The Mini E will soon be the only pure electric car on American roads in any significant numbers. Could it help normalize electric cars, help get drivers used to the idea of a future in which our tiny cars are silent, zippy, and potentially nauseating? It's not going to make any kind of meaningful dent in oil consumption or CO2 emissions, after all. The Mini Es will go to drivers in LA and New York City who endure what Mini boss Jim McDowell describes as an "adoption" process and then pay the $850-a-month lease to score one of the 450 cars. That's not a lot of units. Still, it's far more than any other automaker is likely to have on the road any time soon. Tesla has delivered less than a couple dozen cars so far. Other automakers, most credibly Nissan and GM (we'll set aside GM's extinction-level crisis for the moment) have promised to bring electrified cars to the U.S., but those cars don't arrive until 2010 at the earliest. For the next year or so, the Mini E will be the face of EVs in America. And so maybe it's a good thing that the Mini E so closely resembles the wildly successful Mini Cooper: Maybe it can assure people one by one that a future without growling gas-guzzling engines isn't such a strange, scary thing after all.