BMW ActiveE: Extended Drive Report (Video)

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BMW’s 1,000-strong fleet of ActiveE electric cars are stationed around the world, with the largest number of test cars concentrated in the U.S. 

Earlier this year, we got the chance to step behind the wheel of the very first BMW ActiveE to be delivered in the U.S., but earlier this week, we traded New Jersey for England, where the BMW ActiveE will join the official 2012 London Olympic fleet. 

Sadly, the weather was against us on the day of our drive, with torrential rain and strong winds. 

Nevertheless, our test ActiveE performed admirably, giving range predictions throughout our 40-mile drive that tied in with BMW’s own 100-mile claimed range for its electric sedan. 

Essentially a BMW 1-Series converted from gasoline to electric power, the BMW ActiveE is powered by a 32 kilowatt-hour, liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery pack, which drives a 125 kilowatt, rear-wheel drive motor. 

From a distance, the only distinguishing features that set it apart from regular BMW 1-Series model are its bulbous hood (so designed to accommodate part of the large battery pack) and an all-white body wearing slightly redesigned lower spoilers and distinctive ActiveE decals. 

As we’ve previously noted, the performance of the ActiveE is more than acceptable, taking 9 seconds to reach a speed of 62 mph. Top speed is electronically limited to 90 mph, although we couldn’t test that particular claim on public roads. 

BMW ActiveE

BMW ActiveE

Enlarge Photo

We particularly liked the ActiveE’s comfortable interior and extremely fast-acting seat heaters, which kept us more than warm on such a dreary day.

Overall, we feel the BMW ActiveE is a promising car, and sets the stage nicely for BMW’s i3 and i8 Plug-in cars due by 2014. 

One point to note however: Like the MiniE which came before it, the BMW ActiveE slows down a little too quickly on accelerator lift-off, due in part to over-enthusiastic regenerative braking. 

We’ve been told by ActiveE drivers that over time, it does become possible to learn to coast the ActiveE by feathering the accelerator correctly, but during our 40-mile drive we found the simulated engine-braking still too aggressive. 

Let us know your thoughts of the ActiveE and our extended drive report video in the Comments below. 


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Comments (15)
  1. The Video is great. multiple cameras, great sound, clean editing. Very nice.

  2. Nice how with an eBMW you tape, record and edit from the footage inside the vehicle. No resorting to voice over for comments or recording in an off site studio required. Gives a different perspective, actually being in the vehicle not an observer from afar.

  3. That's true. For those interested, it was filmed on a GoPro Hero2, Canon Rebel T3i running Magic Lantern, and the sound was recorded on an iPhone 4s via lavalier microphone.

  4. Great article, thanks for the ActiveE update Nikki.

  5. Nooo Nikki the regen isn't too strong!! In fact, most of us driving ActiveE's wish it was even stronger! It only takes a day or two to get used to it, but once you do you won't want to go back. The strong regen really recaptures a lot of energy you would otherwise waste with friction braking. Plus, the one-pedal driving ability really enhances the driving experience. Nice job otherwise!

  6. Tom, I've always enjoyed your comments here. Perhaps the difference in opinion is just due to you now being used to the braking and others not having enough time to do so.

    I will say that Tesla will end up with a worthy competitor, which is great for all of us. Now, I just need to start saving...

    And I'll join the others in noting it's a great article with an outstanding video. Good work, Nikki!

  7. Thanks! I have frequently commented on this exact topic. When reporters get behind the wheel of an EV that has strong regenerative braking, it is unsettling at first. Even those that have experienced mild regen, are very surprised when they have tested BMW's EV's(MINI-E & ActiveE). Most say it's too strong. Yet jsut about 100% of the people that have leased them, absolutely love the strong regen and even say they would like it stronger. It only takes a couple days to get used to and once you do you'll wish it was on every car. The folks at BMW were very surprised at how much the drivers liked it. There were those in Munich that wanted it toned down but once they got the user surveys back they realized we all love it this way so they are kee

  8. Keeping it very strong on the i3/i8 like it was on the MINI-E and ActiveE.

  9. Fully agree the one pedal driving on the ActiveE is awesome! You can't go back to "normal" cars after driving the BMW. Love it!

  10. Tom, thanks for the background comments. I'm nowhere near as experienced in EVs or PHEVs, but my first time with regenerative brakes I hated them. Now I wouldn't mind even stronger ones on my Volt.

    Saving my pennies for the right vehicle from BMW or Audi in 2015 when my lease is up. But will there be enough volume for people like me...? I can only hope! Between Tesla, BMW, Audi and Cadillac, there could be some serious luxury competition even before battery prices make it a mass thing. What about Fisker, Daimler, Toyota/Lexus, etc...? Good times coming.

  11. Nikki, great review, it was good to see you at our meetup in San Francisco last year. Much like yourself, I came to the ActiveE from the Leaf and found the strong regen to be surprising. After a few weeks and 1,400 miles in the ActiveE, I had an opportunity to drive the Leaf again. The first thing that came to my mind was: where is the regen? I had to switch to ECO mode to find the ride tolerable. Although I grew very fond of the Leaf, I have to admit that one-pedal driving is a good idea. To be clear, I still find it hard to coast, but otherwise I'm thrilled by this concept. I wish the level of regen was adjustable, and I would select the maximum setting. Perhaps BMW will make this possible at some point in the future.

  12. The regen is not too aggressive. It just takes 30 minutes of city driving for most drivers to excel at it. I've been going back and forth between my Active E, a BMW 325i, and a Lexus IS300. By far, the Active E is the most fun to drive! The elimination of shifting gears, the quiet operation, the complete lack of vibrations, the regen, no toxic fumes, and the incredible torque make my Active E the best car running on the road today!

  13. Sounds quieter than my Volt if that's even possible...


  14. The video sucks. The handheld shots are shaky, the cuts are amateurish, the interior shots are boring and there aren't enough cutaways. Why is there an exterior shot of the driver's mirror? The whole thing looks like it was thrown together in a half hour by a junior high school student.

    The sound was decent and the information presented by the talent was informative.

  15. Some is now running for the video producer position :)

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