MUNICH, GERMANY – Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s largest maker of luxury vehicles, plans to start mass producing an electric vehicle as early as 2010, with hundreds test-driving the Mini E starting next spring, according to

BMW plans to sell its first electric car between 2010 and 2015. As a first step, the company will lease its new electric Mini Cooper, externally identical to its fuel-dependent cousin, to 500 customers in New York, New Jersey, and California for one year starting in March to gather feedback on its performance.

BMW will likely decide by the end of this year or early in 2009 whether it will mass produce the electric Mini or build a different electric car, such as a BMW model. The model, which can reach a top speed of 95 miles an hour and decelerates quickly once the foot is taken off the accelerator, may also be marketed in Europe.

The $850-a-month lease for the electric Mini trials includes a charge station installed in the drivers’ garage. Charging the empty lithium-ion battery takes about two hours and as much as 10 hours if plugged into a wall socket. The Mini has a range of 156 miles fully charged.

A.C. Propulsion Inc. will provide the Mini electric drive system. The San Dimas, Calif.-based company built the early power train systems for Tesla Motors Inc.’s Roadster, and converts gasoline-powered vehicles to run on electricity.