The new MINI Concept Aceman: Electrified in the city.
MINI reveals an extra special concept car: The MINI Concept Aceman marks a completely new model that will enhance the brand’s portfolio. Head of MINI Design Oliver Heilmer talks about the philosophy of the all-electric urban MINI crossover in an interview – and explains why the Aceman could become a true partner in crime for customers.
Mr Heilmer, the MINI Concept Aceman is MINI’s first all-electric crossover model. Before we discuss all the exciting details, a couple of quick questions: What exactly does the term concept car mean? And what purpose do these vehicles serve?
A concept car fulfils the purpose of an advance announcement. And I mean that literally: we announce a new vehicle like this one that will go into series production in the coming years. We especially highlight, reinforce and further elevate the technology and design features. Each concept car thus offers an inspirational outlook on our brand’s concrete future. I find the MINI Concept Aceman particularly exciting in this regard – the series model that we develop from it will ultimately take its own new place between the MINI Cooper and the new MINI Countryman.
The launch of a concept car is always preceded by a comprehensive development process. Which steps did you have to tackle with the MINI Concept Aceman?
When we develop a concept car for an upcoming series product, we initially focus on the respective vehicle’s character. The whole team works together to establish which attributes are particularly strong, in order to then highlight them in the resulting concept car.
So what traits does the MINI Concept Aceman have?
It’s young. It’s cool. It’s urban. It’s confident, yet sustainable. A crossover in the best sense of the word, always on the go, electrified in the city. That’s why we initially called it ‘urban prodigy’ here in-house.
LESS IS OFTEN MORE - AND SOMETIMES HAS A MUCH STRONGER EFFECT AS A RESULT.
Sounds like a superhero with rough edges. What came next?
We thought about the elements on the car that we wanted to elevate further – though it’s important to emphasise here that further elevation can also mean reduction. Less is often more – and sometimes has a much stronger effect as a result. That is a very typical, almost classic notion at MINI. With the MINI Concept Aceman, we focused on three points that will shape the brand’s design understanding in future. Firstly, a modern and iconic design language. Secondly, an immersive user experience. And all of that on a foundation of sustainability – at all times.
How do these points dovetail in the MINI Concept Aceman? Can you give an example?
Just look at the clear and minimalistic dashboard design. It really evokes the simplicity of the first classic Mini. Sir Alec Issigonis’s basic idea back then was that every vehicle component should have a clear use. That is also true of the MINI Concept Aceman. What’s more, the dashboard is upholstered with recycled 2D knitted textile. This lends the interior a sense of warmth and also serves as a screen for digital projections, which can in turn be personalised. That is completely new, and it is designed with sustainability in mind – it allows us to do away with decorative trim that was chosen once then remained the same over the product’s entire life cycle.
THE ACEMAN IS NO MISHMASH OF INDIVIDUAL FEATURES. IT ALL FLOWS TOGETHER.
And what do you mean by an immersive user experience?
We wanted to pursue a holistic approach with the MINI Concept Aceman: from the materials, shape, light and sound to the dynamic projections in the interior, on the dashboard and in the doors. It was all curated concordantly, always keeping the goal of offering our customers an all-new user experience in mind. The “Aceman” is no mishmash of individual features. It all flows together, making for a holistic, immersive experience as we like to call it.
MINI has always been a brand whose models have been given strong personalities. Fans still name their cars to this day. So, what kind of bond can I build with the MINI Concept Aceman?
The MINI Concept Aceman wants to be more than just a car that takes you from A to B. It’s more of a digital buddy, a partner in crime. Thanks to its interconnectivity, it knows more about what you can discover in a certain city than you do yourself.
The car even says hello...
Exactly! When I approach the car, a cloud of light towards the front of the vehicle follows me. As I move away, the light fades away. The MINI reacts to the driver approaching by means of a motion-sensor light animation and greets them with a wink from the headlight. A welcome jingle plays when the driver’s door is opened, accompanied by a real colour explosion that launches on the central display, continues in the interior, and spreads across the floor to the door.
A bit showy, no?
I see it more as an example of the elevation boost I mentioned earlier, and it demonstrates how we would like to establish a connection between the customer and the car in future by means of digital technology.
Speaking of digital technology, the main means of communication in the MINI Concept Aceman is the OLED display. What exactly can this digital tool do?
OLED stands for organic light emitting diode. The display offers fascinatingly intense colour brilliance, it is very flat and uses significantly less energy than a comparable LED display. Interaction in the immersive experience takes place either via the round display or via the exclusive experience toggle below the display. With three new Experience Modes, you can immerse yourself in completely new worlds in the MINI Concept Aceman, including the options to personalise and customise the experience.
THERE ARE SEVERAL SMALL THINGS THAT MAKE THE CAR PARTICULARLY SUSTAINABLE OVERALL. WE HAVE CONSISTENTLY SIMPLIFIED EVERYWHERE WHILE ALSO HIGHLIGHTING THE SPECIAL FEATURES.
What exactly happens in the different modes?
We differentiate between Personal Mode, Pop-up Mode and Vivid Mode. In Personal Mode, personalisation is paramount. The user can select their own background, which is then shown on the display. Matching content is then projected onto the dashboard and doors as moving images to convey the mood of the image to all passengers, complemented by matching sounds.
Pop-up Mode, on the other hand, offers the first experience-based navigation system in a MINI – it can provide concrete and suitable recommendations for the relevant city. All the user has to do is select their desired experience category: Food & Drink, Events, or Trends. Then, an animated wheel of fortune decides the destination! And once your MINI buddy has gotten to know the city better than you, it definitely won’t let you down.
And Vivid Mode...
...features distinctly playful components. By tapping the OLED screen, the user can create colourful letter bubbles and swipe them across the dashboard. The letters have their own movement algorithms and interact with each other playfully. Combined with matching sounds, they form exciting shapes that float around the car’s interior. All three Experience Modes represent what will become important for MINI in future. We want to surprise, not limit ourselves. Customers should be able to discover MINI anew again and again!
You’ve already talked about the sustainable mindset in developing the MINI Concept Aceman. How ‘green’ is this concept car?
The MINI Concept Aceman is fully electric. It therefore pushes on with the continual electrification of our brand – but that alone is not enough to make a car sustainable. We have essentially greatly reduced the number of components. For example, the front and rear headlights no longer have surrounding frames, and we don’t use chrome anymore. In the interior, the doors’ design is reduced, with built-in speakers. The dashboard and armrests in the doors are fitted with quality knitted textile made of recycled polyester. So there are several small things that make the car particularly sustainable overall. We have consistently simplified everywhere while also highlighting the special features. That is also very, very MINI.
Now, you’ve obviously left a lot out. So how does the car radiate such strength from the outside?
I find it more bold! It has a completely different essence, a completely different face than our other models, in any case. Plus, the MINI Concept Aceman appears bigger than it really is. That’s exactly what makes this car’s strength so pronounced. Despite a large interior its exterior is small and compact, yet it also seems very confident and robust. The perfect partner for life in urban space.
Mr Heilmer, many thanks for your time!
ABOUT OLIVER HEIMER.
Born in Munich, Oliver Heilmer has been in charge of MINI design since September 2017. Prior to this, the 47-year-old spent almost 20 years in various positions at the BMW Group, including heading up BMW subsidiary Designworks and leading BMW’s interior design department.
“The MINI Concept Aceman is a concept car only, meaning it is not in production and not for sale. Therefore, it cannot be driven on public roads and is not compliant to road regulations. Filming took place on a closed road/studio with no access to traffic.”