With the presentation of the MINI Vision Urbanaut virtual vision vehicle in November 2020, the MINI brand revealed an all-new interpretation of mobility through an innovative vision of space. And now the BMW Group is set to unveil a physical model of the vehicle which will allow audiences to engage more extensively with the spatial concept and sustainable materials at work. The model will be given its world premiere on 1 July 2021 at the DLD Summer conference in Munich.
As well as its wide range of uses, the MINI Vision Urbanaut also focuses on sustainability – and this can be seen and experienced directly in various aspects of the vehicle. The starting point for the concept was the “Clever Use of Space” for which MINI is renowned; i.e. it offers maximum space on the smallest possible footprint. Although the MINI Vision Urbanaut is only 4.46 m in length, its height allows it to provide an interior space that can be used in many different ways and offers a whole new ease of movement inside the car.
The electric drive system ensures locally emission-free mobility. And another aspect is the scope for using the vehicle for purposes beyond mobility. Indeed, the MINI Vision Urbanaut also creates an urban space for people when it’s standing still, significantly increasing the amount of time they will want to use the vehicle or just hang out in it.
The MINI Vision Urbanaut also sets out to use resources responsibly. To this end, from the beginning of the concept phase the team focused on consistently reducing the number of components and avoiding unnecessary use of materials. This has been achieved by developments including clever dual-functionality for the dashboard (it can turn into a daybed) and the debut appearance of a circular OLED centre display – which recasts itself as a stylish lamp in the Chill moment – above the table. Maximising length of use by ensuring materials can be replaced is likewise a priority. Changeable covers are a good example of how this can be achieved. In addition, the interior has been created without the use of chrome or leather, an approach that will also be rolled out in the next MINI model generation.
The interior of the MINI Vision Urbanaut features a high proportion of recycled materials and the materials used are almost exclusively renewable and recyclable. The dominant material in the interior are textiles made from recycled materials (including wool, polyester and Tencel) which blend cosiness and quality with softness and comfort.
The designers also paid extra attention to solutions composed of a single type of material – what are known as “mono-materials”. These are easy to recycle further down the line and can be turned into new products. The use of renewable and recyclable cork on the steering wheel and sections of the floor adds a special touch thanks to its natural feel, and ensures an authentically pleasant interior climate. All in all, the materials concept for the MINI Vision Urbanaut highlights the extremely high levels of visual and haptic quality that a sustainably designed interior can offer.
The MINI Vision Urbanaut covers all sensory angles in creating the perfect on-board experience. A key element of the interior design is therefore a carefully honed approach to fragrance and sound. “The holistic approach addressing all the senses creates a truly unique and unforgettable experience,” explains Annabell Coffinet, Fragrance Designer at the BMW Group. “A distinctive fragrance signature sticks in the mind and can remind you of a positive atmosphere and overall experience. In this way, we are creating another, very personal connection with particularly memorable times. We also wanted to link the MINI brand identity with a fragrance signature for the first time. This waft of something intangible, refreshing and unexpected brings emotion to how the brand’s message is communicated, a kind of international signature with a high recognisability factor. It will be discreet and revealed as part of a welcome scenario.”
Bringing balance to the sensory experience, Renzo Vitale, Creative Director Sound, gives the various textures of the welcome scenario fragrance an audible form. As well as the welcome sound, he also composed the music for the Chill, Vibe and Wanderlust moments. In the Chill moment, the vehicle wraps the user in the subtle soundscapes of a forest, with rustling leaves and flowing water filling the interior – a fitting complement to the dimmable forest canopy effect. Acoustic sounds set the seal on the relaxation-rich experience. The Wanderlust and Vibe moments are accompanied by a soundtrack of specially composed music which can be played both inside and outside the vehicle.
Another aim with the MINI moments was to use digital integration to intensify or enrich the analogue experience. This “analogue love, digital connection” approach runs throughout the vehicle. Indeed, an additional digital level has been integrated below several of the analogue surfaces. Examples here include the table inside the vehicle (which initiates the MINI moments when the MINI Token is placed in one of the slots), the lamp with OLED display and the LED matrixes in the interior under a layer of textile or in the front and rear ends of the car. These areas of the vehicle bring together the analogue and digital worlds into a new and immersive experience. And all of this can now be experienced in a real-life vehicle, thanks to the work of the BMW Group’s modellers.
As an innovative space concept, the MINI Vision Urbanaut was designed from the inside out. The designers created the spacious interior experience before developing the exterior, using floor plans, pieces of furniture plus wooden scale models to provide an indication of size. Over the course of the project, augmented reality was employed to create a digital model, which was then systematically optimised. The physical model of the MINI Vision Urbanaut was then put together from start to finish at the MINI Design studio in Munich. Here, the BMW Group gathered all the expertise available to transform virtual visions into physical reality. Upholsterers, modellers, mechatronics engineers, programmers, paint specialists and others worked alongside the designers to turn a vision into a physical model of almost prototype quality.
After all, the MINI Vision Urbanaut is not a static model, but a driveable and steerable one. Every part has been specially designed, precision-manufactured using cutting-edge tools and crafted by hand. The high degree of artistry inside the MINI Vision Urbanaut is highlighted by an interior design that is reminiscent of a modern living space. The construction of the model therefore extended from a classical vehicle build via furniture-making all the way to programming and smart high-tech integration.