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BMW's finally pulled the wraps off the 204-horsepower all-electric Mini it is bringing to America and says the car could be here as early as next year, although just 500 people will be lucky enough to get their hands on one.

BMW says it will lease the Mini E two-seater to "select private and corporate customers" in California, New York and New Jersey under what is essentially a big R&D project to develop EVs through its Project i. "Putting some 500 cars on the road under real daily traffic conditions will make it possible to gain widely applicable hands-on experience," BMW says. "Evaluating these findings will generate valuable know-how, which will be factored into the engineering of mass-produced vehicles."

BMW isn't saying what the leases will cost. Whatever it is, those who get their hands on one will be getting what is a sweet little car if only because it's an EV that doesn't look like a toy.

As much as we love EVs and as sweet as the Tesla Roadster looks, electric cars often leave a lot to be desired in the styling department. Not so with the Mini E. Only the unique dark silver paint and the stylized plug logo (in a color BMW calls "interchange yellow") set it apart from the iconic internal combustion models.

The Mini E features a 150-kilowatt (204 horsepower) asynchronous motor coupled to a single-stage helical gearbox. The drivetrain produces 162 foot-pounds of torque the moment you hit the accelerator, propelling the car from 0 to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 95 mph.

Power comes from a 35-kWh, lithium-ion battery with a range of 150 miles. It is comprised of 5,088 individual cells in an air-cooled battery pack that weighs 573 pounds and charges in about eight hours. Those who lease the car get a "wallbox" that BMW will install in customers' garages to increase the amperage, reducing the charge time to 2.5 hours. Regenerative braking will help keep the battery charged out on the road, an arrangement BMW says extended the battery's range by 20 percent.

That's a mighty big battery to stuff into something so small as a Mini, so the Mini E ditches the back seat. The two-seater EV weighs in at a 3,230 pounds — some 596 pounds more than the standard Mini — but because the added heft is in the middle of the car, BMW says, the Mini E has a 50-50 weight distribution. The suspension has been beefed up to handle the added weight, and BMW promises "the Mini E sports the brand's hallmark agility and outstanding handling."

BMW is building the cars at the Mini plant in Oxford, England, then shipping them to Munich to install the battery and electric drivetrain. All 500 should be ready to go by the end of the year, and they'll roll into customers' driveways as early as next year next year. "Putting the Mini E on the road on a daily basis will be a pioneering feat to which both the drivers and engineers of the first zero-emissions Mini will contribute as a team."

Granted, a lot of the electricity that powers these cars will come from coal-fired power plants, but as we've mentioned before, research by the National Natural Resources Defense Council and the Electric Power Research Institute shows EVs (and plug-in hybrids) still produce less CO2 than internal combustion vehicles.

BMW says it could expand the leasing scheme to Europe, but so far there's no word on when, or if, the Mini E might be offered to the rest of us.

Source: Wired


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