The first Mini E, cobbled together by putting a battery pack where the rear seat used to be, was BMW's very first attempt at building a modern electric car.

Only a few hundred were built, back in 2009, but the quick project gave the German company real-world experience on how electric-car drivers used their cars, recharged them, and otherwise treated them.

Last fall, BMW's CEO confirmed that an all-electric Mini would return to the British maker's lineup; now, it's rumored to debut in concept form next month at the Frankfurt auto show.

DON'T MISS: Electric Mini officially confirmed by BMW CEO, also electric BMW X3 (Oct 2016)

That report comes from the British magazine Autocar, which suggests we'll see a concept for the future Mini E at next month’s 2017 Frankfurt auto show.

It is expected to preview both design elements and technical aspects that will differentiate the electric Two-Door Hardtop hatchback from regular Mini Cooper versions. The range on a single charge should be at least 200 miles.

Sebastian Mackensen, global head of Mini, told industry trade journal Automotive News earlier this year that the brand's fifth "superhero" model will be an all-electric vehicle, saying that the car would be more than a token offering.

While declining to give any details on the new model's size, range, or powertrain, Mackensen said, "The electric car is not meant to just have an offering so you can say you have an electric car, but really nobody buys it. No, it is a real car."

MINI E electric cars used in vehicle-to-grid test. Photo by University of Delaware/Evan Krape

MINI E electric cars used in vehicle-to-grid test. Photo by University of Delaware/Evan Krape

The Mini E's debut may be possible with the arrival of Samsung 125-Ah "low-height pack" battery cells, scheduled to come to market only in 2019. Those cells could give the electric Mini Cooper a rated electric range of 200 miles or more in a smaller pack than is possible today.

Mini has dabbled with electric variants in the past, most notably with the Mini E, a short-lived conversion of the 2009-2010 Mini Cooper three-door hatchback, which gave a range of around 100 miles from its 35-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

In the U.S., the Mini E was offered solely for lease to U.S. drivers in Los Angeles, New York, and New Jersey, but its main goal wasn't to bring electrification to the masses. (Some of that series remain on the road as research vehicles.)

READ THIS: New 2017 Mini Countryman, including plug-in hybrid: 'biggest Mini yet'

Instead, was to be a test bench for the early development of hardware that would eventually find its way into the pioneering BMW i3 electric car launched in late 2013.

Some eight years on, BMW is no stranger to electric vehicles, with a growing array of plug-in hybrid versions of its mainstream models along with the i3 hatchback and the i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe.

There's also a plug-in hybrid version of the new Mini Countryman crossover utility vehicle on the way.

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

Mini Countryman plug-in hybrid prototype

Mini Countryman plug-in hybrid prototype

Mini Countryman plug-in hybrid prototype

Mini Countryman plug-in hybrid prototype

Perhaps the future high-volume electric Mini will result in the same outcome as Smart's efforts to electrify the ForTwo. 

The resulting electric Smart was a pleasant surprise, with its clunky, harsh, and largely inefficient gasoline engine and automated manual transmission replaced by a smooth, quiet, electric driveline.

Mini has never suffered from a crude engine or transmission, so there's little to be gained in refinement by switching to electric propulsion.

CHECK OUT: Electric Mini to be made in U.K., despite BMW's Brexit worries

The move might do wonders for the brand's reliability, however.

Last year, Consumer Reports saw Mini tumble four spots in the publication's annual reliability study, from 10th to 14th. 

That puts Mini firmly in the middle of the pack for all brands—so perhaps a simple electric drivetrain with fewer moving parts, and hence fewer failure points, might help.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published on May 17, 2017. We updated it on August 14 to reflect reports on a Mini E concept debut at the upcoming Frankfurt auto show.


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