
The world premiere of the MINI Electric Concept comes just a few months after the launch of the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 – the first plug-in hybrid model of the British brand.
“The systematic electrification of the brand and product portfolio is a mainstay of the BMW Group’s NUMBER ONE > NEXT strategy. The MINI Electric Concept offers a thrilling preview of the all-electric production vehicle. MINI and electrification make a perfect match,” remarks Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.
Urban mobility is ingrained into the MINI brand’s DNA; the city is its natural habitat. Indeed, this environment and the specific demands it places on a car provided the canvas from which the MINI design team brought the MINI Electric Concept to life. The responsive drive system, sublimely judged suspension tuning and use of aerodynamic add-ons produce driving dynamics very much in the MINI mould and a fine operating range. It all comes together to make the MINI Electric Concept a highly attractive, zero-emission solution to the current challenges facing personal mobility in our cities and their surroundings.
MINI – blazing a trail for electric mobility at the BMW Group
It has been nearly ten years since MINI took a significant, pioneering step with the MINI E – and laid the foundations at the BMW Group for the development of electric mobility solutions to production readiness. The MINI E unveiled in 2008 was the first all-electric car from the BMW Group to be driven by private users in everyday traffic conditions – as part of an extensive field trial. Over 600 MINI E cars entered service worldwide for the purpose of the field studies. All of them helped to gain vital insights into the use of pure-electric vehicles, and this knowledge was subsequently incorporated into the development of the BMW i3. The MINI E also offered driving fun in spades, thanks to outstanding acceleration and handling.
The British premium brand’s first series-production model with a plug-in hybrid drive system was presented in spring 2017 in the shape of the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. The new model variant enables electric and therefore locally emission-free mobility for the first time. The all-electric MINI Electric Concept represents a seamless continuation of this bloodline. In the future, all electrified products from the MINI brand will be grouped together under the “MINI Electric” banner.
Unmistakably MINI – the design
A hexagonal radiator grille and circular headlights make the MINI Electric Concept instantly recognisable when viewed from the front. Even from the outside, it is obvious that this car has an electric heart. Identifying features include the vividly contrasting silver and yellow colour scheme reminiscent of the earlier MINI E, as well as the distinctive E badge. Besides this, the radiator grille and headlights have been reinterpreted to reflect the emission-free drive technology under the bonnet. As the electric drive unit requires very little cooling air, the radiator grille is closed for superior aerodynamics. A Striking Yellow accent bar in the grille – with an E badge in the same colour – produces a powerful contrasting effect, which is echoed by the styling of the daytime running lights in the all-LED headlight assemblies.
The highly expressive add-on parts in the front apron highlight the dynamic character of the MINI Electric Concept, at the same time as increasing its range with their aerodynamic benefits. The front apron’s simulated “air intakes” are also sealed, yet they still include dark louvres that look like cooling fins and inject some added technical flair. The crisp lines of elements such as the LED headlights and fibreglass structures contrast with the expanse of clear surfaces, and lend the front as a whole a very sophisticated look.
The contrasting blend of colours, smooth surfaces and precisely contoured details continues into the MINI Electric Concept’s flanks. Clearly moulded fibreglass add-on parts along the lower edge serve to intensify the car’s snappy proportions. The car’s silhouette is composed of taut, clean-cut surfaces, producing a minimalist impression that exudes efficiency. The elements below the surfaces help to convey a feeling of restrained power and understated athleticism. The paint finish in Reflection Silver – a matt liquid metal colour shade – showcases the surfacing to exceptional effect and thereby focuses the spotlight on the model’s lightweight and sophisticated character.
Material and colour highlights take a light-hearted approach to softening the technical appearance of the car’s flanks, as well other areas of the car. A large yet discreet “E” badge above the front wheel provides another tell-tale sign of the power source. The interplay between matt and high-gloss surfaces within a family of colours results in a progressive look with a puristic and classy feel. Further “MINI E” badges are integrated into the radiator grille and exterior mirror caps. Colour gradients in the accent shade Striking Yellow, incorporated into both the roof and side skirts, add further flourishes. The colour of the roof flows from matt white to high-gloss yellow, while the yellow of the side skirts gains in transparency as it rises, appearing to merge into the body colour. These colour gradients accentuate the concept car’s lightness and modernity.
The design of the dark-coloured 19-inch wheels adds another visual highlight, picking up on the idea of the radiator grille’s accent bar and reinterpreting it in asymmetrical form. The aerodynamic inlays – made using a 3D printing process – echo the fibreglass structure of the air deflectors and inject the wheels with great aesthetic appeal. The recessed louvred surfaces in the simulated air intakes were also produced using a 3D printing method. These two elements emphasise the light and modern character of the MINI Electric Concept, while at the same time illustrating the opportunities offered by 3D printing in terms of producing functional design elements for vehicle styling and customisation.
The rear of the concept car also marks it out as a thoroughbred MINI. Its wide stance on the road is striking in a sporty way, without lapsing into excessive flamboyance. The upper section is dominated by clear surfaces, but the rear takes on a far more dynamic aspect as it cascades down.
This familiar approach from MINI, where the car’s volume steadily increases from the top down, makes the shoulders appear broad and athletic. The rear light assemblies constitute yet another standout visual feature and provide a clear pointer to the car’s British roots. Framed within the classic MINI outline, they each form one half of the Union Jack as an LED dot matrix. The rear apron features aerodynamic elements similar to those at the front, including air deflectors and a fibreglass diffuser. These reinforce the car’s efficient dynamism on both a visual and functional level. There is also a yellow accent strip that provides a striking colour contrast when the car is viewed from the rear, while simultaneously announcing the presence of an electric drive system. This is further underlined by the absence of exhaust pipes and the dark louvred surfaces in the simulated air outlets.
Cutting-edge, pure and dynamic (in an efficient way), the MINI Electric Concept encapsulates MINI’s near-term vision of an all-electric car designed for urban mobility in a changing world.