While New Jersey (home of BMW North America) has been known for its low gas prices, even here in the Garden State petrol has reached nearly $4.00 per gallon. Talk about sticker shock! One of the most appealing new car options to anyone sick and tired of paying $40, $50 or more to fill-up is driving gasoline free. Enter the all electric vehicle / plug-in vehicle. While hybrids have been garnering a lot of the headlines lately, on the horizon are a few exciting and appealing pure-electric, plug-in alternatives. And, if you like to drive an exciting car, maybe the BMW ActiveE is for you. Here are some of the details.
Coming this summer, BMW will introduce their new, 100% electric plug-in offering. Taking lessons they learned from the electric Mini Cooper, they have built an all new pure electric car based on the 2-door BMW “1 Series” sedan. This is “phase 2” of their plan to offer pure electric vehicles as part of their regular dealers’ offerings. These cars, while fully developed and represent the current state of the art for electric cars, they will also serve as test beds for the development of their new in 2013 BMW i3 (Mega City).
As with the Mini E, BMW is only offering the ActiveE cars through a closed-end 2 year lease. The price per month is reported to be $499 with about a $2,300 up-front payment. The number of cars they will be offering is quite limited with only 1,000 available world wide and just 700 slated for the USA. You will also need a charging station at home connected to a 220 volt charger. BMW will provide a 110 volt charging cable with the car but because of the lower voltage of normal house current, the charging time on a fully discharged battery would be and estimated 25 hours.
The usual question that gets asked about pure electric cars is – “How far can I drive before it runs out of juice?” The answer is, unfortunately, “it depends”. BMW says that you could go as far as 100 miles on a single charge. But your actual experience may be different depending on how you drive (jack rabbit starts and high speed driving really use up power). Also, if you drive with the air-conditioning or heat on high or drive a lot with the lights and wipers on, expect to get fewer that 100 miles/charge. However, BMW says that most people drive a lot fewer than 100 miles per day so a fully charged battery should be enough to get to work, school, or the store.
To help improve the car’s “mileage”, BMW came up with a few clever ideas to help extend the battery’s useful charge. For example, you can “program” your car to cool or warm the interior before you get in an drive in the morning. The energy for this comes from what they call “the grid” – i.e., your household electric current. In addition, one of the things they learned from the Mini E is that battery temperature (too high or too low) affects the number of miles you can extract between charges. In the ActiveE, they have incorporated a fluid cooling / heating system that maintains the battery at its optimum operating temperature range. BMW calls this technology, “preconditioning”. Finally, they also have a special PRO Eco button that helps extend range by limiting power for acceleration, heating and cooling.
If you still are unsure, BMW has a free downloadable iPhone or Android app that you can use to track your driving habits. Using the data it generates, you can get insight into whether an electric car would work for you. It’s available at:
BMW claims that the ActiveE is both 100% electric and 100% BMW. They rate their 0-60 times to be under 9 seconds. They offer a plush Dakota leather interior. There is a good sound system, GPS and, unlike the Mini E, room for 4 and a trunk capable of holding 2 pro golf bags.
Weighing in at around 4,000 lbs, the 1 Series-based ActiveE is not a light weight sprinter. Most of that additional mass comes from the lithium batteries that are stored in the front where BMW usually keeps its motors and, since the 170 hp / 184 lb-ft of torque electric motor lives over the rear axles, batteries are also stored within the center tunnel where the drive-shaft normally lives. Because of the electric motor’s power band, the “transmission” only has 2 gears – forward (“D”) and reverse (“R”).
Cosmetically, the ActiveE comes delivered in bright white paint (Alpine White) and is plastered with “Tron” like graphics. These, if you wish to drive under the e-car radar, are removable by the dealer.
In person, the car looks great and should appeal to any BMW fan.
So, if you have the budget, driving habits and inclination to help preserve the environment, maybe the ActiveE is for you.