BMW ActiveE Electric Car First Drive: What's It Really Like? Page 2

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BMW ActiveE electric car, January 2012, New Jersey

BMW ActiveE electric car, January 2012, New Jersey

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We did the bulk of our 67-mile trip from Montclair to Chester, New Jersey, and back again in EcoPro, reverting to Normal for several acceleration and handling tests.

That trip, including a number of hilly roads and a few brief spurts of acceleration, used 88 percent of the battery capacity, for a real-world usage of 2.7 miles/kWh--not the best efficiency we've experienced.

Moloughney said he's eager to test out the car's range in warmer weather, and he suspects that with careful driving in spring temperatures, he'll be able to get more than 100 miles on a full recharge.

Smaller margin of safety?

Moloughney noted that in an early test of a completely depleted battery, he got only about 1 mile of additional range once the car's remaining-range indicator dropped to 0. BMW had estimated a margin of about 5 or 6 miles, he said, though he noted he did his tests on a day when the temperature was just 18 degrees F.

BMW ActiveE electric car, January 2012, New Jersey

BMW ActiveE electric car, January 2012, New Jersey

Enlarge Photo

After that, the ActiveE barely crawled until he was able to recharge enough to get him back to his house.

In the Mini E, by contrast, he said he knew he had a safety margin of 10 to 18 more miles.

EcoMode fogging

The one drawback to the EcoPro mode proved to be anemic seat heaters--they were nice and toasty in Normal mode--and occasional fogging of the glass.

Cabin heating and ventilation are major energy draws in any car with a high-voltage battery, so the "Eco" setting usually dials down those accessories a lot. Moloughney would prefer that the cabin heating be dialed down more, but the seat heaters retained at a higher power.

Brief blasts with the fan cleared up the misting, and the car's good insulation mean that it stays warm once the car was pre-conditioned while plugged in or the occupants had warmed up.

Moloughney also noted his irritation that the car cannot be set to pre-condition the cabin at the same time each day. The smartphone app only gives him access to a 24-hour window, with no recurring setting mode.

One awkward moment on our test underscored the car's developmental nature: Using both friction and regenerative brakes in two-pedal driving coming uphill to a stoplight, the car simply shut down, with a message on the display saying it had a powertrain problem.

Tom & Meredith Moloughney get keys to first BMW ActiveE electric car delivered in U.S., Jan 2012

Tom & Meredith Moloughney get keys to first BMW ActiveE electric car delivered in U.S., Jan 2012

Enlarge Photo

It rebooted itself and behaved fine thereafter, but Moloughney plans to seek an explanation from BMW about what happened. It is, he admits cheerfully, part of his role as a test driver for this new technology--or, as BMW calls them, an "electronaut."

The listed price of the BMW ActiveE is $59,500 plus an $850 delivery fee, for a total of $60,350. All 600 drivers, however, will lease the car for two years at a cost of $499 per month after a down payment of $2,250.

The ActiveE fleet of 600 cars in North America will be tested for two years, leading up to an expected September 2013 launch of the company's ground-breaking BMW i3 electric minicar


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Comments (33)
  1. I really wanted an ActiveE 1-series, but even though I'm disappointed I really enjoyed this article. I've been a BMW owner for as long as I've been able to drive and it sounds like they've done a great job with the ActiveE. And although the i3 looks amazing I'm not looking forward to it, because it is just going to be another compact 5-door hatchback just like the Leaf, i, Volt, and Focus and the range won't be all that different.

  2. all the more reasons to get a Tesla Model S ;-)

  3. So if the EPA has reported a 94 mile range, have they also reported the MPGe numbers?

    Very exciting to see BMW make progress and I look forward to seeing how the i3 performs.

  4. The article does mention 2.7 miles/kWh which isn't particularly efficient, but then at 4000 pounds this car is extremely heavy for a sub compact.

  5. Chris, since it wasn't designed as an EV, they had to add about 800lbs of steel to reinforce the frame and battery packs. The old transmission tunnel where one of the packs are has a steel cage surrounding the battery, virtually eliminating the problem the volt had with the side impact test. I have pictures of it with the battery removed and it's very impressive. If a side impact penetrates that battery the way they have it protected, then there is no worry about a fire because the accident would most certainly be fatal to the passengers.

  6. It's 107 city, 96 highway and 102 combined. I'm averaging a bit over 3 miles/kWh so far. Not good, but I'm using the heat a lot in this cold weather and that kills the efficiency.

  7. Thats why BMW should have let me have one it was 74 here today and we're expecting near 80 degree highs for the rest of week. Anyway, I really like your license plate ; )

  8. Tom, Thanks for the added information. Is this information available online somewhere or did they just tell you personally?

  9. It's on my window sticker! ;) I put up a picture of the sticker on my ActiveE blog:

  10. The poor range is a little expected in the winter. Even my Prius only get 45 mpg in the winter versus the 55 mpg I get in the summer. We will wait to hear back from you once the weather is warmer before we pass judgement.

  11. There are more comments in this thread
  12. Correction - the Tesla roadster weighs 2800 pounds, which is not half of the Active E's 4,000 pound weight. Anyone driving an electric car, especially this BMW, which doesn't have great aeros, at over 65 MPH is going to get really crappy driving range figures. Should not exceed 55, generally. Not surprised that this car isn't getting the 4+ miles per kWhr that the Model S is knocking down. Despite equal prices, this car is horribly inferior to the Model S in every conceivable way, especially in the looks department, acceleration, driving range, etc. etc.
    Elon Musk has to be VERY satisfied with his team's efforts after reading this review. Back to the drawing board, Bimmer Boys.

  13. Yes, I saw that too. Half the weight is a bit of an exaggeration. If they were fitted with similar sized battery packs perhaps the comparison would be closer to true.

  14. @Ramon: The listed curb weight of the Tesla Roadster is 2,690 pounds, but I should have been less approximate in my math.

    As for price, the BMW ActiveE is $60,350 including delivery. The base model of the Tesla Model S will be $67,400 before any incentives (don't be misled by Tesla's annoying habit of quoting prices with the $7,500 Federal tax credit deducted) plus an unknown delivery charge.

    But it's a somewhat specious comparison, since you can't buy an ActiveE at all. BMW will only lease 600 of them in the U.S., they'll take them back after a couple of of years, and they'll likely be dismantled and crushed.

  15. "dismantled and crushed" Boy! what a kill-joy John

  16. Aaack! TYPO: That base price for the 160-mile version of the Tesla Model S should be *$57,400* not $67,400. Thus without including delivery charges, it is slightly cheaper than the ActiveE. My third paragraph still stands, however.

  17. BMW is definitely sensitive to the "dismantled & crushed" term and knows how badly that went for GM with the EV-1. I've had a lot of conversations with different people over there and everyone says they aren't going to simply crush them. Eventually they will all be taken out of service, as they were test cars from day one. I know some of the MINI-E's will remain in service now for a while in various countries around the world. I know BMW uses many of them in Munich as employee company cars and that eventually when they are decommissioned they are removing the battery packs and giving them 2nd life uses. There was a recent news story(I can seem to find it now) that showed a small building in Germany powered by a MINI-E battery pack.

  18. Crushing is not a problem unless the goal is to close the book on electric motoring and focusing on (short term)profitable SUV's instead like it was in GM's case.

  19. Really, Chris...? GM's purpose in ending and crushing the EV-1 was to "close the book on electric motoring" and not just make a profit? Yeah, those EV-1s that cost $80-$90k to make and wouldn't have sold, anyway, GM should have continued to lose money on them on the off chance they would be profitable a decade or two later...

    But, of course, GM has to continually play the bad guy for making a completely logical, prudent decision years ago...

    And GM making a profit off SUVs is bad, whereas Toyota/Nissan/Honda tripling SUV production in a decade (and losing money while doing it)is apparently a good thing. Oh, that's right, again, if GM does it, it's bad. Profit is a good thing sometimes.

    You're smarter than that, Chris.

  20. It's surprising to me how far behind BMW seems; are they really going to experiment for a couple more years while Nissan and Ford churn out more and more cars / models? But the car looks great, and that is by far the best license plate I've seen on an electric! My sentiments exactly. Since the middle east only provides about 30% of our oil, has anyone calculated how many electrics it would take to obsolete them?

  21. I see BMW being behind Nissan and Tesla in the EV market, that's all. They'll have their first EV (i3) for sale in about 19-20 months. Who else is going to be selling a competitive(in BMW's segment) EV by then? Converting an ICE to and EV is fine for testing in my opinion, but you make too many compromises in space and efficiency to really take the car seriously and it's why I really don't expect the Focus to sell well. Think about BMW's market segment, who's going to beat them to market with an electric car other than Tesla with the Model S? Mercedes, Audi, Infinity, Lexus, Cadillac? None of them will have an EV for sale when BMW is selling the i3 and the i8 phev sports car. They are actually way ahead of everyone they really compete with

  22. BTW, I saw the same license plate here in Massachusetts on a Prius (Without the first E). For those of us who lived through the 1974 oil embargo, it is a well appreciated sentiment.

  23. "They are actually way ahead of everyone they really compete with " they are not. The i3 will be another 100 mile range compact city car that will arrive not too early in the game. The only one that's really ahead is Tesla. It's building a reputation for it self of an EV technology leader building stylish high performance long range EVs long before anybody else and could become a huge competitor for BMW in a the new post ICE age in which a reputation for being the king of the straight six doesn't count for anything anymore.

  24. I love Tesla and I'm really looking forward to the Model X intro in a couple weeks. I'd definitely like a small SUV/Crossover with a 200+ mile and Tesla is the only one talking about doing it. I just hope they are around long enough to make them.
    They have a lot of challenges ahead and haven't even sold 2,000 cars in nearly four years of business. Lets see how the Model S launch goes. I doubt if they'll have more than a couple hundred cars made in 2012 and then lets see if they can ramp up production in 2013 and not have massive quality issues. All that said, I really want to see them survive. You can say BMW isn't ahead of anyone because they still haven't sold any EV's and that's fair, but in that regard they aren't behind anyone either

  25. Indeed Tesla has done well, but the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) will be a drag on them into the future. There will be a lot more confidence that when BMW is ready to ship, the car will be good. Of course there are no guarantees, but for the moment if I had to make a leap of faith, I would leap to BMW over Tesla.

  26. I wish them all the best of luck; there's plenty of room and variety will make the EV market a much better place. I've already got over 9000 miles on my Leaf and I still love it, solar panels going up in the next few weeks (3k down and almost half the monthly cost) which should cancel the electric bill out, this transition is real and happening.

  27. Yes, there is plenty of room for everybody. Tesla has pushed the major OEM's to move on EV's already. If they can pull off selling tens of thousands of Model S's they will push then even further. BMW, Mercedes, Audi & Lexus and the like won't like Tesla eating their lunch, and the $50 to 90K market has been theirs for a while now.

  28. There are more comments in this thread
  29. Tesla Model S looks promising. My LEAF gives 3.9-4.5miles/KwH in temp. 35-70 degrees. I don't like to lease vehicles, even though I realize the EV technology changing & improving rapidly. I test drove the LEAF 3 times (over 2 years) before buying it. Fortunately Nissan was a nationwide "Drive Tour", bringing lot of awareness. I was sold on the EV-02, the LEAF was called with their second prototype, after the my first test drive.

    Financially, how much the ActiveE cost , including sales tax? I paid $40,500 before the tax credit (including all charges) for SL model.

    I really hope that Lithium-Air (Oxygen) technology proves to be viable & cost effective within 5-10 years to make EV a long distance car. BMW sees a market EV. Would love2C BMW

  30. The Tesla Model S is one of the world's sexiest designs but still has yet to be proven practical or reliable. As for the Leaf design, go back to the bad Johnny Depp movie where it came from. The BMW design is somewhere in the middle.

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