Electric cars, at the moment, cost more to buy than gasoline cars of similar size and with similar features, powertrain excepted.

Leases on electric cars from mass-market brands like Nissan and Chevrolet are often a little more competitive. The 2011 Nissan Leaf is $349 a month, the 2011 Chevy Volt $350 per month (both prices are after a $7,500 Federal income-tax credit).

But befitting its brand, BMW isn't exactly bestowing bargain-basement prices on its electric-car lease: It'll cost you $499 per month on a 24-month lease, after a $2,250 down payment. Reservations for the car begin this August, with only 700 units available for New York City and other urban areas.

And leases are all you'll be able to get for the BMW ActiveE, the company's second battery electric vehicle.

It won't be for sale after the car's two-year lease expires; instead, BMW will take them all 1,000 of them back and likely send them to the great scrapyard in the sky.

Like its predecessor the Mini E, the ActiveE is only a test vehicle, in this case built to let BMW test new liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery technology and a 125-kilowatt (170-hp) drive motor.

It's very obviously based on the company's 1-Series two-door sedan, meaning it has four seats and a trunk--addressing two of the major gripes from Mini E test drivers.

As the first electric car to wear the BMW rondel, the ActiveE is expected to drive and handle like a proper BMW. Its 0-to-62-mph time is expected to be under 9 seconds. That's no Tesla Roadster Sport, but it's adequate.

And, of course, like all electrics, maximum torque will be available from the moment the driver presses the accelerator.

The ActiveE's range is projected to be 100 miles, which may be more achievable with the liquid-cooled pack than it was in the sometimes unpredictable Mini E.

That car, a fairly speedy conversion that used a pack made up of thousands of commodity mobile-phone battery cells, proved to offer highly variable electric ranges depending on not only usage but also the temperature of the areas where it was driven.

The ActiveE is a test-bed for the battery pack that will be used in the company's third electric car, to be known as the BMW i3 (nee MegaCity). That urban car will go into production late in 2013 or early in 2014.

The i3 will be the smallest BMW four-wheeler since the Isetta bubble cars of the 1950s, and will use the same lithium-ion technology in a pack just half the size of the ActiveE's 32 kilowatt-hours.


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