BMW officially jumped on the electric car bandwagon with the announcement of the limited edition Mini E car for production. The electric car, based on the Mini Cooper platform, will get power from a 150-kilowatt electric motor tied to a newly developed high-power lithium ion battery. Dr. Klaus Draeger, BMW chief of development, told, “This is yet another example of the company’s environmental push.” 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 Nov. 2008.

The car’s 380-volt battery back comprised of 5,088 individual cells, and can be recharged using a standard 110-volt electrical outlet. The battery pack has a maximum capacity of 35-kilowatt hours. BMW will offer a specialized high-amp wall-mounted device that will allow a full replenishment of the battery in less than three hours. The Mini E will have a cruising range of 150 miles, well beyond the requirements of 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 a top speed of 95 miles per hour. These numbers fall short of specs for the standard MINI Cooper, but the Mini E will grant performance—especially acceleration from zero—much better than virtually all compacts or subcompacts currently on the road today.

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, or production beyond the first demonstration models, has not yet been determined. Follow the progress of the Mini E on