February 28, 2011
Although BMW has just unveiled the final production version of its Active E at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show, don’t expect the heavily modified, all-electric BMW 1-Series Coupe to be easy to come by when it goes on sale in the US, Europe and China later in 2011. As part of BMW’s growing global electric test fleet that already includes 600 MINI-E prototypes, only 1,000 BMW Active Es will be produced.
BMW says the Active E will build on the success of company’s two-year-old MINI–E test program as well as provide additional real-world test information as it prepares to launch its first mass-market battery powered vehicles in 2013 – the i3 and the i8 – under their newly-created "BMW i" sub-brand.
As a further refinement of the company’s electric car test bed, the Active E will sport "pre-production" versions of many of the same components that should eventually end up in the 2013 BMW i3 – a hip all-electric hatchback aimed at affluent, young urbanites – including its drivetrain and battery. The individual cells in the Active E’s battery pack will be supplied by SB LiMotive – a joint venture between Bosch and Samsung – and the entire pack will be liquid cooled and heated to ensure stable operating conditions in different climates.
With its high-torque 170 horsepower electric motor mounted directly on its rear axle, and its battery pack mounted where the combustion engine would normally sit, BMW says the Active E has the same interior dimensions as a normal 1 Series Coupe. This includes space for four seats and a trunk big enough for two full-size golf bags
BMW expects the Active E to be able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in about 9 seconds and predicts the vehicle will travel 100 real-world miles on a single charge – all while still maintaining the driving dynamics of the conventional rear-wheel drive 1 Series Coupe.
Even though the Active E is a precursor to the i3, BMW warns against using the Active E as a measuring stick for how the i3 will perform. For instance, the i3 will be able to travel farther on the same amount of battery power because the Active E is a conversion of an existing car, whereas the i3 has been optimized from the ground up to take advantage of its electric drivetrain–including ultra lightweight construction from aluminum and carbon fiber reinforced plastic.
Much as with the original MINI-E program, all 1,000 Active Es will be leased to specially selected consumers in the various global test markets. These consumers will be chosen based on driving habits, regional climates and other factors BMW hopes to evaluate. And, as a way to say "thank you" to the original MINI-E participants, customers in that test group will be given priority access to participate in the Active E lease program when final pricing and conditions are set within the next few months.
NICK CHAMBERS is a "next generation" car enthusiast, recognized for his green automotive coverage in Gas 2.0, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com. In addition, he’s been syndicated in Matter Network, AP and Reuters.