BMW ActiveE - a second entry in project i Megacity debuts

In Detroit, BMW debuted its latest i Megacity Vehicle Initiative car: the ActiveE concept. The ActiveE is a concept prototype that will be tested on the road much as the earlier Mini E (electric Mini Cooper) has been.

by Aaron Turpen

Specs:

The ActiveE is based on the 1 Series Coupe, is all-electric, and will see field tests beginning later in 2010.

  • Type: All-electric
  • Class: 2-door coupe (seats 4)
  • Manufacturer: BMW
  • Propulsion system: Electric Drive
  • Top Speed: 90mph (electronically limited)
  • Vehicle range: 100+ miles per charge
  • Fuel(s): Electric
  • Battery system: Lithium-ion (SB LiMotive)
  • Time to full battery recharge: 3 / 4.5 hours (EU, USA)
  • Price: Lease only, unknown
  • Availability: 2010 (limited lease)

The manufacturer says

The BMW Concept ActiveE provides a taste of a purely electrically powered BMW. Focused on the requirements of practical use, the study is based on the BMW 1 Series Coupe and embodies the outstanding agility and characteristic driving pleasure of the 1 Series for the first time as part of an emissions-free drive concept.

Overview

BMW is looking towards new concepts in all-electric driving and through their i Megacity initiative, the automaker has been field testing their first electric vehicle: the Mini E. With results from that in, after months on the road, BMW is now stepping forward with a new concept, the ActiveE.

This car is still all-electric, but is based on a more practical, four-seat design using the 1 Series chassis and body. The batteries are a special, never-before used set of cells made in the joint venture between BMW and SB LiMotive specifically for automobiles.

The car has an in-house motor developed especially for the ActiveE. It rides on the rear axle, providing 125kW (170hp or 250Nm/180lb-ft of torque) and it accelerates the vehicle from 0-60 in about 8.5 seconds. The motor is made to deliver high torque, even at high road speeds, with the torque load decreasing incrementally rather than abruptly when the motor approaches its highest output threshold. This mimics combustion engine performance.

The batteries in the ActiveE are also made specifically for the car and are the first of the joint venture mentioned above. These are liquid-cooled lithium-ion and are split into two major portions in the car. The largest is in the center of the car where a conventional combustion vehicle would have a propshaft and fuel tank. The rest is under the ìhoodî at the front of the car.

Total vehicle curb weight is only 3,900 pounds with most of that weight being batteries, which center the gravity of the car to give a sports-like (50-50) handling. The battery management system facilitates economical driving to preserve range, as well as faster charging, requiring only about 3 hours on European wall current and 4.5 hours in America.

Regenerative braking also supplies more power to the batteries. The unique BMW system focuses braking power on the rear wheels (electronically), using the motor as a generator to return power while slowing the vehicle. Front discs are, of course, still safety-standard hydraulic brakes for fast-stopping and emergencies. The vehicle is capable of returning up to 30% of its kinetic power back to the batteries during normal driving.

What we like

Innovative and Forward-Thinking - the ActiveE is definitely thinking forward, incorporating many systems in its concept and prototype that other car manufacturers have only talked about or hinted at.

Preserves the Driving Experience - BMW is definitely focused on preserving the traditional driving experience, which is probably the best way to convince those leery of new technology to accept it. Once they see that their everyday driving will remain relatively unchanged, most people will probably be more likely to accept all-electric driving as a norm.

What we don't

Limited Availability - this is probably our number one complaint about most concepts and limited-run prototypes. They just aren't available to most of us and probably won't be for some time.

Still Small - another common complaint is the average size of the electrics being fielded now. They're almost all very small cars. Seating four is a nice step forward, but in the end, most families will require a 5+ seat vehicle to make it practical.

Conclusions

BMW is definitely stepping in the right direction while preserving their options. Although the ActiveE is the latest in BMW's all-electric field test vehicles, the company is also focused on high-efficiency diesels as well as hybrid-electrics.

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