Clemson students re-imagine BMW's MINI

Deep Orange 7 is a re-envisioned MINI, one of BMW’s iconic brands

Ed Jenson
October 15, 2017 - 1:37 am

Students at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) unveiled their newest Deep Orange concept vehicle, sponsored by the BMW Group. The 18-student team unveiled the fully-functional, drivable concept vehicle at the BMW Zentrum in Greer on Saturday.

Deep Orange 7 is a re-envisioned MINI, one of BMW’s iconic brands. For the seventh generation of Deep Orange, students were challenged to reimagine a MINI vehicle for the premium US market for 2025 and beyond. Students were in charge of determining which innovative features would fit the MINI brand, as well as how these innovations would be integrated into the vehicle. As a result of this collaborative real-world educational experience, the students designed and built a functioning, drivable concept vehicle with multiple innovative features.

From the project’s beginning in 2014, the BMW Group mentored the students but minimized their influence on the creative process to receive unbiased results. “Working with the students as a mentor in the Deep Orange 7 project was a wonderful experience. They worked really hard and showed creativity and professionalism at the same time,” said Dr. Julian Weber, at that time head of Innovation Projects E-Mobility at BMW in Munich. “The resulting vehicle is a huge step forward and showcases very interesting solutions. My biggest question during the project was why a course like this wasn’t offered when I was a student.”

As part of the graduate automotive engineering program at CU-ICAR, select students are given the unique opportunity to create and build a concept vehicle. The project showcases advanced technologies and provides students an opportunity to work directly with automotive industry partners.

"Deep Orange gives our students invaluable hands-on experience and exposure to all phases of the vehicle development process starting with identifying the project’s grand challenge - understanding MINI’s history alongside a deep dive into potential customers - all the way through the engineering and fabrication process,” said Dr. Johnell Brooks, Associate Professor of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University and Project Lead. “Collaboration with diverse industry partners ranging from local shops to international companies provides insight for our students into various cultures and how to effectively collaborate whether the company is located across the street or multiple time zones away.”

“Hard work, dedication and long hours allowed the students to drive their rolling chassis before they completed their two-year MS program. The body panels, glazing (windows) and upholstery were completed after their graduation. Deep Orange graduates seamlessly transition into the workforce due to the depth and breadth of experiences provided during their graduate education.”

CU-ICAR partnered with ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California on the vehicle’s styling. This provides engineering and design students the opportunity to collaborate just as they would in a real-world design studio. ArtCenter has been a strategic partner on multiple previous Deep Orange concepts.

“Based on a thorough analysis of the future customer base for MINI in the US, the team competently addressed these customers’ aspirations through innovations and vehicle design,” said BMW Manager of Research & Innovation Dr. Jörg Schulte, who served as BMW mentor for the project in South Carolina. “The convergence of engineering from the Automotive Engineering students at CU-ICAR and styling from ArtCenter College of Design in California was challenging at times, but resulted in great, real-life learning experiences for the team and led to a well thought-out and stunning vehicle design. The BMW Group very much appreciates the innovative outside-in view of what a future MINI hatch could look like.”

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