MINI Scooter E. The Big Question: Why?

A lot of MINI fans have probably been scratching their heads these past few days as more and more details emerge on the MINI Scooter E Concept bikes. Why the heck would MINI want to build a scooter anyway? The PR has revealed a handful of reasons, and we have our theories, which on balance make a lot of sense for bringing something like this to market. Let’s start at the source, another video from BMW Design Head Adrian Van Hooydonk (above).

Beginning with the obvious, BMW has a deep history with motorcycles. Expanding into scooters is a logical diversification and leveraging the MINI brand to do that makes sense on several levels. Firstly, a scooter is to a motorcycle what a MINI is to a conventional car. They’re trim. They’re light. They’re efficient. They’re surprisingly quick. They’re stylish. They’re approachable. They’re not all things to all people. Secondly, and I think more interestingly, Britain has a rich scooter history rooted most iconically in the Mod movement of the ’60s. Mr. Van Hooydonk mentions this specifically and it’s an obvious thread woven throughout the design language. That intersection of fashion and statement-making transportation dovetails perfectly into what the modern MINI has come to stand for in the automotive world.

On the practical side, simple, fun, zero-emissions, urban transportation could fill a real niche in the years to come. With cities getting ever more crowded, parking at a premium, and fuel prices unlikely to stay stable for long, scooters will likely play a larger and larger role in the future american transportation landscape. It’s a lesson Europe and Asia learned long ago: a scooter is a great way to get around town. What’s more, were MINI to bring these bikes to market, they’d be competing directly with Vespa for premium scooter buyers. The classic Italian marque is really the only player in the premium scooter market space at this time. We think it’s no accident that the Scooter E Concept shares design language with the classic Lambretta scooters — Vespa’s major rival at the height of British Mod and the pinnacle of classic collectibility today.

Lastly, with the right mix of performance and battery life, a real life MINI Scooter E would be a lot of fun. Extending the cheeky character of their cars into a premium two-wheeler would mean a lot fun energy on the showroom floor and streets alike. In the end, isn’t MINI about the joy of motoring? Let’s scoot.

  • Mark R

    At the right price, I would be interested. I have never been a ‘motorcycle guy’, as I know it would kill me. A MINI electric scooter like this would be simple and fun to make some quick runs around town with.

  • MikeJCW

    I agree with Mark R and would love to have one if they bring it here to the U.S.

  • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com Nathaniel Salzman

    Mark R, I think that a lot of people who even go so far as to purchase motorcycles would have a lot more fun on a scooter. Especially if they’re riding mostly in-town. That said, I own a 650cc motorcycle and a 200cc Vespa and the motorcycle is no harder to ride than the scooter. They’re simply optimized for different things.

  • Greg W

    BMW has their Motorcycles so why shouldn’t MINI have a scooter? As well, BMW also make Bicycles… and COOPER is already making these as well. three words – GO FOR IT!

  • Drill

    I’d have a lot of fun taking one of these to work everyday.

  • Drill

    Ok, maybe not EVERYday but in Spring/Summer when the weather’s nice, lol.

  • http://freezerpants.com hanzo

    While I love my MINI, I also live two miles from my office.

    In South Carolina.

    Basically, the weather is almost always (reasonably) co-operative, so I take my Motorcycle to work 90% of the time.

    Now..if I had a MINI Scoot…well, the motorcycle might spend a lot more time in the garage too..

  • Aurel Savin

    I welcome these but still can’t wrap my head around one crucial thing with all things electric.

    As they are mostly aimed at urban dwellers with short commutes or hopping around a city. Where would these things or electric cars be charged?

    If for example I live in NYC. Apartment dweller with buildings all around … if I don’t have a house where would I plug this in? If I go to work, where would I plug it in?

  • Brian

    I would, 100% no doubt buy this. Would they bring it to the US?

  • MR.D…

    BMW have always struggled in the scooter market (remember the C1?) as they didn’t build anything that would risk diluting the masculinity of their motorcycle brand and lets face it, many people think scooters are a little gay. MINI on the other hand, do not share such hang-ups and embrace a fashion conscious community that appreciate compact, economical transportation that reflects their own unique personality. The electric scooter market is going to be huge and if MINI can get there first, they will cement themselves as the premium market leader.

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com Nathaniel Salzman
      lets face it, many people think scooters are a little gay

      There are plenty of people who think the same thing about MINIs. That hasn’t kept them from success. I think that a big part of what makes MINI and companies like MINI a success is that they don’t waste much time worrying about who won’t buy their cars and instead focus on who will. Furthermore, the actual cross section of people who ride scooters in the USA is incredibly diverse — more diverse even than MINI drivers I’d say. Any homophobia regarding scooters as a segment is also a uniquely american hangup, as most everywhere else in the world scooters are common as belt buckles.

      And really, of all the major motorcycle manufacturers, BMW is probably the least hung up on machismo.

  • glangford

    I’d have one no doubt. Where do I leave a deposit!!

  • http://bit.ly/aHhyHj Jake

    I think the Mini scooter is a brilliant idea. I have been using a Kaishan power-assisted bicycle for the last three years and have found it to be a terrific way to get around our small city. It is different, in that it only goes up to 32kph / 25mph, so it would not be useful for longer distances. I commute 9km taking only 20 minutes, often beating the rush-hour traffic. I am able to use the bike lanes and regional trails, however, the Mini scooter would need to stay in regular vehicle traffic. The Kaishan is built in China and cost me about $1,500 CDN. It’s held up well, but is basically a piece of s%$*! A quality manufacturer would do well to bring a well build electric scooter or power-assist bike to market.

  • KPH

    The electric car is still at that “can it replace (one of) my petrol cars” point. Range and price will be a make or break issue till there’s a technological advance of great import. With the electric scooter not so much. It makes sense immediately for those inclined to use two wheels and use it where range is not such a question, but more of a time of use issue. And really, aren’t you city folk tired of riding that damn bike? Good luck BMW.

  • lavardera

    It would be great if the range of finishes and colors we’re seeing were part of a customer ordering experience as with the mini.

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com Nathaniel Salzman

      lavadera, it wouldn’t just be great, it’d be completely unique in the scooter world. For most bikes, you’re lucky if they come in more than two colors.

  • grueinthebox

    I hope they consider doing a gas powered variant… I was curious at first… Saw the pictures and got excited… Read the 30 mph @ 60 miles range and lost all interest. The range is on the lower end of being tolerable, but a top speed of 30 mph would be likely to get you killed around here.

    Electric vehicles are still in their infancy and until there are some marked improvements in battery technology they’re going to remain a niche product – nice to have as an option, but not suitable for a wide audience.

  • Geoff

    They are using Lith /LIPO cells so that is current battery tech With electric you get torqe so 30 would be close to instant but I agree they need to just add a few more cells to up the voltage and take it to 40/ 45 MPH

  • Greg W

    This could start a whole new fashion trend. I’ve done some research on the London “Mod” thing, and the movie involving “The Who” in Quadrophenia. I didn’t realise scooters were part of this movement in the ’60s. Van Hooydonk refers to this in the video. Now we have MINI cars, Mini-skirts, Scooters, it’s a perfect time for the new Beatles!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

    Although it seems that a lot of MINI fans like the idea of an electric scooter (with likely development help from BMW), it will be interesting if the Quattroheads feel the same about the Audi announcement of a scooter (with Ducati support): http://www.autoblog.com/2012/07/17/audi-mulling-sporty-new-people-carrier-and-a-scooter/ It seems like all the cool kids are coming up with scooter concepts; now if just someone would build one to spur on a little competition. Which one of the WRR said that would get a MINI Scooter E? Was if DB if my memory serves me?

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      It’s Chad that would buy a Scooter E sight unseen, and I’d be right behind him.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

        Of course Chad wold have to get one just to take it apart, learn how to rebuild it from scratch and then figure out a way to soup it up, add a BBK, change the suspension, Todd could do the racing stripes… It would almost forgives him for not wanting a Clubvan for DT.