Mini confirmed production of the Mini Electric for its Oxford plant in 2019 last year, 11 years after the Mini E was launched. Just 600 examples of that pure-electric Mini were made.
The Mini Electric’s official unveiling took place at the Frankfurt motor show, and in the lead-up to the production model's arrival, a schedule of public events has been lined up. BMW has explained the Mini's technical make-up simply as having a “powerful electric motor”.
However, after Autocar viewed the car, it’s clear that the concept gives strong hints not only at the first production battery-powered model, but also at how Mini’s design language could be reinvented as it enters the third decade as a BMW brand.
Mini’s exterior design boss, Christopher Weil, said the job of creating the Mini Electric concept started in January and lasted just six months. “The process was very quick,” he said. “Projects that run quickly are often both nicer to work on and more effective than those that take longer. The quicker we move, the more pure ideas can be.”
Weil, of course, applied the expected caution: “This is just a concept car — we are thinking about how an electric Mini could look. This is not the production car — we are just in the process of designing it, so it is too early to say [how it will inform the production car].”
The concept does not contain an interior. Changes to that will remain hidden until closer to production. Nevertheless, this car is a clear proposal for modernising the Mini range. Some within the company believe that the current hatchback models have missed the mark, their chrome-laden chubbiness harking too much to the past.
The stylistic indications that the concept is battery- powered are subtle. The lower edge of the car along both sides and across the back is marked by a matt black strip that consists of radiator-like cooling fins.
Like the recent BMW 8 Series concept, the Mini also gets an air extractor slot behind the front wheel, a much more heavily sculpted bodyside — the R50 and R56 Minis had almost flat door skins — and a neat intake and tiny spoiler in front of the rear wheel. Weil referred to this as the “efficiency layer” and added: “The way you manage airflow is specific for every individual car, but the main aerodynamic principles are the same. It’s very good for the drag co-efficient when you have an opening behind the wheels so that the air can flow out, rather than just creating turbulence [inside the wheel wells].” He admitted that the unusual asymmetric wheel design is heavily influenced by 1980s car design.