Design concept of the Day: Mini Rocketman (revisited)

July 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Reports this week that BMW is prepping a 10-model Mk3 Mini range reminded me of the Rocketman concept shown in Geneva earlier this year. That was the 3+1-seater (Toyota iQ-style), 3.4m-long three-door, with handy double-hinged doors, pull-out cargo carrier – plus carbonfibre spaceframe construction, unlikely to see production in such a small, built-to-a-price car, however ‘premium’ its marketing. Barely bigger than the original Mini, though considerably better-equipped, flasher, high-tech and  design-conscious, it was rather too much of an expensive toy than a practical urban transport solution, however.

Anyway, such musings tie up rather nicely with other research this week: I’ve been thinking about car clubs, shared-ownership schemes, short-term rental fleets and how they’re a good way to introduce new technologies and alternative powertrains/energy sources to the masses (more on this to follow).

You may not have facilities/off-street parking to recharge your own EV at home, for example, but if you could pick up a fully-charged car club car nearby, return it back to its designated parking space and charger, take no responsibility for its maintenance and no liability for its residual (resale) values, and don’t have to spend a small fortune to buy it in the first place, then EV use is much more appealing. As is car club membership  and giving up on owning your own private car, or at least, a second household vehicle.

BMW is toying with such ideas already, having launched its DriveNow car-share programme in Germany in partnership with Sixt; its iVentures wing is also investing in various mobility-management start-ups and concepts. Is the Rocketman – or a more stripped-down, practical production version thereof – the ideal product to pitch into this market?

I’ll leave you with a quote from the lifestyle arbiters/consultants/trend-watchers at Intersection magazine (to which I have contributed, though these aren’t my words): “A few years back Intersection was quizzed by BMW’s futurists on where the Mini range could go. We suggested that instead of SUVs and wagons, a mini Mini would make more sense. But this (the Rocketman) still isn’t it. We’d like to see… Two seats, no frills. Electric. Parked around town at charge points, stacked high like Pez dispensers, with mobile credits to access them, via your phone. Membership, not ownership. A mobility solution for people in cities who don’t want a car.”

Join the dots, folks. This stuff isn’t pie-in-the-sky idealism, it’s a very real proposition and it’s going to happen soon, starting with the launch of the Bollore-Pininfarina EVs on the Velib’ scheme in Paris this  autumn.

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