Clemson University’s Mini Concept Is a Rear-Wheel Drive Electric Greenhouse
Mini could build a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive Cooper on a revolutionary platform, if Munich executives would just greenlight this grad-student concept.
Sixteen young engineers at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (ICAR) have created Deep Orange 7—the program’s seventh concept car—one that imagines the Mini Cooper in 2025. Visually, the Deep Orange 7 is much like the Mini Vision Next 100 Concept unveiled during the BMW Group’s centenary in 2016.
But Clemson’s students, working along with design students from California’s ArtCenter College of Design, have designed a modular carbon-fiber body constructed from four major pieces, without a traditional unibody or composite tub. The front and rear subframes incorporate the hood, hatch, and quarter-panels, with the roof and floorpan serving as connecting points that can be redesigned for two-door, four-door, and convertible body styles.
Three different-size battery packs can slip beneath the concept’s flat floor without intruding on passenger space.Our favorite, though, is the gasoline-powered rear-engined version with the manual transmission. Clemson wants manuals for the plug-in hybrids, too. Those kids are all right.
The rocker panels do double duty to cool the battery pack. Three coolant pipes run through hollow extruded-aluminum sections on each side, extracting heat without the need for traditional front-mounted radiators. Of course, there are funky features such as the retractable windshield canopy and “digital paint” that can electrically tint the windows to the body color to appear 100 percent opaque on the outside. There’s also an S3 (See, Share, Store) space for open displays, but we doubt real Mini owners want to display their personal possessions in the cargo hold as art installations.
On the other hand, we’re loving what Clemson calls the Mini Parking Marshal, which uses the vehicle’s rear parking sensors to alert approaching drivers if they pull too close to the parked Mini. The vertical taillights illuminate from the bottom up, rising like a thermometer as the other car approaches. If it gets too close, they flash with a “stop” message. The Deep Orange 7’s dash is a custom multilayered display that layers graphics on top of one another and responds to hand gestures.