The Electric Mini

Now things get interesting: BMW, the corporate parent of Mini Cooper, has announced that an all-electric version of the Mini will premiere at the Los Angeles car show in January. Dubbed the MINI-E, the plug-in pocket-rocket will make 204 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque from a massive pack of 5,088 lithium-ion cells arranged in 48 modules, which hog all of the Mini's (already nominal) back seat space. Driving range on a full charge is about 150 miles; owners of the cars will get a high-capacity charger to install on their home electric grid that will allow a full recharge in about 2.5 hours. (Rumor has it that the battery pack is being furnished by Tesla, the maker of high-end electric roadsters.)

Here's the fine print: There is a limited 500-unit run for the MINI E, all of which will be leased in 1-year increments, and subject to mandatory BMW physicals (and possible post-mortems) to investigate the durability and feasibility of its big-battery, high-torque, short-haul concept. But the biggest news is that if the concept works, this is the first genuinely cool car to go plug-in. You can keep your electric family sedans; I’ll take a 95-mph hot hatch any day. (There’s no mention of a price point yet, however.)


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