We don’t usually cover news on the other BMW owned brand, the Mini, but we couldn’t pass on these latest new. Mini E, short for electric, was featured on our blog in July, when we announced that 490 units will be leased to selected customers in California and 10 will be used as show cars.

The electric Minis are being built at the Mini factory in Oxford, England, without engines, gearboxes or fuel tanks, then shipped to Munich, Germany, where they are being fitted with electric powertrains.

With the official specifications and photos released a few days ago, now we can share with you more details on the Mini E, a car that will open the road for the rumored and soon to be reality, BMW Project i. Power comes from a lithium-ion battery that provides a total of 38 kilowatts per-hour allowing for 150 miles on a full charge (that’s less than 3 cents per mile).

The large battery weighing around 573 pounds is placed in the back seat, making the Mini E a two people car. The li-ion battery outputs 204 horsepower with a torque of 162 lb-ft. It runs from 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds, reaching a top speed of 95 mph.

The battery can be charged from a power outlet and for us in the U.S, we can recharge a battery that has been completely drained within a very short period of time using a wallbox that will ship with every MINI E. The wallbox will be installed in the customer’s garage, enable higher amperage, and thus provide for extremely short charging times. Wallboxes fully recharge batteries after a mere two-and-a-half hours.

The rumors of a BMW all-electric car have been going around for months, if not years, and in the past months, many BMW executives have confirming and re-confirming the development of a BMW electric car, named Project i. In a June interview for Automotive News Europe, BMW’s Executive  Herbert Höltschl confirmed that initial rumor and that BMW is set on manufacturing a zero-emission vehicle. In the same time, he explained that Project i could  represent a solution for congested city motoring and it has also been tasked with coming up with innovative production techniques that reduce energy and water usage.

Mr. Höltschl also said that BMW’s car performance image will remain intact due to an advanced technology that will still keep up with the Ultimate Driving Machine slogan.

The initial deadline was set for 2012, but recently we have been hearing of a possible BMW electric concept being revealed by 2010. This is absolutely exciting news for everyone and I fully support BMW’s eco initiative and honestly, I found this to be more challenging than building a regular petrol car.

The Mini E will be present at the L.A Auto Show and I cannot wait to see it.

And one last thing, for those of you interested in a test drive with the new Mini E, you can sign up here and up to 500 test drivers in the US (Southern California, New York City and New Jersey) will get the chance to take the MINI E for a spin.