BMW unveils Mini Scooter E ahead of Paris show

All-electric scooter uses owner's smartphone as key and offers "social networking" software for finding (and flashing) other Mini drivers nearby.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read
Mini Scooter E
British model Agyness Deyn unveiled the Mini Scooter E concept on today during London Fashion Week. BMW

BMW today unveiled the Mini Scooter E, an all-electric concept vehicle that was originally scheduled to make its debut at the 2010 Paris Auto Show next week.

The German automaker apparently decided to give a preview of the vehicle during London Fashion Week, employing model Agyness Deyn to make the introduction.

As predicted, the scooter is an all-electric plug-in vehicle with an onboard cable that can be plugged directly into a standard household outlet.

BMW also incorporated some quirky high-tech gadgets into the compact gadabout vehicle.

For starters, the scooter has an enclosed docking station for a smart phone. Instead of using a key, or an electric key fob, owners unlock their Mini Scooter E by securing their smartphone into the docking station on turning it on.

Once the car is on, the smart phone--integrated with BMW software--acts as the scooter's GPS device, music player, and a hands-free phone via embedded Bluetooth. It's an innovative, but not entirely unexpected next step in the evolution of vehicle communications.

However, BMW takes things one step further. BMW's GPS software also alerts drivers to other Mini Scooter E drivers nearby and will even automatically flash the scooter's headlights when met with another Mini Scooter on the road.

There will be three versions of the Mini Scooter E, all incorporating the retro circular instruments and speedometer on BMW's current Mini cars. But BMW takes that nostalgia one step further using actual chrome trim on the scooter body, which is, of course, reminiscent of the original Mini Coopers that came out in the 1959 and were popular throughout the 1960s.

One of the scooters is a tribute to the "swinging sixties" of London. It's a two-seater scooter in white with one mirror painted in tribute to the Royal Air Force, and a Union Jack leather seat. Apropos, it was this London version that was unveiled today.

The other two will be "officially" unveiled at the Paris Motor show next week, according to BMW.

In the meantime, here are some details on what they look like. One is a sporty single-seater scooter with another nod toward the brand's heritage; the scooter is painted British Racing Green with dark brown leather seats, and silver mirror caps. The other one will be a two-seater done in the same palette as the Mini E hatch all-electric prototype car in grey with yellow accents.

All three versions of the scooter, and close-ups of the unique smartphone docking station, also appeared in a promotional video BMW released today alongside the unveiling of the "swinging sixties version" of the Mini Scooter E (see below).