We are choosing new ways of working and living. It’s all to do with space and versatility and finding new solutions, which is something that has always been the essence of the MINI. Now the MINI Electric is being launched and it embodies everything that has made this compact car into a true urban legend.
It’s not easy to think of a car that better signifies the swinging sixties than the MINI – cool, sexy and ingenious – everything except macho, in fact – driving towards a new era down Carnaby Street. No ambitious movie director could avoid such an icon of that transformational time. The MINI exemplified the electricity in the culture all around the world at that time and became a fashionable symbol for a new generation, driven by a passion to make this planet a better place. It is telling that from its early days the MINI was used in rally driving, a field in which economical design is essential, and, more importantly, where having the courage to think differently was paramount.
Today the realization of the MINI Electric is everything this game-changing car has been, but more so than ever before. Combining inventiveness and ingenuity, the MINI has always steered away from convention. The clever use of space and a human-centric design still empowers everything the designers and makers of the MINI do, and now it has been taken to a whole new electrifying level. Even though a powerful new element – pure electric mobility – has been introduced, driving a MINI, with its thrilling handling, has always been an electric experience, something that was apparent right from the beginning.
Crises have always been engines for innovation throughout history, and it was just such a thing that sparked the need to create the first MINI. The Suez Crisis in 1956, leading to severe cutbacks to the oil supply, prompted the British Motor Corporation to assign automotive engineer and constructor Alec Issigonis to design a compact, fuel-efficient car with space for four adults. Issigonis could have thought like everyone else, but if he had, his creation would probably have been forgotten by now. Instead, he increased the track width as far as he could and mounted the engine transversely, ensuring maximum space, amongst other things, and also adding superb handling. The car was launched in 1959 and soon became a hit and entered the pantheon of British popular culture.
Issigonis began to collaborate with John Cooper who, with his father, designed and constructed racing cars that were known for their speed and straightforward mechanics. Cooper’s innovative approach to the problems he encountered in building cars would have a significant impact on motorsport. He took Issigonis’s design and added a more powerful engine and stronger brakes, resulting in the MINI Cooper 997, which eventually won the Monte Carlo rally three times.
Today, the quest for efficiency in ways other than racing has become a general need in public life, and this compact car again offers the most convincing answer to one of the greatest challenges of our car design for today’s needs – the creation of maximum interior space and efficiency on a minimal footprint and with proven sustainability, all with great style and comfort.
Looking back, it can be seen that the MINI’s journey towards a cost- and space-efficient tomorrow has been a consistent one, always at the leading edge of car design by implementing new ways of thinking and a willingness to push the boundaries of what a modern car is capable of. The new MINI Electric is truly distinctive, with a look and feel that suggests an independent and not-too-serious spirit, making it the epitome of a city car.
One city that was briefly taken over recently by MINI Electric was Lisbon, with a spectacular light installation as a part of the campaign to launch the all-electric MINI Cooper SE around the world. Searchlights were installed at charging stations across the city illuminating the sky above the city, demonstrating the progress Lisbon, the Green Capital of Europe for 2020, had made in expanding the public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Now everyone could see for themselves that charging a MINI was not a problem: there were clearly plenty of stations all around this lovely old port town.
In the 1960s, the classic MINI provided the answer to a particular need at that time – the ability to get around an ever more crowded city at a price that most people could afford. The MINI was not only a manageable size on busy streets but also reminded owners of the joys of driving even a small car. The concept of the MINI has gone on to influence urban car design ever since. As with the original car, so today, a major challenge of urban living is finding a desirable as well as affordable living space. ‘MINI living’ is an initiative that, since 2016, has promoted the idea of ‘Creative Use of Space’, to transfer what the MINI car could do for driving in the modern urban environment to living there by creating architectural visions of the future at exhibitions throughout the world.
Today a global change in how we manage our way of living is apparent. We use co-offices and even live together in co-living spaces. Creative use of space has never been more in focus. The electrification of fossil fuel-based engines out there is no longer an ideal, but a fact. It is a journey that has been in motion for more than 60 years: MINI is that cool compact thing, driving smoothly towards a realisation of a more astute and stylish way of life. Now more electric than ever, it is a shining example that true ingenuity often arises out of troubled times. MINI is pushing urban life in a new and positive direction.
Words by Tor Bergman
Special thanks to MINI
1, 5 & 6# Image of the MINI Electric at the Lisbon light show presentation (2020)
2# The new all-electric MINI Cooper SE with decorative yellow livery
3# Paul Mccartney with his MINI (1967)
4# Timo Mäkinen and Paul Easter in a MINI Cooper S competing in the Monte Carlo rally (1965)
7# The new MINI Electric in red
8 & 9# The MINI Electric details