THE MINI STRIP IN DETAIL.
OUR CONCEPT CAR COLLABORATION WHERE SUSTAINABILITY TAKES A FRONT SEAT.
The MINI STRIP is the result of our collaboration with design maverick Paul Smith – an innovative one-off car inspired by a shared passion for the future of sustainable design.
Guided by the overarching design themes of simplicity, transparency and sustainability, we began the project by completely stripping an all-electric MINI down to its structural essence. We then rebuilt it using only the most essential elements, with Paul Smith handpicking the recycled, recyclable, and renewable raw materials used for its design. Thanks to his maverick mindset and fresh perspective as an outsider to the automotive industry, the design choices he made are exciting, inspired and in some cases, brilliantly unexpected…
TODAY IT’S A CAR, TOMORROW...
It might seem contrary, but a big part of creating a new sustainable car is thinking about what will happen when it comes to the end of its service life. Bicycle enthusiast Smith – who enjoys rolling up his sleeves occasionally and replacing or modifying individual parts of his road bikes himself – inspired the visible screws in all the add-on parts of the MINI STRIP. We aim to show how simple dismantling the car would be, and how easily the vehicle can be reincorporated back into the raw-material cycle from which it came.
A PERFECTLY IMPERFECT EXTERIOR.
Raw materials are a very deliberate part of the MINI STRIP’S exterior design. Paul wanted the body left in an unfinished state with no coloured paint, and just a thin film of transparent lacquer to protect against corrosion. Grinding marks from the factory have also been consciously left intact on the galvanised steel panels to clearly identify the car as a functional object and robust companion for everyday life. This intentionally rough-hewn effect was dubbed “the perfect imperfection” by Paul Smith.
Elsewhere on the exterior, sections of the familiar MINI black band and front and rear apron inserts are 3D-printed from recycled plastic, and their basic material qualities have been left exposed.
The wheels’ aerodynamic covers and the grille trim are made from recycled acrylic glass, saving weight and resources and reducing the car’s footprint. We also used recycled acrylic glass for the large panoramic roof, allowing curious eyes to view the largely bare structure of the bodyshell inside.
A RADICALLY STRIPPED BACK INTERIOR.
The first thing you’ll notice about the MINI STRIP’S interior is how little of it there is. This is because Paul purposely omitted all the trim parts (except for the dashboard, topper pad and parcel shelf), turning the bodyshell into the dominant visual feature of the cabin. In addition, the exposed primary material and intense blue tone give the interior a raw minimalist appeal all of its own.
Instead of the usual multi-part design, the dashboard consists solely of a large, semi-transparent section with a smoked-glass finish. There is no classical centre instrument; rather, the driver can place their smartphone where the centre display would typically be and turn it into the car’s media control centre. The only physical controls in the interior are located lower down in the centre stack, where the toggle switches for the power windows and the start/stop function can be found.
SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS HANDPICKED BY PAUL.
Paul Smith deliberately chose to work with innovative and environmentally-friendly materials for the MINI STRIP project. As a result, the interior is entirely free of leather and chrome, and unusually for a car, the seats are upholstered in a knitted fabric. Because they’re mono-material, these coverings (including the piping) are fully recyclable, so once again, complete material circularity is maintained.
In a characteristically playful-yet-surprising design choice, Paul decided that the pull handles in the door shoulders should be made from wound up climbing rope. Besides being visually arresting and quirky, the rope can be easily unwound and reused at a later date.
The greatly simplified dashboard topper pad, door shoulders and parcel shelf are all made from a recycled cork that doesn’t contain any synthetic binding agents and is fully recyclable. With its pleasing firmness and soft feel, the MINI STRIP has shown us that cork could be a substitute for foamed plastics in future. Due to its recyclability and status as a renewable raw material that actually “fixes” carbon dioxide during its production, there’s also great potential here for reducing greenhouse gasses. Another positive side effect of knitted fabric and cork is that they are both open-pore materials that enhance interior acoustics.
The MINI STRIP’S steering wheel is another place where Paul’s passion for cycling is playfully referenced. Its rim has been wrapped in handlebar tape in true road bike style, with three aluminium spokes connecting the rim to the steering wheel’s impact absorber, whose mesh covering makes it possible to see the airbag behind.
Paul chose recycled rubber for the floor mats of the MINI STRIP. Their terrazzo-like pattern is a by-product of the recycling and manufacturing process, a multi-coloured effect that doesn’t only look aesthetically pleasing but hints at their former life.
Under Paul’s direction, we’ve made the door panels from the same mesh material that covers the airbag. This design choice exposes the door structure, and the transparency of the knitted mesh changes according to the angle of view. The exposed airbag under the roof pillar is another example of car function typically concealed during the manufacturing process being left deliberately on show in the MINI STRIP.
A CATALYST FOR THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE CAR DESIGN.
The MINI STRIP was launched in London on 12 August 2021, but we believe its impact will last far longer than the headlines it has inspired. At MINI, we’re constantly looking for new ways to shape the future of sustainable car design, and the learnings we’ll take from the MINI STRIP will drive our mission forward. But let’s give the final word to our collaborator, without whom, the project could never have happened:
“I know and love the existing car, but by respecting the past and looking to the future, we have created something very special. I feel very privileged that the MINI team has given me the confidence and freedom to think laterally about the approach to the design of the car. Together, I think we have created something truly unique.” - Paul Smith, 2021.