Mini E electric vehicleEnlarge Photo
Back in 2009, the MINI E electric car was BMW's very first attempt at building a battery-electric vehicle.
The fleet of several hundred electric MINIs was leased out to volunteer test drivers in the U.S., Europe, China, and the U.K. to let the company gather data on how drivers used plug-in cars in real-world circumstances.
Now it appears that BMW is testing a new generation of MINI E, though it's quite unclear when and even whether the company would launch such a car.
Motor Authority has published spy shots of an electrified MINI Coupe--the current-generation two-seat model with the "backward baseball cap" roofline--covered in MINI E graphics, seen testing in Germany.
(To see the full spy-shot gallery, click on the link.)
2010 mini e electric vehicle ev la auto show 013Enlarge Photo
The lessons BMW learned fed into its next test fleet of BMW ActiveE two-door sedans, which are now nearing the end of their two-year leases.
In turn, all those lessons helped refine the 2014 BMW i3 electric car that was unveiled in production form this summer and is now on sale in Germany, with U.S. sales starting next spring.
But while the MINI E wasn't perfect, its hundreds of test drivers mostly loved the cars despite their flaws.
With the surprisingly good Fiat 500e battery-electric minicar proving that small electric cars can be fun to drive and stylish too, could MINI launch a new and improved MINI E within a couple of years?
It would undoubtedly use the all-new design of the 2014 MINI Cooper launched just last month.
Motor Authority raises another intriguing possibility too: Perhaps a two-seat all-electric MINI will take another shot at the electric-car lap record on the famed Nürburgring race track.
The spy shots show the MINI Cooper Coupe with an oversized rear wing, a full roll cage, and racing seats--similar to components used on a gasoline racing version of the MINI Coupe that competed in the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race in 2011.
Either way, we'd wager that an electric MINI might find a market among buyers who feel the BMW i3 isn't quite right for them.
Would you like to see a new-generation MINI E? What range and price should it have?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.