MINI E – BMW Mini E – Mini challenges Detroit, wins race by years!

Maybe it’s a size thing. There must be SOME good reason why Mini managed to build an electric production model car in 10 months when GM’s Chevy Volt hasn’t been able to do so in 3 years and a LOT of money. But sure enough, there it was at the November 2008 L.A. Auto Show, the Mini E!

BMW-owned Mini has a way of doing things their own way, and this is no exception. Five hundred Mini E electric cars will be build put on the road as long-term test drive cars. The price? Well, that may make some of the nearly 10,000 people who have signed up for the Mini E take a pause. The lease is a scathing $850 a month — to be a part of the experiment. Of course that’s offset a bit by the fact that they’ll cost next to nothing to run or maintain.

Mini is looking at this as the first stage of their ascendancy — a Beta Test, per se. “The know-how gained from this project will help us perfect the Mini E’s innovative drive system and speed production of a mega city car,” said Mini spokeswoman Natalie Bauters. Already their first stage is a lot more car than most others’ best efforts.

What’s under the hood? 150 kilowatts of electric motor producing 204 horsepowers of instant torque, kept in juice by a high-performance lithium-ion battery that Mini says is good for 150 miles per full charge. There’s a single-stage helical gearbox to put the power out to the front wheels. Zero to 60 is about 8.5 seconds (which seems a bit slow, considering, and may be improved.) This Mini E’s maximum speed is limited to 95 m.p.h. The down-side? The batteries took posession of what would have been the rear seats; this Mini is a 2-seater… with the very consistent stylings of a Mini, not too far off from their Coopers.

Before you rush out the door, remember that there are only 500 available, and there’s a long list ahead of you. But you should be seeing them on the streets of L.A. and New York very soon… which is a lot more than anyone can say for the Volt. Ain’t it amazing? And BMW hasn’t asked us for one red cent in bailout.