Mini is developing its Urbanaut electric van: A rival to electric VW Bus?

Volkswagen’s electric bus may soon have a rival from Mini. In a press release detailing sustainability initiatives, Mini said it is developing a production EV that could take design inspiration from the Vision Urbanaut concept first shown in 2020.

The release said Mini is “working on the development of a new vehicle concept for the premium compact segment” that will address customer desires for increased space, while noting that “a host of creative solutions in this area were presented with the Mini Vision Urbanaut.”

The Urbanaut was originally revealed in November 2020 as a virtual concept, and then reappeared in physical form earlier this year. The concept featured a fold-out windshield and an interior that can double as a living space, not unlike the classic VW Microbus that serves as the inspiration for the VW ID.Buzz electric van, due to be revealed next year.

Mini Vision Urbanaut concept - June 2021

Mini Vision Urbanaut concept – June 2021

Mini also emphasized sustainable materials, giving the Urbanaut concept an interior free of leather and chrome. Instead, cork and knitted textile were used, among other materials. This approach would seem to fit nicely with parent BMW’s aspirations to lower the environmental impact of vehicle production, as demonstrated by the i Vision Circular concept unveiled at September’s Munich auto show.

It’s unclear when a production version of the Urbanaut would appear, but BMW has said it plans to make the Mini brand all-electric by the early 2030s. Meanwhile, VW just teased the prototype of its electric Microbus, which is scheduled for first deliveries in 2023 for the United States and late 2022 for Europe.

The closest rival to a Mini compact electric van otherwise might be Canoo’s Lifestyle Vehicle, which is due to begin rolling out in 2022. There have been some potentially great designs in this segment, too, like the eBussy from Germany’s Electric Brands. So far though, the much-teased electric VW Microbus looks like it’s formulated for the widest appeal.

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