The virtual MINI Vision Urbanaut electric vehicle (EV) becomes a reality

Back in November 2020, MINI revealed the MINI Vision Urbanaut virtual concept vehicle. It was a new interpretation of electric mobility with an innovative vision of space.

Now, the BMW Group has made a physical model of the vehicle showcasing its space and sustainable materials. Its world premiere will be at the Digital-Life Design (DLD) Summer Conference in Munich on 1 July.

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Bernd Körber, head of MINI, said: “With our eyes fixed on the future, we have developed an idea, with the MINI Vision Urbanaut, of how we can take the MINI attributes, with the focus on the ‘Clever Use of Space’ into the future of mobility and interpret them in a typically MINI way.

“It brings the user’s personal space into the car and opens up various possibilities for them, from creating an urban oasis to experiencing freedom in the wanderlust moment. The MINI Vision Urbanaut represents our image of how MINI’s ‘Clever Use of Space’ could provide an answer to the needs of future cities and lifestyles.”

The futuristic MINI Vision Urbanaut has an exterior and interior that can be adjusted to reflect the moment at hand and so give the onboard experience the best possible stage and environment. This is to create ‘MINI moments’ including ‘Chill’, ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘Vibe’. As a result, the MINI Vision Urbanaut is completely adjustable to suit the users needs whether it’s on the road or parked up.

The ‘Chill moment’ invites users to catch a breath and the car becomes a retreat, a haven where you can relax or work. The rear seat bench offers various seating and lying positions, while the backlit loop above takes on an appearance inspired by a green forest canopy. In the central area, the circular instrument folds down to become a table lamp.

The ‘Wanderlust moment’ has attributes linked to being driven or driving with automated driving functions. In this moment, the interior becomes the ideal space for the driver and passengers. A simple tap of a finger on the MINI logo brings out the steering wheel and pedals. The user interface on the central circular instrument also adapts its visuals with an animation of the route and additional journey information.

The ‘Vibe moment’ puts time with other people at centre stage. Opening the side door and folding up the windscreen creates a welcoming scene that blurs the boundaries between the outside and inside. The central circular instrument becomes a media control centre. An animation of graphic equalisers moving with the music is projected onto surfaces of the front, rear, wheels and Loop above the rear seat bench, to create a club atmosphere.

The MINI Vision Urbanaut also focuses on sustainability and offers the maximum space on the smallest possible footprint. Although the MINI Vision Urbanaut is only 4.46m long, its height provides an interior space that can be used in different ways and offers ease of movement inside.

The electric drive system ensures emission-free mobility. MINI claim this an aspect for using the vehicle for purposes beyond mobility in that it creates an urban space for people when it’s parked, and this will significantly increase the amount of time they want to use the vehicle or hang out in it.

The MINI Vision Urbanaut sets out to use resources responsibly. From the concept phase, the team focused on reducing the number of components and avoiding unnecessary use of materials. This has been achieved using clever dual-functionality for the dashboard, which can be turned into a daybed, and the debut appearance of a circular OLED centre display. This becomes a lamp above the table in the ‘Chill moment’.

The design team have also maximised the length of use by ensuring materials can be easily replaced, including changeable covers. Also, the interior has been created without the use of chrome or leather. This is an approach that will also be rolled out in the next MINI model generation.

Quality and sustainable materials have been key features. The interior features a high proportion of recycled materials, including wool, polyester and Tencel, and they’re almost exclusively renewable and recyclable. Single-use mono-materials used have been chosen because they’re are easy to recycle down the line. Renewable and recyclable cork has been on the steering wheel and sections of the floor.

The MINI Vision Urbanaut covers all sensory angles to create the perfect onboard experience. A key element of the interior design is therefore a carefully honed approach to fragrance and sound. Each of the ‘moments’ offer a distinctive sound to help set the mood.

Annabell Coffinet, BMW Group fragrance designer, said: “We wanted to link the MINI brand identity with a fragrance signature for the first time. This hint of something intangible, refreshing and unexpected brings emotion to how the brand’s message is communicated, a kind of highly recognisable international signature.”

As an innovative space concept, the MINI Vision Urbanaut was designed from the inside out. The designers created the spacious interior experience before developing the exterior.

The physical model of the MINI Vision Urbanaut was then put together from start to finish at the MINI Design studio in Munich. The BMW Group gathered all the expertise available to transform virtual visions into a physical model of almost prototype quality.

At the moment, the MINI Vision Urbanaut doesn’t have a production date. It remains a concept but would be good to see on the road, especially as an electric car with so many sustainable and recyclable attributes, and neat features.

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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