BMW shows off its Mini Electric Concept car at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show

For the last few months, BMW has been teasing us with the prospect of all electric Mini, and now, it’s finally unveiled the new EV in the flesh at the Frankfurt motor show. 

In July, BWW revealed the new Mini EV will be built right here in the UK, and last month it gave us a generated concept images of the new car. In person, the new Mini EV keeps the familiar, iconic Mini shape but has a number of standout features designed to demonstrate the “car has an electric heart.”

There are clues about its new powertrain around the car: While the grille shape and headlights may look the same as a regular mini, the grille has been closed to boost aerodynamics – and because the electric drive unit requires little cooling air.

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In person, the concept also has a silver and yellow colour scheme, said to be reminiscent of the earlier Mini E, as well as the E badge. Additional “Mini E” badges are built into the grille and exterior mirror caps and BMW calls the paint finish “Reflection Silver”, describing it as a matte liquid metal shade.

The colour of the roof changes from matte white to high-gloss yellow, while the transparency of the yellow on the side skirts changes as you look up the car, appearing to merge into the body colour. “These colour gradients accentuate the concept car’s lightness and modernity,” according to BMW.

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The light arrays on the rear sides of the car each form one half of the Union Jack as an LED dot matrix. There is also a yellow accent strip. Elsewhere, the 3D-printed aerodynamic inlays have a similar fibreglass structure as the concept car’s air deflectors.

It’s been nearly ten years since the BMWs first all-electric car, Mini E was announced. More than 600 MINI E were tested globally and the results of these trials helped inspire the development of the BMW i3. The first series-production model with a plug-in hybrid drive system launched in spring 2017 with the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. 

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“The MINI Electric Concept is a quintessential MINI – compact, agile, simply the ideal companion for everyday driving. At the same time, it conveys a whole new take on the concept of sportiness,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president BMW Group Design.

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“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.”

The final design of the electric Mini may look somewhat different to this concept, but the images give an indication of some of the features of next year’s production model. BMW has already said it will assemble the car in Cowley, Oxfordshire, although the batteries and electric motors required for the new Mini will be built in BMW’s Dingolfing and Landshut plants in Bavaria, and then shipped over.

The decision to produce the new electric Mini in the UK came despite worries around Brexit, and will signify one of BMW’s most ambitious projects being produced in a market that buys 20% of all Minis globally. While all the factors behind the decision aren’t yet known, the Financial Times states the existing BMW factory in Cowley will require minimal alterations before production of the new EV could begin.

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At last year’s Paris Motor Show, Mercedes and Volkswagen announced plans to launch a brand-new range of all-electric cars – but BMW was surprisingly quiet. Despite pulling an early lead in the EV market with the practical i3 and the stunning i8, the German carmaker didn’t have much to say about sustainable transport at this year’s show.

According to several sources, that’s because most high-level BMW employees were meeting elsewhere to discuss the company’s electric plans. We now know those plans included the introduction of an EV Mini and an electric version of the new X3 crossover.

Most electric cars store their batteries at the bottom of the chassis for better weight distribution, and this means BMW will likely have to design a new electric Mini chassis from the ground up. There are glimpses of this in the latest concept images.

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Furthermore, it’s also possible the new BMW will use an aluminium and carbon-fibre mix to keep down weight and increase the car’s range and efficiency.

When released, the new Mini will sit somewhere between the more affordable Nissan Leaf and the high-end i3. Mini is already a premium brand, so it’s unlikely BMW will market the car as “electric power for the mass market”.

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While many will complain about an electric Mini for nostalgic reasons, it’s probably a good idea. Making an electric version of a classic is probably the best way to ensure it stays relevant, and the Mini’s compact form is already well suited to an electric powertrain.

By 2025, the BMW Group expects electrified vehicles to account for between 15-25% of sales, and it offers nine electrified models already. The Mini, however, could easily be the best-selling of those nine. During its unveiling of the concept car images, BMW added that, in the future, all electrified products from the Mini brand will be grouped together under the “Mini Electric” banner.

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