Mini is recruiting 500 drivers in California, New York, and New Jersey to lease its electric car for a year.
In the two weeks that MiniUSA.com has been offering a peek at the Mini E, 9,500 people have signed up for more information, says Trudy Hardy, Mini USA's manager of marketing communications. Although the Mini E will take over the site in mid-November, marketing will still be low-key because "we don't want to turn too many people away," Hardy says.
The Mini E debuts this month at the Los Angeles Auto Show as a concept car. It's part of BMW AG's Project i, an initiative to develop a low-emissions city car that could become a fourth brand.
BMW is noncommittal about whether the E concept will become a production vehicle.
Formal applications for the Mini E will be taken for three to four weeks starting in mid-November, and delivery of the car starts in January, Hardy says. BMW wouldn't disclose the monthly lease payment, but a spokeswoman said it will be more than $500. The lease will include all maintenance and replacement of parts.
Because the car will require special technicians, BMW decided to focus on just three states. Eight dealers on each coast will service the electrical components.
The Mini E is based on the current two-seat, three-door hatchback car. The E has a lithium ion battery powering an electric motor with 204 horsepower that takes 23.6 hours to charge at 110 volts--and 4.4 hours on 240 volts, which is what is used in Europe and elsewhere in the world.
BMW is talking with two utility companies on both coasts to help with the test program, says Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing.
Speed on the Mini E is limited to 95 mph. The car's range on one charge is 160 miles.