MotoringFile Design Analysis: The MINI Electric Concept

This is not the all electric MINI E we expect to hit showrooms in late 2019. What you’re looking at above took the MINI exterior design team only six months to dream up and produce and is meant to a preview of both the MINI E and the next evolution of the MINI design language. What does that mean to you, the MINI fan? Let’s dissect this car and figure it out.

There is no chrome on the Electric MINI concept. None. There are no black plastic fender flares or faux air vents. Everything on the exterior of this car (sans those questionable stickers) serves a purpose in one way other another. This philosophical change was first hinted at with MINI’s rebranding last year and has been (ironically) previewed in MINI’s new range of accessories recently. Perhaps most famously it was heavily forecasted by the MINI Superleggera concept a few years back. Now we’re seeing this refined design language on a model that looks like it could very well see production.

Yet this isn’t the MINI E. This is a design study that is meant to inform that car and is (in a sense) a peek into the design team’s mind as it works on the next generation of cars.

Autocar spoke with MINI lead exterior designer (and friend of MotoringFile) Christopher Weil about the car yesterday and gathered some interesting insights. Weil mentioned; “The process was very quick. 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 went onto say: “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 more simplicitic visual design language harkens back to what made the original R50 MINI so immediately likable. There was very little challenge in that design and MINI intends to evoke that in the next generation of cars.

Going back to the Autocar article and MINI designer Christopher Weil:

“We wanted to show something with a very reduced form language that takes out the detailing. The upper of the body has been cleaned up a lot. We’ve played with very simple and powerful themes — there’s a cleanness to the car [that gives] it a more contemporary feel.

“The chrome details, which have really stood for Mini, like the waistline finishers, the headlamp and tail-light surrounds, and even the door handles — we took all?of these out. Even the Mini logo is very minimal. Then we reduced the door handles and rear-view mirrors to a more minimal appearance.”

For us the higher belt-line (it’s 7-10 mm taller than the current F56) is interesting but creates a further equipment for large wheels to visually reduce the car’s height and create the right wheel to car ratio.

And those wheels? We’ll freely admit that we look back with fondness at the geometric wheel designs of the 1980’s (that inspired what you see above). But we would never actually want them on a car. While we love the concept of the wheels (they appear to be two-piece with an aero element in black) we are relieved in knowing that MINI will offer many wheel options and surely something like the above will only be one.

There’s a lot to like in this concept and there’s a lot to ponder. For us we look at the MINI Electric concept as the footnote that it will quickly become in MINI’s design history. This is a car that is both incredibly meaningful and will quickly become forgotten as MINI Design moves onto the real MINI E and the new MINI range in the years ahead. But today it represents our best look yet at a future full of change for the brand.

  • Jon A

    As an industrial designer and MINI enthusiast, I like the overall idea and execution. The head scratcher to me is the squared off front fender feature which contrasts with the round feature shape of the rear fender. I think they need to be one or the other but not both. I’m highly intrigued by this car because I want my next MINI to be electric.

    • Couldn’t agree more. There’s clearly something they’re playing with in that shape but it’s not successfully realized on this concept (IMHO). I’m guessing we’ll see something in either the next range of MINIs that harken to this or (at least) in the next Countryman.

    • MVJCW

      Agreed. The best part of this exercise is the rear end. Clean, elegant, well-proportioned. The forms around the wheel wells are odd, out of place. In fact, the whole side view looks busy overworked. Keep it simple!. The front end…. here we go again with those huge “vents, nostrils”. This must be an obsession at BMW/MINI. Please keep it simple, keep it clean….. you don’t have to overwork a clean simple form to make it better.

    • Johnny Boots

      Ha, I’m an industrial designer as well! I thought the same thing about that front fender. I do love the lack of plastic cladding on this. This has such a clean language to it with that subtle but strong character line. I like the front end but not the protruding “shark nose” view from the side. Something more full without the chin (ala F56 JCW) would be much nicer.

  • emulajavi

    Great Concept!

    What I like less: too much front overhang.

    For a concept it’s great that it’s so simple, but I hope MINI is not thinking about removing the chrome around the car at the waist line, or the door handles. If they remove plastic wheel arches it doesn’t matter to me.

  • Greg

    I feel the removal of the plastic wheel arches reduces the visual size of the wheels compared to the car and its beltline, plus plastic wheel arches make the older cars keep their arches rust free which could help keep this car looking good and structurally sound longer.

    The coming crop of pure electric vehicles is gonna last longer in people’s hands, because few parts are going to need to be replaced before the batteries can’t keep a charge to go to work. As long as car makers don’t make rust buckets.