After teasing us with some sketches of the MINI Scooter E Concept before the Paris Motor Show, MINI has finally taken the wraps off its two-wheeled excursion. Showing a variety of flavors, MINI has tried to synthesize the unique elements of its automobile brand into scooter form with the MINI Scooter E Concept. Styling and features come straight from the cars, although they don’t share a common parts bin, while the general ethos remains: an individualistic, yet practical, form of transportation that has the urban commuter in mind.
The important part about the MINI Scooter E Concept though isn’t its fun styling or urban-hipster appeal, but instead the fact that OEM’s are coming out of their holes after weathering the recession’s storm, and getting serious about electrics and electric motorcycles. The fact that a small automobile manufacturer is considering an electric two-wheeled vehicle should send a message to the traditional motorcycle OEM’s and electric startups alike.
Although it remains to be seen whether MINI will go on to produce the Scooter E Concept, the fact the company is exploring the idea should be a wake up call to the Japanese OEM’s who have not only seen American startups electrifying, but also European manufacturers getting serious about alternatives to fossil fuels. With Honda’s own electric SuperCub concept looking more show than go when compare to the Scooter E, MINI could have a leg-up on Honda in coming to market first with an electric scooter. While certainly the idea of an electrified scooter, good for tooling around city and urban streets, is nothing new, no company has come forth with the resources and distribution to take the idea mainstream.
Hoping to capitalize on that gap are of course the plethora of electric motorcycle startups we’ve seen working on urban commuting machines. Electric scooters have remained one of the few motorcycle market segments that could feasibly be electrified with today’s technology, but with low-price points and high costs, building a quality device that can be profitable has been the real challenge. Cash flow statements that end in black ink require electric scooters to be sold in volumes that today’s startups can’t yet achieve. Requiring more time, money, and infrastructure to achieve those production levels, the door is still open for an OEM like MINI to step in and trump not only the status quo OEM’s, but the paradigm shifting startups as well.
With the MINI brand being more about urban transport and personal identity through a vehicle than anything else, parent company BMW no doubt sees the similarity of these cores values appearing in motorcycling, and how MINI could easily fit a premium electric scooter into its product line umbrella. With a number of checks in the right boxes, there’s good reason to think MINI will pull the trigger on a production version, and that the German company’s British inspired waves will surely be felt in Japan and the western coast of the United States.
From a technical point-of-view, all that we really know about the MINI Scooter E Concept is that it will run on lithium-ion batteries and feature wheel-hub motors. The bike is designed around a completely impractical smartphone integration solution, that sees an iPhone or similar device comprising of the scooter’s dashboard and infotainment system. While iPhones have become ubiquitous in the techno-savvy lifestyle of today, it’s a toss-up of what’s more dubious: expecting a consumer to have a certain type of phone before they can buy your vehicle, or offering firmware level support for the Baskin Robins of smartphone flavors that exist. But still if that’s the biggest chink in the MINI Scooter E Concept’s armor, then MINI has done a fine job on this project.