Over the following weeks 450 selected drivers will be driving the first highway legal Mini E car - the all electric zero emissions version of Mini Cooper - as part of a leasing program.

Selected people in California, New York and New Jersey will use the car for one year, paying $850 per month, plus tax and insurance. BMW, which owns Mini, plans to gather data from this program and use it to design an electric vehicle planned for 2012.

The car can reach a maximum speed of 95 mph and is equipped with Regenerative Braking which converts breaking energy into electricity and stores it in the battery, when the driver takes his feet off the gas pedal.

The vehicle's lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 35 kilowatts per hour and can be charged in approximately in 26.5 hours on a 110 Volt outlet and 3 hours in a 240 Volt outlet. It's battery occupies the entire back seat leaving only seat for the driver and a partner.

The Mini E's price is twice that of the regular Mini but below $100,000.

Mini E drivers saw the vehicles at a party last week in Los Angeles at the California Science Center.