The city of light? Hardly. Judging by this year’s motor show, Paris is a city of scooters. Smart is displaying its own conceptual scooter at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, but Mini may have the automaker trumped — it’s bringing three different versions of its new Scooter E concept to the same venue.
Mini’s moped is, predictably, an uncannily retro two-wheeler. The step-through design, front fender, and curved body all bear a striking resemblance to vintage Lambretta scooters. Appropriate, we suppose, given the Lambretta — like the Mini itself — was once tied to the British Mod scene in the 1960s. Minor cues, including the chrome trim on the leg shield, the round projector headlamp, spoiler-like grab handle, and twin taillights do help tie the Scooter E to its four-wheeled Mini siblings.
Like the Lambrettas of days past — or today’s MINI Cooper, for that matter — the Scooter E appears to be a canvas ripe for personalization. The three scooters on Mini’s display stand are mechanically identical to one another, but each is given a unique visual personality. The neon green-on-grey scheme is a blatant tie-in to the electric Mini E test vehicles, while the British Racing Green, and red/white/blue scooters channel the Minis and Mods of yesteryear, respectively.
Cosmetically, the Scooter E is a visual timewarp, but beneath the skin, it’s a far cry from the oil-burning, two-stroke scooters of the 1960s. Motive power comes courtesy of an electric motor driving the rear wheel. Actually, it’s mounted within the rear wheel itself, allowing designers a chance to simplify the exterior design and utilize additional space on the bike. As a result, the lithium-ion battery pack and an on-board charger are installed underneath the seat, although Mini’s given no indication as to its range or charge times.
The advanced technology isn’t limited to the powertrain, either. As the Scooter E is targeting young, tech-saavy hipsters, it’s not too surprising to see an iPhone docking station built into the large speedometer display on the handlebars. The interface allows the iPhone to be used as an ignition key, navigation system, music device, and — assuming you have a helmet with an integrated Bluetooth device — a hands-free mobile phone. A rail system, much like that used in the new Countryman’s center console, allows a variety of different attachments (i.e. cup holders, baskets, etc.) on the inside surface of the front fairing.
Is an electric scooter truly in Mini’s future? The company isn’t saying at this point, although it notes the eco-friendly driveline and “individual style” do jive with the brand’s mantra. It also lines up nicely with parent BMW’s Project I, which is working to develop multiple sustainable urban vehicles, including an electric cycle. Should reaction from Mini-philes and scooter nuts alike prove positive, it isn’t unrealistic to see the Scooter E propped up in a Mini showroom in the years to come.