Fly­ing the pure elec­tric mo­bil­ity flag

TECH­NOL­OGY/ Here’s how the elec­tric car bug is about to strike at Mini, writes Michael Tay­lor

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Less than a week be­fore the Frank­furt mo­tor show opens and al­ready the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion cats are leap­ing out of the bag. Mini has re­leased sneak im­ages of its Mini Elec­tric con­cept, which shows a lit­tle more imag­i­na­tion in de­sign (and, hope­fully, its en­gi­neer­ing) than it does in its name. Tra­di­tion­ally a brand that prefers not to launch cars at mo­tor shows, Mini’s hand is be­ing forced by news that Daim­ler is us­ing the show to an­nounce it will move to an al­l­elec­tric strat­egy for the Smart brand (see story on back page).

Though anorexic on en­gi­neer­ing de­tails, the Mini Elec­tric Con­cept is said by Mini to of­fer a “win­dow into how pure-elec­tric, day-to-day mo­bil­ity might look in the years ahead”.

Nat­u­rally, it looks like a Mini, with un­mis­tak­able Mini de­sign lan­guage and pro­por­tions, most of which will carry over into the brand’s first full-se­ries pro­duc­tion elec­tric car in 2019.

“The sys­tem­atic elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the brand and prod­uct port­fo­lio is a main­stay of the BMW Group’s Num­ber One > Next strat­egy,” says Har­ald Krüger, BMW board chair­man.

“The Mini Elec­tric Con­cept of­fers a thrilling preview of the all-elec­tric pro­duc­tion vehicle. Mini and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion make a per­fect match.”

Ur­ban mo­bil­ity, Krüger claims, was “in­grained into the Mini brand’s DNA, with cities as their nat­u­ral habi­tat”.

Mini re­leased no de­tails of the con­cept car’s range, ac­cel­er­a­tion, mo­tor out­put or bat­tery ca­pac­ity, say­ing only that “the re­spon­sive drive sys­tem, sub­limely judged sus­pen­sion tun­ing and use of aero­dy­namic ad­dons 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”.

For all the eva­sive­ness on tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, it won’t be the first time Mini has stepped into the elec­tric-car field. It un­veiled the Mini E in 2008 as a rolling lab­o­ra­tory, build­ing 600 cars and send­ing them to the US, Ger­many, the UK, Ja­pan, China and France to gather real-world driv­ing data to pre­pare the brand for the 2019 se­ries elec­tric car. One also came to SA and we were for­tu­nate to be one of the pub­li­ca­tions that got to drive it.

It also has one model, the Cooper S E Coun­try­man All4, ca­pa­ble of run­ning as a ze­roe­mis­sion car via its plug-in hy­brid lay­out.

“With its char­ac­ter­is­tic go-kart feel­ing and pow­er­ful elec­tric mo­tor, the Mini Elec­tric Con­cept is great fun to drive while also be­ing com­pletely suit­able for ev­ery­day use — and pro­duc­ing zero emis­sions to boot,” BMW’s board mem­ber re­spon­si­ble for Mini, Roll­sRoyce and Mo­tor­rad, Peter Sch­warzen­bauer, in­sists.

“That’s how we at Mini en­vis­age elec­tric mo­bil­ity in to­mor­row’s world,” he says.

With its fa­mil­iar round-eyed nose, kitsch half Union Jack rear lights and race-bred aero­dy­namic flar­ing on its side skirts, the Elec­tric Con­cept seems to work as hard at not los­ing rusted-on Mini fans as it does em­bark in a new di­rec­tion.

“The Mini Elec­tric Con­cept is a quin­tes­sen­tial Mini — com­pact, agile, sim­ply the ideal com­pan­ion for ev­ery­day driv­ing,” BMW Group se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of de­sign, Adrian van Hooy­donk, says.

“It con­veys a whole new take on the con­cept of sporti­ness. In­deed, aero­dy­nam­ics and light­weight de­sign aren’t just im­por­tant in the world of mo­tor­sport; they are also es­sen­tial fac­tors for max­imis­ing elec­tric range,” he says.

“The car’s sur­faces have a sense of pre­ci­sion and con­tem­po­rary clar­ity about them that lends added im­pact to its ef­fi­cient char­ac­ter. Plus, strik­ing ac­cents and vivid con­trasts give the ex­te­rior that dis­tinc­tive Mini twist,” he says.

The car’s hexag­o­nal ra­di­a­tor grille slots on to a face that re­quires far less cool­ing air than tra­di­tional Mi­nis. The head­lights are both full LED units.

The air in­takes in the front are ac­tu­ally closed over yet still in­clude lou­vre de­signs to “in­ject some tech­ni­cal flair”.

While the BMW Group’s brand has marked car­bon fi­bre as its ter­ri­tory, most of the Mini Elec­tric Con­cept’s body flair comes from old-school fi­bre­glass, in­clud­ing the aero parts run­ning along the side sills.

Rid­ing on 19-inch wheels, the Elec­tric Con­cept used 3D print­ing for the grille and the fake air in­takes, which Van Hooy­donk be­lieves could open up a new mar­ket for cus­tomi­sa­tion.

The con­cept shows all the hall­mark Mini de­sign at­tributes but with some ma­jor de­tail changes.

The main rear de­sign items are those Union Jack LED tail lights.

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