Early prototype of the purported 2023 MINI electric car (SUV) flies in [Update]

Update: Future MINI electric cars would have improvements in efficiency, design as well as sustainability. Word from the UK is that MINI is bidding adieu to leather.

Future MINI models will see the usage of sustainable alternatives to leather. A report from Autocar last month cited MINI design chief Oliver Heilmer saying the company doesn’t need leather anymore because it’s unsustainable, in its opinion. “We’re totally convinced that we will have modern and high-value products without leather,” Heilmer said. The new materials would be recycled yet luxurious and “inventive in terms of function.”

Image Source: twitter.com

An early prototype of a future MINI electric car landed in China in December 2020. It could be an initial stage mule of the future MINI electric SUV that is expected to revive the MINI Paceman moniker. The prototype wears the body of the MINI Electric (MINI Cooper SE), but it has different exterior mirrors, and much to our surprise, the steering wheel of the Haval DaGou (Haval Big Dog).

In case you are wondering how MINI and Haval are related, the parent companies of both the brands – BMW Group and Great Wall Motor – formed a new JV company called Spotlight Automotive Limited in 2019 for joint development and production of MINI electric cars and new Great Wall models. The JV company will have a new plant with an annual capacity of 160,000 vehicles, located in the city of Zhangjiagang in China’s Jiangsu Province.

With a BMW iX1 confirmed for production, it was a matter of time before an equivalent MINI electric SUV came into the picture. An Autocar UK report in June 2020 gave a preview of what one could expect, and in October 2020, Mini announced plans to have more crossover electric vehicles in its lineup in a rearrangement of the model range.

MINI Paceman electric MINI Traveller electric rendering
A new MINI electric SUV could arrive as the next-gen MINI Paceman in 2023. Image: Autocar UK

What MINI has announced:

Mini said in October last year that its future core portfolio of all-electric vehicles will include the three-door Hatch, a new crossover model in the small car segment, a compact crossover model, the Mini Countryman electric variant and a dedicated electric crossover.

Mini said the hatch and the two compact crossover models will have combustion engine options. This was also the first time Mini confirmed that the next gen Countryman would have an all-electric drive option.

Mini has hinted that its future electric crossovers, unmistakably Mini, would each address a different segment with varying space and versatility. All products in its future lineup would however “continue to be a typical MINI” with the highest interior space, exciting drive and individuality all within the smallest footprint among competitors.

Mini has not given timescales in its press release but says battery electric vehicles coming off the new electric vehicle architecture will be produced in China starting 2023, in its venture with the local manufacturer Great Wall Motor.

Future Mini lineup

  • Mini 3-door (also available in ICE)
  • Small Crossover (also available in ICE)
  • Compact crossover (also available in ICE)
  • Dedicated electric crossover
  • Next-gen Mini Countryman (also available as ICE)

Following this announcement, one wonders if the future of the Mini 5-door and the Mini Clubman would unfold as crossovers.

New MINI electric cars – MINI Paceman & Mini Traveller?

The Autocar report in June 2020 said that the MINI electric SUV will have dimensions comparable to the BMW X1. While this would immediately make one think that both the electric SUVs will sit on the same platform, that won’t be the case.

The BMW iX1-sized MINI electric SUV will ride on a new platform which BMW Group and Great Wall Motors co-develop, said Autocar, which aligns with Mini’s announcement in October.

BMW Group may launch the small or compact crossover model as the next-gen MINI Paceman, which would mean a coupe-style dropping roofline, a rakish backglass and a sporty design targeted at the young buyers.

The possible all-new MINI Paceman could effectively replace the BMW i3, which is BMW Group’s first high-volume dedicated BEV. German sources confirm that this MINI electric SUV will use new generation of battery cells that have new-age cathode chemistry and don’t use Cobalt at all. One can expect a cost-effective and environment-friendly battery pack in the first MINI electric SUV.

Manufacturing of the all-new MINI Paceman electric SUV will take place at a new joint BMW Group-GWM venture plant located in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu Province in China. This factory will have an annual production capacity of 160,000 units, and production is to begin in 2022.

Mini Paceman
The Mini Paceman was launched in 2012 as the coupe-styled variant of the Countryman. Mini hoped that the concept would tap additional market opportunities but the car was discontinued in 2016.

Meanwhile, the MINI electric SUV with bigger dimensions could arrive as a reborn MINI Traveller. With a debut planned in 2024, this MINI electric car is a few years away from making its first appearance, Autocar had reported.

Next-gen MINI Countryman Electric

The next-gen MINI Countryman will measure bigger than the second-gen model Bernd Körber, Head, MINI, told autoexpress.co.uk last year. The Countryman will move half a segment above.

Speaking further, Körber said that the 2022 MINI Countryman will belong to the BMW X1 class (compact or C). For reference, the Mk2 MINI Countryman measures 169.8 inches in length, 71.7 inches in width and 61.3 inches in height with a 105.1-inch wheelbase. While the MINI Countryman will grow moving to its next generation, the MINI hatchback will see a reduction in exterior dimensions. This will create enough space for the rumoured MINI Paceman electric SUV-coupe to join the MINI range.

Replacing the Countryman plug-in hybrid electric, the MINI Countryman EV steps in with the third generation. Körber told Auto Express that once the range goes above 400 km (250 miles), he does not see the use case for PHEVs. The next-gen MINI Countryman will likely reach the U.S. showrooms in 2023.