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BMW Seeks "Electronauts" to Test Drive ActiveE

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author photo by Nick Chambers September 2011

While Nissan and Chevrolet simply dove headlong into electric cars, most automakers have been content to dip one toe in here and there while the others forge the way.

Take BMW. The company's extended Mini E test program of the last two years and development the world's first mass market, carbon fiber-framed electric car, the i3, due to be released in 2013, are certainly groundbreaking. But while the company's EV projects are exciting endeavors in and of themselves, its approach to bringing them to market has been methodically slow.

Following in that vein, at the end of this year BMW will begin the second phase of bringing the i3 to market by leasing 700 ActiveE all-electric 1-Series vehicles in a two-year, closed-end test program. It is both a follow up to the successful Mini E program and a way for BMW to conduct real-world tests of many of the systems that will eventually end up in the i3.

Up until this point, all we've known about the ActiveE program is that it will require a $2,250 down payment on a two-year, $499 per month lease which would begin in late 2011. And now, thanks to a rather inspirational video, we know that ActiveE program participants will be henceforth referred to as "Electronauts."

With the ActiveE, BMW says they were determined to maintain the fun and performance of the 1-Series it is based on. Featuring a 168 horsepower electric motor and rear-wheel drive, the car can go from 0-60 in less than 9 seconds. BMW estimates it will have a range of 100 miles on a full battery.

While a fun electric car is a great goal, at $499 per month it may be difficult to convince consumers that it's worth it when a Nissan Leaf can be leased for much less, has about the same performance characteristics, is a five door hatch compared to the ActiveE's two doors, and has more storage space.

In addition, Electronaut participation not only requires a financial commitment, it requires an evaluation of your home for appropriate electrical connections, monitoring of your driving habits, evaluation of your vehicle's performance, as well as occasional meetings with BMW staff and participation in events related to BMW's electric car program.

The program will be open to people in seven regions: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, New York and Boston as well as the entire state of Connecticut. Although the sign up procedure hasn't yet opened, BMW says they'll start taking applications soon on the ActiveE website, and are looking for people who "will help shape the way we live and move for generations."

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BMW Seeks "Electronauts" to Test Drive ActiveE - Autotrader