Mini Electric Concept revealed
Mini has previewed its plans for an all-electric version of its modern-day Cooper hardtop with the unveiling of the new Mini Electric Concept.
Set to get a public airing at the upcoming Frankfurt motor show, the compact new two-door is said by Mini to offer a "window into how pure-electric, day-to-day mobility might look in the years ahead".
Combining many of the classic Mini design elements and proportions used by the third-generation of the modern-day Cooper hardtop together with newly developed cues conceived around the new four-seater's battery propelled driveline and the optimisation of its aerodynamic properties, the Mini Electric Concept is meant to provide the first tacit clues to the size and appearance of the BMW Group owned car maker's first series production electric car due out in 2019.
"The systematic electrification of the brand and product portfolio is a mainstay of the BMW Group's Number One Next strategy," said BMW chairman, Harald Krüger, adding, "The Mini Electric Concept offers a preview of the all-electric production vehicle.
Krüger, who has also announced plans for an electric version of the BMW X3 as part of a program that will see the BMW Group electrify exiting models alongside its offerings from its dedicated i electric car brand, hints at larger electric car plans for the Mini brand in coming years, saying, "Mini and electrification make a perfect match."
Billing its latest concept car as a pure design exercise, Mini has released no details to the Mini Electric Concept's driveline, power output, battery capacity or chassis set-up, saying only, "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."
However, officials from the traditional British car maker suggest the production version of the new car will borrow electric drive technology from the newly facelifted BMW i3, with a front-mounted electric motor providing direct drive to the front wheels and a lithium ion battery pack mounted within its centre tunnel and underneath the rear seat in the place taken up by the fuel tank on combustion engine versions of the Cooper hardtop.
Further details remain scarce, though it is expected to deliver an overall range in the region of the 94Ah version of the rear-wheel drive i3, which delivers a claimed 300km range between recharging on the current European test cycle.
The Mini Electric Concept is not the first time Mini has dabbled in electric car development. It unveiled the Mini E in 2008 as part of an extensive global test program aimed at evaluating technology and gaining driving data in the run up to the establishment of BMW's i brand. Fitted with a 150kW electric motor and large 35kWh lithium ion battery, some 600 Mini Es were deployed in selected cities within China, France, Germany, England and the United States on a lease program that ended in 2011.
Knowledge gained in the development and running of the Mini E fleet was then subsequently used in the conception of the later BMW 1-Series ActiveE.
Mini also recently launched the Cooper S E Countryman All4 – a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid fitted with the same driveline as the BMW 225xe capable of offering zero emission running on electric power for short distances.
The Mini Electric Concept retains many of the Cooper hatchback's traditional design cues, including a blanked off version of its hexagonal-shaped grille, round headlamps, upright glasshouse, floating roof and hatchback style rear end. They are combined with new elements Mini says have been conceived to smooth airflow and improve its aerodynamic properties, including a new front bumper assembly, more heavily flared front wheel houses and complex sills underneath the doors featuring an air breather within its leading section and a winged element at the rear ahead of the rear wheel houses.
"The Mini Electric Concept is a quintessential Mini – compact, agile, simply the ideal companion for everyday driving," said Adrian van Hooydonk, the BMW Group's Senior Vice-President of Design. "At the same time, it conveys a whole new take on the concept of sportiness. Indeed, aerodynamics and lightweight design aren't just important in the world of motor sport; they are also essential factors for maximising electric range.
"The car's surfaces have a sense of precision and contemporary clarity about them that lends added impact to the car's efficient character. Plus, striking accents and vivid contrasts give the exterior that distinctive MINI twist."
Although BMW's i brand has invested heavily in carbon-fibre production for its i3 and i8, the Mini Electric Concept's body incorporates cheaper glass fibre within its new aerodynamic elements. Riding on 19-inch wheels, its exterior also uses components created via 3D printing in a move van Hooydonk believes could open up a new market for customisation.