It has been a while since Mini introduced its first electric model, the Cooper SE, as part of the British brand's foray into the electric future.
While a convertible version has been introduced recently, there's also another Cooper SE that's specifically for people with disabilities. With Mini's driving and operating aids, even those who aren't able to use their lower extremities can now drive.
"For me, diversity means allowing everyone to share in the hallmark Mini driving experience. And this applies equally to the electrified MINI, of course. Our goal at MINI is to give everyone equal access to such important innovations," says Stefanie Wurst, Head of Mini.
Gallery: Mini Cooper SE For People With Disabilities
Driving Experience instructor Tina Schmidt-Kiendl, herself a wheelchair user, provided particularly valuable input when it came to fitting the Mini Cooper SE with operating aids. For the accelerator, a wireless ring system is installed on the steering wheel so that the driver can operate it through hand pressure. It has "reduced throttle characteristic" setting to use when parking and when pulling away gently within congested traffic.
As for braking, it's controlled through a hand-operated lever at the bottom right side of the steering wheel. It's easily accessible at all times and runs to the brake without any rod assembly getting in the way of the vehicle dashboard.
Meanwhile, pedal covers are also installed to ensure that the original accelerator and brake pedals are not accidentally operated.
There's one hurdle, though. Schmidt-Kiendl noticed that some charging stations in Munich are not wheelchair friendly. The charging points are usually not accessible to wheelchairs due to the curb.
"If we want society to be really inclusive, we have to listen to each other. We have to consider everyone’s needs – especially when it comes to technical innovations," Wurst said.
To make sure that owners of the converted Cooper SE will get the hang of the hand-operated driving, the company offers a special driving safety training course at the BMW and Mini Driving Experience center in Maisach just outside Munich. The course includes practice braking and avoidance maneuvers on various road surfaces, as well as lane changes with and without deceleration. It even involves dynamic exercises for sporty driving.