By LAWRENCE ULRICH Published: March 25, 2010 New York Times DRIVING the Mini E in and around New York City highlights both the promises and the pitfalls of electric cars. One promise, backed up on an only mildly nail-biting drive through Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Westchester County suburbs, is that the Mini E â€” an electric version of BMWâ€™s Mini Cooper â€” can travel more than 100 miles on a charge in favorable conditions. As Mini has said, you may be surprised how far 100 miles is when you are commuting or running local errands. Another is that the Mini, in contrast to plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt that arrives late this year, will never make contact with a gasoline nozzle. The Mini E driver also spends just $3 to $6 for 100 milesâ€™ worth of electricity; a car that averages 25 m.p.g. would cost $12 to cover the same distance, assuming a gasoline price of $3 a gallon. The pitfalls may be easy to ignore while youâ€™re humming silently in the Mini, but they are lurking. First, you cannot buy or lease one unless you are among the 450 people selected for a yearlong pilot project. Second, battery-sapping winter weather can seriously reduce the carâ€™s driving range. As with hybrids, the Mini E captures energy from its brakes to recharge the battery. But the Miniâ€™s regenerative brakes are arguably too aggressive in their energy scavenging: if you step off the throttle, the Mini drags itself to a stop â€” you need not even touch the brake pedal. With practice, feathering the throttle allowed me to modulate the dragging-anchor effect. BMW has considered adding cruise control or a free-wheeling mode for smoother cruising. The space-hogging battery pack eliminates the Miniâ€™s back seat and most of its cargo area, leaving just an oddly shaped parcel shelf. The nearly 600-pound battery also neuters the Miniâ€™s signature go-kart handling. To imagine what happens when you want to change directions quickly, picture four adults standing on the rear bumper. Yet driven for mileage rather than excitement, the Mini has no trouble keeping pace with traffic, running from a stop to 60 miles per hour in 8.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 95 m.p.h. Even for a committed petro-head, it is genuinely satisfying to drive a car that runs on electrons; it feels as though you are getting away with something. Those electrons spring from advanced lithium-ion batteries like the ones in laptop computers; the coming Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt will also have lithium-ion, which offer roughly double the power with half the size and weight of the nickel-metal-hydride batteries found in most hybrid cars. Mini doesnâ€™t like to publicize the limp-home mode, worried that owners might come to rely on it, but the E can crawl roughly 10 miles at up to 25 m.p.h. once its battery indicator is at zero. That helpful feature brings up the â€œrange anxietyâ€ of those considering an E.V. That issue has proponents of plug-in hybrids like the Volt â€” which switch seamlessly to gasoline once batteries are depleted on longer trips â€” citing their superior range and marketability. My own teenage years were dotted with hikes to service stations, gas can in hand, after I misjudged how far my nickel-and-dime fillups would take me. But range anxiety is more acute in an electric car, as I discovered when I briefly thought I had too little juice to make it home. (Going easy on the throttle, I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge with miles to spare). But stray too far afield in the Mini E and not even a gas station can save you. You will also need a tow to the nearest electrical outlet and a few hours to wait for a recharge. Thatâ€™s a chief reason why electrics are being positioned as commuter cars. Until thereâ€™s a widespread charging network, an electric vehicle is largely tethered within the radius of its travel range â€” 100 miles, or whatever â€” from home. E.V. evangelists tend to play down range limitations, arguing that a charging infrastructure could be quickly developed. But nationwide charging remains more theory than reality. For all the promise of electric cars, the 220-volt question remains this: How many consumers, especially apartment dwellers or anyone who lacks a secure, handy outlet, will buy the E.V. first and hope the plugs will follow?