MUNICH, GERMANY – BMW has launched a test of some 500 all-electric Mini Coopers in three US states that will be available to select private and corporate customers in California, New York and New Jersey.  Dubbed the Mini Cooper “E,” it will first debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

The pilot project is BMW’s first attempt at mass production electric vehicles in the U.S.  The new version of the Mini will be powered by a 150 kilowatt electric motor fed by a high-performance, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, transferring its power to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox.  Being produced by BMW, the new electric power plant aims to be far superior to previous attempts, according to ATZ Online.

The battery technology will have a range of more than 240 kilometers, or nearly 150 miles. The Mini E’s electric drivetrain produces a peak torque of 220 Newton meters, delivering seamless acceleration to 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds, with a top speed of about 95 MPH.  The only real difference in the vehicle itself, is the fact that it’s a two seater- with the space reserved for the back seat used as storage for the battery components.

The vehicle uses a heavy-duty battery to deliver its power to an electric motor, which then transforms it into Mini’s renown agility.  Mounted transversely in the Mini E’s, the drivetrain unleashes its full thrust from a complete standstill.  As soon as the driver releases the gas pedal, the electric motor acts as its own generator.  This results in braking force, and the power recovered from the kinetic energy is fed back to the battery. Making substantial use of this energy recuperation feature extends the car’s range by up to 20 percent.  It’s an excellent deployment of the latest electric vehicle-based technology.

The way BMW is distributing and testing the vehicles with consumers is very unique. They’ll be given away on one-year leases from private party to private party, and at the end of its cycle, each vehicle will be returned to BMW for extensive testing.  After the pilot project is complete, BMW will re-evaluate whether to bring the Mini to market in the U.S. and abroad.  If you ask me, the new Mini will undoubtedly be a winner- given their already substantial gas mileage and agility.