Engineers involved in BMW’s Project i have previously admitted that the plan is to introduce efficient vehicles not only on four wheels, but also on three, and even two. Now further evidence of the German manufacturer’s intent has been shown with the introduction of the Mini Scooter E. Having instigated electric-vehicle trials in Europe and America, Mini has taken the opportunity to transfer the technology to a new mode of transport, and, more importantly for the company’s bottom line, a new sales audience.
The Scooter E’s power comes courtesy of an electric motor integrated in the rear wheel, which in turn is powered by a compact and efficient lithium-ion battery pack. In addition to using conventional charging via a power socket, the scooter’s lithium-ion battery’s charge can be topped up via the onboard energy storage unit. Alongside the compact battery, a charging system and connecting cable are integrated in the rear of the scooter, allowing charging during stops. Mini believes that this will be an attractive attribute for those using the scooters in city centers or for short journeys.
The power of the battery pack was not disclosed, nor were any performance or range figures, from the company at the 2010 Paris Motor Show’s launch event. However, possible comparisons can be made with another two-wheeled offering from a traditional vehicle manufacturer. Mercedes-Benz’s brand Smart also launched a scooter in France, which claims to achieve a maximum range of 62 mi (100 km) from a 4-kW electric motor, which is also situated in the rear wheel. The top speed of the Smart model is around 40 km/h (25 mph).
For charging purposes on the move for the Mini, plugs and cables are accommodated underneath a cover similar to the round tank flap in a Mini car. Coming out of the illuminated flap, the plug and charging cable can be pulled out and plugged into a power point that is up to 5 m (16 ft) away.
Despite being touted by the brand as a design study, it is likely that a Mini-branded two-wheeled vehicle will appear at some stage, although the power source is up for debate. Sitting on 11-in rims, the scooter shares many design parallels with its four-wheeled stablemates. The windshield, for example, is angled in an upright position similar to that of the front windshield of other Mini models. The curvature designed into the sides also mimics that of a Mini as it merges into the A-pillars. From the front, the scooter is recognizable as a Mini product, with a large, round headlight unit that is similar in its formation to the Mini Countryman.
A clever use of advanced technology is a smartphone adapter on the instrument cluster, which operates simultaneously as the vehicle key, display, and central control element. When the phone is docked and switched on, the bike is ready to drive. Mini believes that such integration of infotainment, communication, and navigation reflects the demands of today’s society and will further help bridge the gap between car and scooter.
A wireless Bluetooth interface can be connected to a helmet from the Mini Collection. This is fitted with a microphone and headphones so that riders are able to use the telephone function or access their personal music collection while on the road.
Building on the Mini Connected services that are already available in current models, specific features can be used by adding further smartphone applications. For example, the navigation function can be supplemented by a special map view in Google Maps, which indicates the current position of other scooters from the brand in the immediate vicinity.