Future mobility will exist under the milieu of environmental and resource sustainability. This much is fact. It’s time to embrace the future.
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MINI needs no such convincing. In fact, MINI is showing us the future with their innovative “Scooter E Concept.” Let’s take a closer look at the evolving personal mobility market, MINI’s concept and its promising future.
We will see these MINIs on the road. Why are we so sure? Firstly, this concept is production ready. Its technology is current, affordable and readily available – many of the development costs having been mitigated by BMW’s recent research and development projects encompassing electric drive cars. In partnership with SB Limotive, advanced Lithium-ion battery packs will be housed under the seat, ready for use and recharge.
And what of the global demand for this concept? Let’s put things into perspective. There are an estimated 200,000,000 two wheeled steeds on the road today, globally. Motorcycles make up the minority share of this mix with scooters dominating the roads of developing Countries, as well as posh, developed Asian and European Countries. A sharp incline in scooter sales is visible across large North American cities as well. Millions of electric powered bicycles and mopeds are currently in use, though rudimentary and diminutive next to the advanced MINI concept. There is clear, well defined demand for two wheeled mobility and it’s growing daily. Economic, environmental and social progressions are only pushing us toward wider use of two wheelers. Even in gasoline powered form, scooters represent remarkable models of efficiency. In electric form, we’ve arrived at pollution free personal mobility, tailored to urban use.
Of course, that’s not to say that electric vehicles are pollution free (didn’t I just say that?) but rather their drive is pollution free. Energy production will continue to pollute in some form, whether encumbered by nuclear waste or green house gas emissions secondary to coal or natural gas combustion. We will only have achieved emission free transportation when we harness the energy for our transportation from solar, wind or hydro power generation. But I digress…
We need such models of efficiency. More to the point, our climate does. In time, increasing energy costs will also enforce the need for ultra-efficient mobility. This change is nothing to fear. Yes, I’m talking to you in the corner, clutching the keys to your poorly maintained 1987 Winnebago used for grocery runs and ’round-town errands. Adapting to eco-friendly transportation need not be disappointing, nor humiliating. You don’t have a drive a Prius. Ahh, doesn’t that feel better? BMW has great things in store.
With the aforementioned scooter market hot for the taking, it was only a matter of time before BMW sank their teeth in. BMW’s acquisition of the MINI brand has lent a perfect segue into the market, reserving BMW’s revered Motorrad branding for muscular, masculine motorcycles (often ridden by our fairer sex, of course). The fashionable, trendy, pop culture inherent to scooters is natural territory to the MINI brand. In fact, 51 years ago, MINI invented trendy, fashionable, edgy four-wheeled pop culture.
Coming full circle, MINI is now moving on to break two wheeled molds. Never before has a scooter concept addressed both environmental and cultural needs between the same two wheels. Let’s take a look at the concept.
MINI emphasizes this scooter’s market placement, highlighting it as a premium product. This is no Kymco (with all respect to the die-hard Taiwanese brand). Genuine leather and exposed aluminum will denote an air of quality and sophistication. Dare I say, “high fashion.” The scooters will be available in two forms; one seater and two seater models. A vertically stacked double round headlight projector follows the surrounding fairing shape, true to MINI tradition as seen in the recent Countryman headlight assembly. Below the headlight, chrome trim outlines the lower fairing shape – sharing MINI’s traditional hexagonal grill shape. The similarities do not stop there. 11 inch wheels are proportioned to the overall size of the scooter – exactly as the wheels of a MINI Cooper are proportioned to its overall shape. The upper windshield element of the scooter concept is sharply upright, just as the windshield on a MINI Cooper sits upright on the hood. The scooter falls not far from the tree. MINI has found a way to capture the spirit and design essence of traditional MINI cars in a highly compact scooter. We presume Mike Meyers already has his on order.
On the technology side, MINI will introduce many firsts to the scooter market with the production of this concept. First of all, a cutting-edge lithium-ion battery pack will store energy under the seat. A color co-ordinated 5 meter (16.5 ft) conventional power cord is also stored under the seat, accessed through an illuminated side panel similar to the fuel hatch on current MINIs. The cord will auto-retract at the touch of a button, neatly re-spooling under the seat – no need for household electric extension cord re-coiling antics (this would surely doom the project to knotted failure!).
The rear wheel houses a single electric hub motor, capable of propelling the scooter to a top speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). Total range is estimated at 100 km (62 miles), more than adequate for extra urban use, particularly with frequent recharging throughout the daily routine – encouraged by MINI with the use of this scooter.
Electric Hub motors harness electromagnetic energy produced by stationary windings of the motor. Segmental circular alternating charge causes the outer portion of the motor to follow the inner fields, thus translating electric energy into kinetic force. The inherently “torquey” nature of electric motors makes them well suited to urban “stop-and-go” use since 100% of the motor’s torque is available from zero rpm. This type of electric drive is also particularly efficient, as there are no parasitic energy losses from friction within a transmission – there is no transmission needed with an electric Hub motor. The torquey, instantaneous response from this electric drivetrain will therefore correspond well with MINI’s traditionally fun, dynamic driving experience.
Now to the really high tech tricks. Your iPhone (or presumably Android based smartphone device) is also your key. Approaching your MINI scooter, you clip it into a housing in the dash. Turn it on. Now you’re ready to ride. Your phone now doubles as a navigation screen, and triples as a music player, quadruples as a phone – all linked to your helmet via bluetooth connection. Groovy. Speed is shown by a large, circular “tube dial” encompassing your mobile device. As speed increases, a colored liquid fills the tube around the dial, ala circular tube thermometer. Very groovy. Battery range is shown in a smaller tube along the bottom of the gauge cluster. Thumb dials by the left and right handles are laid out exactly as found on the steering wheels of current MINI cars.
What about the social allure of MINI’s scooter? That’s been thought of too. Besides its posh looks no doubt attracting stares from the sidewalk, technology also plays its cards here. Using GPS location based on your smart phone, the MINI will automatically show the relative location of other nearby MINI scooters, with the option to invite others to meet up for a ride; this function only a button stroke away. An automated headlight flash will acknowledge approaching MINIs as your courses intercept, reinforcing the friendly, accepting spirit of the brand and its diverse buyers. Buying this MINI will be a uniquely social experience.
Still not sold on this new-age MINI? Perhaps fairing mounted fold out tea-cups will convince you of its unwavering British influence. MINI has, once again, taken trendy personal mobility by storm. I’ll drink to that.