The MINI Vision Urbanaut is a truly cool, fun, exciting concept vehicle and BMW Group just put a physical version of it on stage at the DLD Summer conference in Munich. I’d like to say that I’m thrilled about that, but quite the opposite, I find it extremely frustrating. All of this work is going into creating the cool concept EV and showing it off to millions of people, yet everyone knows it will never get produced.
(Side note: I think it’s quite odd and funny that the Vision Urbanaut has major design elements that are extremely similar to Volkswagen ID concepts, such as the early ID.3 and ID Buzz. Did they outsource design to the same company? No, they did not. Did their own designers come up with this without noticing the similarities? That seems hard to believe. Anyway, we’ll drop that in the rest of the article.)
On The Surface, What I Love About The MINI Vision Urbanaut
The MINI Vision Urbanaut is an electric vehicle that somehow combines the utility of a next-gen van with a super attractive exterior and interior design.
The glass roof is beautiful. The way the front windshield can open out offers its very own mixture of utility and cool looks, getting some airflow going when you want that and creating a modern aesthetic that also brings back memories of the Transformers cartoon I watch a bit as a kid.
Naturally, the chairs and large sofa-cove thingie in the front are as inviting as a cozy coffee shop on a cold day.
They even stuck plants in there. I mean, come on.
I’m not sure about sitting on the backless front-passenger chair while driving, but hey, there’s always room for improvement.
I’m not sure what’s going on with that grassy carpet, but I like it. It’s got to be the coolest vehicle floor I’ve ever seen. And it flows into a dark green back sofa area that seems like the perfect place to hide out and do whatever you’d do while hiding out (that would probably be working in my case, but watching movies or tennis also sounds appealing).
And let’s be honest, the planter art behind the van in this next picture provides a more appealing aura around the Vision Urbanaut.
The real-life version shown off in Munich this month makes the vehicle even more enticing. But why do this, MINI, why???
Concept Cars That Never Live
We’ve seen this show a thousand times. Automakers roll out amazing, fancy, futuristic models (especially electric models these days) with no intention to ever build and sell them. The point of it sort of eludes me. I get that it’s “marketing” and sometimes about testing the waters with specific elements or general designs. I get that it’s all fun and games. But I don’t find it that fun knowing that something I like a lot will never be sold. It’s not a cool game in my eyes to tease an attractive electric vehicle that could grow the market without even planning to have a plan to bring it to customers’ driveways.
I went through two press releases from BMW Group about the MINI Vision Urbanaut. There was nary a mention of producing even 100 of these. Not even 10. Of course there wasn’t. BMW Group is having some fun — for one odd reason or another — and teasing an electric van it will never build.
Regarding its recent presentation at DLD Summer, BMW Group writes, “The presentation was also live-streamed, allowing a wider audience to examine the role of the social aspect of the community for MINI and how the brand is using clever solutions in its drive to create a more sustainable, optimistic and, above all, typically MINI future.” Wait — “using clever solutions in its drive to create a more sustainable, optimistic and, above all, typically MINI future?” How is a concept vehicle that no one is going to buy because it will never be sold doing that?
Okay, Fine, I’ll Give MINI A Few Minutes
A large (impressively large) number of words went into hyping the non-car. As you can see, I’m not excited about this process or this pattern of misleading hype in the auto industry in general, but it seems BMW Group’s goals are to bring more attention to some of the better, greener work it is doing. So, although I’m not including most of the flowery language here, below are some of the things the company wanted to highlight.
“As well as its wide range of uses, the MINI Vision Urbanaut also focuses on sustainability — and this can be seen and experienced directly in various aspects of the vehicle. The starting point for the concept was the ‘Clever Use of Space’ for which MINI is renowned; i.e. it offers maximum space on the smallest possible footprint. Although the MINI Vision Urbanaut is only 4.46 m in length, its height allows it to provide an interior space that can be used in many different ways and offers a whole new ease of movement inside the car. The electric drive system ensures locally emission-free mobility. And another aspect is the scope for using the vehicle for purposes beyond mobility. Indeed, the MINI Vision Urbanaut also creates an urban space for people when it’s standing still, significantly increasing the amount of time they will want to use the vehicle or just hang out in it.
“The MINI Vision Urbanaut also sets out to use resources responsibly. To this end, from the beginning of the concept phase the team focused on consistently reducing the number of components and avoiding unnecessary use of materials. This has been achieved by developments including clever dual-functionality for the dashboard (it can turn into a daybed) and the debut appearance of a circular OLED centre display – which recasts itself as a stylish lamp in the Chill moment – above the table. Maximising length of use by ensuring materials can be replaced is likewise a priority. Changeable covers are a good example of how this can be achieved. In addition, the interior has been created without the use of chrome or leather, an approach that will also be rolled out in the next MINI model generation.
High-quality and sustainable material innovations.
“The interior of the MINI Vision Urbanaut features a high proportion of recycled materials and the materials used are almost exclusively renewable and recyclable. The dominant material in the interior are textiles made from recycled materials (including wool, polyester and Tencel) which blend cosiness and quality with softness and comfort. The designers also paid extra attention to solutions composed of a single type of material – what are known as “mono-materials”. These are easy to recycle further down the line and can be turned into new products. The use of renewable and recyclable cork on the steering wheel and sections of the floor adds a special touch thanks to its natural feel, and ensures an authentically pleasant interior climate. All in all, the materials concept for the MINI Vision Urbanaut highlights the extremely high levels of visual and haptic quality that a sustainably designed interior can offer.”
So, there’s that.
Also, 8.5% of MINI’s sales in the first half of 2021 were fully electric MINIs. Approximately another 7% are plugin hybrid MINIs. Good luck finding other legacy automakers that beat those results.
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.