Bryan Harley, Cruiser Editor

MINI Scooter E Concept

Is BMW preparing to storm the electric-powered, two-wheeled vehicle market? Its quest to produce a CO2-free vehicle is no big secret. That quest is closer to becoming a reality as BMW’s British subsidiary, MINI, prepares to unveil three versions of its electric scooter, the MINI Scooter E Concept, at the upcoming 2010 Paris Motor Show.

The MINI Scooter E Concept is powered by an electric motor integrated into the rear wheel. The motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery installed under the scooter’s seat that can be recharged at any conventional power socket using an on-board charging cable. The connecting cable is also neatly integrated into the rear of the MINI Scooter and its plug fits into any conventional three-pronged socket.

The MINI Scooter E Concept mirrors its four-wheeled counterpart in many ways. Being touted as a great way to navigate heavily congested urban centers, it is a very compact step-through design. Its features were created to maintain the same proportional balance as the popular car, from the size of the scoot in relation to its 11-inch wheels to its small, round mirrors. The view from the front is dominated by a big, round projector headlight similar to the MINI Countryman while the two taillights are mounted outside the rear wheel fairing in an upright position. The shape of its rear hand grip was made with the rear spoiler of the MINI Cooper S in mind. The electric scooter’s front fender and curved body, however, are cues more reminiscent of vintage Lambretta scooters.

The E-scooter targets the younger generation with its unique integration of mobile devices for operation and entertainment. The cockpit has a center speedo with a snap-in adapter that plugs into a smartphone. The smartphone serves as the vehicle’s key, display and central control element. As soon as the rider docks their phone and switches it on, the scooter is ready to ride. The smartphone can be used as a navigation system, music player or telephone and can be connected to a Bluetooth system. Its speedo does work in its traditional role of displaying rider speed and it has a battery charge level display that lets riders know how many miles they’ve got until the ‘E’ runs out of juice.

The new eco scooter even delves into the realm of social networking. Navigation functions can be supplemented by a special map view in Google Maps that indicates the current position of other scooters from the brand in the area. MINI Scooter E Concept riders who are listed as friends can be identified while out scooting around and at the push of a button, they can be invited to join the ride. The scooter has even been programmed with a greeting function.

Initially there are two different variations, a two-seater and a solo rider package. The solo saddle represents the sportier version with a dark brown leather seat and its upholstery sporting a “used look.” The MINI Scooter E Concept is being shown in three color schemes. The red/white/blue variation is a tribute to the Minis of yesteryear and the whole Mod movement that embraced them. There’s also a neon green/grey scheme and a British Racing Green for the solo seater that “harks back to classic racing cars.”

The minds behind the MINI Scooter E Concept have also left room for customization. The scooter features an aluminum rail system like the one first seen on the MINI Countryman. Attachments available for the center rail include tailor-made helmet holders as well as holders for umbrellas, sunglasses and thermos flasks. An aftermarket music player specially designed for the scoot also attaches to the center rail while two compartments on the inside of the front fairing allow for stowing personal items.

The time it takes to charge the MINI Scooter E Concept and its range were not mentioned. Being a concept vehicle, no price has been set either.

Will the MINI Scooter E Concept make it into production? Think about it. It has a parent company, BMW, who’s eager to plunge into the zero-emissions market. It combines a vintage step-through design and smooth, rounded lines in a technologically advanced package – electric motor, lithium-ion batteries, and smartphone integration. Quiet, compact, urban efficient and eco-friendly, the only way it wouldn’t sell is if MINI sets its MSRP too high. Otherwise, we’d be surprised if you don’t see them on a roadway in your neighborhood in the near future.