We’ve already been treated to an all-electric version of the MINI in the form of the MINI E experimental vehicle, which from our initial drive we determined is far from ready for production, but a hybrid variant could be a much more viable option for the immediate future.

BMW appears to have the same thinking as a MINI prototype wearing “Hybrid Drive” stickers has been spotted testing in Germany.

We can only guess that the hybrid system is some combination of existing MINI gas-burner plus an electric drive--possibly even a simpler version of the mild hybrid system found in the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 sedan. In this case an electric motor would essentially be used to restart the engine after it shuts off at stops and also add torque to assist it during high load.

Otherwise few other details are known--but the story doesn’t end there. Back in April we reported that BMW was developing a radical new hydrogen-based hybrid system that uses a standard MINI front-wheel drive powertrain up front, plus a hydrogen-based system on the rear axle. The Clubman’s extended body could suggest that this is the system seen testing here but without official confirmation everything remains uncertain.

In the meantime, check out Nelson Ireson’s report over at MotorAuthority.com to read up on all the details and see the spy images in full.

[Motor Authority]