The Plug-in MINI

BMW has officially joined the electric car parade with the announcement of the limited edition MINI E car for production. This zero-emission EV, based on the MINI Cooper platform, will get its power from a 150 kilowatt electric motor tied to a newly-developed high-power lithium-ion battery. “This is yet another example of the company’s overall environmental push,” Dr. Klaus Draeger, BMW’s Chief of Development, told Hybridcars.com. The MINI E will be made available to select private and corporate customers under a one year leasing program in Southern California, New York and New Jersey. It will make its world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in mid-November.

The car’s 380-volt battery is comprised of 5,088 individual cells, and can be recharged using a standard 110-volt electrical outlet. BMW will offer a specialized high-amp wallbox that will allow a full replenishment of the battery in less than three hours. The MINI E will have a single-car cruising range of 150 miles, more than enough for most daily commutes.

In terms of performance, the MINI E will benefit from 204-horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The result is a 0 to 60 time of 8.5 seconds and an electronically-limited top speed of 95 miles per hour. Although these numbers are pale by comparison to the standard MINI Cooper, the MINI E will grant performance – especially acceleration – better than virtually all compacts or subcompacts currently on the road today. But compared to it closest potential competitor, the Tesla Roadster, the MINI E falls short by about 50 horsepower and almost four seconds in the 0 to 60 sprint. A part of this attributed to its 3,230-pound curb weight, which is almost 500 more than the roadster.

Beyond its electric powertrain, the MINI E optimizes efficiency with a re-calibrated suspension, regenerative braking capability, and a modified air-conditioning compressor designed to cut down on power usage.

Approximately 500 cars are slated for production, which will take place at BMW’s Munich plant before the end of 2008. The price of the MINI E has not yet been determined.