The 2018 New York International Auto Show started on March 30 and will continue through April 8. Mini is there with a special car to demonstrate that electrification is as important to Mini as it is to its other BMW Group stablemates; the Mini display in New York includes a one-of-a-kind purely electric car that is like a concept car—except it isn’t. Unlike a traditional concept car, this one is not a preview of things to come—at least design-wise. It is an expression of how Mini’s heritage would look if combined with today’s electric-vehicle technology.
The vehicle is the classic Mini Electric, imagined as “the result of an imaginary journey through time, where the story of the classic Mini is extended by a consecutive chapter.” Immediately recognizable is the smaller body and square lines of the classic Mini. Not so obvious is that inside and underneath is a state-of-the-art BMW Group electric drivetrain and battery pack.
Next year, in time for the 60th anniversary of the classic Mini, the BMW Group will unveil a new fully electric Mini 3 Door that will follow in the footsteps of this classic Mini Electric and the current Mini Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 plug-in hybrid.
The BMW Group has previously relied on Mini to help carry the electric flag for the company. In 2008, a limited run of 600 Mini E cars was leased to customers who basically gave the electric vehicles extensive field-testing. Much of the information gathered in that program was used in developing the BMW i3, a zero-local-emissions car that was introduced in 2014 and has been a fairly good seller for the BMW Group.
The classic Mini Electric on display at the New York Auto Show is in fact a late-model classic Mini, perfectly restored in preparation for its new powertrain. The exterior is pure Mini: red body with white roof and characteristic Mini hood stripes. Incorporated in the Mini badge and on the wheel hubs is the Mini Electric logo seen previously on the 2017 Mini Concept Electric at the last year’s Frankfurt Auto Show.
We imagine that the new/old Mini Electric is spunkier than the original, with significant torque and power from the electric motor. Handling should be at least as good—which probably means really good—especially presuming a lower center of gravity resulting from the position of the battery pack.
Yes, the classic Mini is cute and fun to drive; there’s no denying it. And yes, properly prepared racing Minis like those that won major rallies in the 1960s can be awesome performers. The job of the classic Mini Electric is to remind us that modern purely electric Mini will be here soon—and that it will be awesome to drive and green to boot.—Scott Blazey
[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]