Our sister site BimmerFile has been writing an ongoing series about BMW’s secret concept cars that have stayed deep within the company yet are influencing many future products. Perhaps the most interesting and relevant to the MINI brand is the E1. It started with the Z15, itself an off-shoot of the Z11 small car concept seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1991. As a prototype with the model designation BMW E1, the four-seater incorporated a new design language with new aerodynamic and ergonomic features. But most importantly it was 100% electric with a range of up to 124 miles and a top speed of 75 mph. While the numbers don’t quite match what we see in the MINI E, it’s clearly a forerunner of what we see in that car and BMW’s upcoming ActiveE. The prototype generated universal acclaim among members of the public and auto writers of the time. The readersâ€™ choice in car magazine â€œAuto Zeitungâ€ voted the BMW E1 as the winner in the category â€œEnvironment and Technologyâ€, and trade magazine â€œAuto Bildâ€ described the BMW E1 as â€œthe most advanced car of the centuryâ€. A heady claim considering the competition.
Ultimately battery costs made the case for production difficult. However the E1 (and it’s forbearers) provided the impetus for the development of the MINI E and the upcoming BMW Project i vehicles designed for emission-free mobility within large urban environments.