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BMW ActiveE – New York Auto Show

April 21, 2011


BMW is getting electrified. In the run-up to the 2011 New York auto show, the company pulled the wraps off its ActiveE coupe. The ActiveE’s powertrain is all electric, and its makers were keen to assure everyone that the ActiveE is also “100 percent BMW.”

Taking a 1-Series coupe as a starting point, the ActiveE packs a 170-horsepower motor under a somewhat swollen hood. The sprint from standstill to 60 mph takes just under nine seconds. Not exactly breathtaking, but BMW says it will feel a lot quicker, due to the other side of the power-output equation: torque.

Expressing that surge of acceleration as a number, the ActiveE enjoys a respectable 184 pound-feet of toque. The thing about electric motors is that their maximum torque is always available; normal combustion engines tend to have a “sweet spot” which stretches over a certain number of revolutions per minute (RPM).

Combine the torque with what should be a fine-handling machine, the kind of thing for which BMW is renowned, and there’s a good chance the ActiveE will be able to back up the bullish claims. And unlike the BMW Group’s previous battery powered offering, the Mini E, this car has seating for four plus some luggage space.

Range is stated to be 100 miles, about as good as the current (pardon the pun) EV lithium-ion technology gets. Recharging on a 220-volt, 32-amp device (what your clothes dryer runs on), the norm for charging stations, takes four to five hours. And naturally, there will be a smartphone app to get the car warmed or cooled while it is still plugged into the grid. This is known as pre-conditioning and helps the battery achieve its maximum range.

Starting this fall, 700 examples will be available to lease. The deal is $499 a month over 24 months, with a down payment of $2,250. Cities on either coast, where the support infrastructure is more evident, will be getting the greater portion of ActiveE cars. At the New York event, the display model had graphics that represent circuit board wiring. This will be an option. It seems Mini E drivers liked having their car’s dedicated graphics so they could show the world they were driving a zero-emissions vehicle, so BMW thinks this next wave of early adopters could feel the same.

There is, however, a further step in BMW’s plans. Feedback from drivers, and knowledge gained from having 700 EVs on the road, will all be incorporated and filtered into the i3, first fruit of the upcoming “i” sub-brand and BMW’s first all-electric production vehicle, scheduled for 2013.

And for people who like the idea of an EV but aren’t sure if it would be a good fit, there’s now an app for that. BMW offers its Evolve app for iPhones and Androids. It tracks daily driving habits, regardless of what kind of car the user currently owns, and helps determine whether an electric vehicle would make a suitable choice. More information can be found at


COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

Our editors are here to make car buying easier. We’ve driven, reviewed and compared thousands of cars. We’ve bought and sold more than our fair share, too. And as part of the sprawling Cox Automotive group of companies, we have exclusive access to a range of valuable data and insights. Whether you’re looking for the best car, the best deal or the best buying advice, you can trust... Read More about Autotrader

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