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A Mini powered by unobtanium – the classic Mini Electric concept

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Classic Mini Electric concept, which debuted at the 2018 New York International Auto Show. Photos courtesy MINI.

Battery electric cars don’t typically generate much interest among enthusiasts, so automakers have adopted a new tactic – building electric-powered concept examples of beloved classic cars. Following on the heels of last year’s Jaguar E-type Zero, MINI recently debuted a not-for-production concept, called the classic Mini Electric, at the 2018 New York Auto Show.

There’s a method to MINI’s madness: While the classic Mini Electric won’t be built, its purpose is to generate interest for a new electric MINI model coming in 2019, which represents the 60th anniversary of the original Mini’s 1959 debut. Based upon the brand’s three-door body style, the upcoming electric MINI will be the first battery-powered production vehicle offered by the BMW Group division.

Note that we said “production vehicle,” since MINI built a fleet of 600 MINI-E models back in 2008, specifically for testing and development of future vehicles. In the decade since, MINI has not introduced an electric car (aside from its plug-in hybrid Countryman model), but parent BMW has. The information gathered in testing the MINI-E across a variety of conditions and in a range of environments was reportedly essential in the development of BMW’s i3, which is available both in battery-only and gasoline-powered range-extender models.

MINI’s new electric-vehicle logo.

To highlight the upcoming MINI model, which will presumably spearhead a future range of battery-powered offerings, the automaker has adorned the classic Mini Electric with the same logos to be adopted by future production models. Since it won’t be gracing showroom floors (and will likely disappear once its time on the show circuit is over), MINI was tight-lipped about the specifications of the concept, but British publication Autocar was reportedly given the details, as well as a chance to drive the car on the streets of Manhattan.

Gas cap? No, charging port cover.

Per Autocar’s writings, power comes from a 38-horsepower electric motor, mounted via a belt drive to the input shaft of the restored 1998 Mini’s five-speed manual transmission. While the modest motor won’t produce neck-snapping acceleration, neither will its torque strain the Mini’s gearbox, which was probably a bigger consideration than overall performance when the concept was constructed.

To fit the 30 lithium-ion batteries and match the original classic Mini’s curb weight of roughly 1,700 pounds, the builders did away with the rear seat, the fuel tank and the exhaust system. As constructed, the concept delivers a top-speed of 75 mph and an approximate range of 65 miles, presumably under ideal conditions and with the four vintage-look driving lamps turned off. Using a 220-volt charging system, batteries can be fully replenished in around four hours.

These numbers, however, are largely irrelevant, since this example will be the one and only classic Mini Electric produced. Aftermarket companies exist to turn classic Minis into battery-powered vehicles, likely with as much range and performance as the buyer’s budget allows, and to some enthusiasts, this represents the future of classic cars.

Love the idea or hate it, MINI likely won’t be the last automaker to highlight its alternative-powered future with a vehicle from the past.