First Drive: 2012 BMW ActiveE

Featured Posts, Test Drives | November 5th, 2011 by 20
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I have to take back everything I’ve ever said about electric vehicles. Being the hardcore BMW enthusiast that I am, I was skeptical about anything …

I have to take back everything I’ve ever said about electric vehicles. Being the hardcore BMW enthusiast that I am, I was skeptical about anything EV, even a model wearing the famous Roundel. Just a few months ago, I volunteered to be an Electronaut advocate (Designated Client Advisor) knowing that I will be among the first to drive the all-new 2012 BMW ActiveE.

What’s an Electronaut? It’s the term used to describe the very few proud owners of BMW’s “ActiveE Field Test”. A select group of early adopters in BMW’s foray into the electric vehicles market. Every tidbit of information resulting from the ActiveE trial will be used by the BMW i sub-brand. Similar to how the MiniE field test was used in engineering the ActiveE.

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The Drive

How does it feel drivinging the 2012 BMW ActiveE? One phrase: TORQUE, and more TORQUE; all available from 0 rpm.

The 184 lb-ft of torque kicks in as soon as you mash the loud, maybe not so loud pedal, enough to propel the ActiveE to 60 mph in under 9 seconds.

Not as impressive as one would expect from a BMW? Well let’s look at the facts. The ActiveE is only available in MA, NY, NJ, CT and CA,  so with the high-traffic numbers in these regions, the 50 to 80 mph dashes aren’t so important. However, the ActiveE does make 170 horsepower which is enough to push the ActiveE to its electronically limited 90 mph.

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What is important is that standstill to 50 mph takes as much as a the 128i Coupe with combustion engine. The handling and street feel is identical to a sport-package equipped 128i as well. On my short drive through the back roads of Bergen county, the ActiveE displayed the exact same characteristics that made BMW be known for: planted handling, driving dynamics and efficient braking. The ActiveE also uses the electromechanical steering found in the BMW 7 Series.

Inside, the 2012 BMW ActiveE comes with four seats. BMW also includes a series of luxury features that are not available as standard on other vehicles: Bluetooth, Sirius Satellite radio and leather upholstery with cool blue stitching.

What did BMW leave out? The 18 city /28 Hwy mpg rating of a 128i Coupe. Instead, you get 100+ mile range on a full 4-5 hour battery charge. BMW has found out through research that 100 miles is more than the average driver travels in a day. Therefore, the BMW ActiveE will be marketed as the ideal commuter in the areas it will be sold in.

The exclusive ActiveE trial is available to only 700 people in the United States. There are certain criteria that one has to meet, but essentially the ActiveE is sold on a first come, first serve basis.  AeroVironment, a BMW partner company, comes to your house to inspect your electrical system ($100 charge), gives you an estimate to install the charge station (roughly $2,000 installed) and you are set for your electric vehicle experience.

Furthermore, you will own a SAE J1772 charge station compatible with most electric vehicles currently sold on the market, but more importantly, compatible with the future BMWi cars. BMW intends to give all Electronauts first dibs on future BMW i cars like they are doing for the MiniE pioneers.

MiniE pioneers will get their cars around December 15th, while the rest of the customers will take ownership of their ActiveE vehicles starting mid-January 2012. Since MiniE pioneers helped gather the intel to help BMW engineer the ActiveE, it is only fair that they get first pick.

BMW does not offer the ActiveE for sale, but rather leases them through an attractive program. BMW Financial Services has a 24-month, unlimited mileage lease for $499 per month with $2,250 down. Yep, unlimited mileage! Sounds like something I need as a daily driver.

Sounds like a lot of hoops to jump through for an EV 1 Series Coupe, but I can assure you, it is worth it.

20 responses to “First Drive: 2012 BMW ActiveE”

  1. Giom says:

    Must say, it sounds really great! I’d love the idea of commuting every single day without having to stop by the increasingly expensive fuel station. The ideal, tho, would be to have one of these for the daily hops and a sports car for everything else. Great article Manny!

    • Manny Antunes says:

      Thanks :-)

      • Rklein8 says:

            Do you work for BMW ..?  Your Blogs seem very subjective ?
        The Electronaut program in NY seems like marketing hype that can cost over $21,000.00 to test trial a car ?   with all the investments made ..

        • Manny Antunes says:

          Hi, sorry for the UBER Delayed reply, I do not work for BMW corporate but i do work for a BMW Center in NJ (JMK BMW) Even though I’m a huge BMW fan I try to make all my articles as subjective as I can, I think most everyone on the staff do the same.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Nicely done Manny. I’m anxious to get mine. I’m particularly interested in comparing the effects the cold weather has on the cars range. As a MINI-E driver for the past 29 months, really the only glaring flaw the car has is how much the ambient temperature will effect the range. BMW has recognized just how important battery temperature management is and have included a sophisticated active liquid management system on the ActiveE. This system will maintain the battery’s temperature to optimize it’s performance and lifespan. We will also be able to pre-condition the battery and the cabin while it’s still plugged into the grid. This way, you leave for your destination with a 100% charged battery that has been warmed or cooled, and a cabin that is already adjusted to the temperature you set it at. This keeps you from using energy that is stored in the battery to do these things and allows you to use that energy to drive further, which is the ultimate goal: more consistent range through the different seasons and temperatures. Consumers don’t want to have to look at the thermometer in the morning to figure out how far their car will go that day. Without a sophisticated thermal management system(hello Nissan LEAF) that’s what they get. Luckily BMW realizes that’s not acceptable for the “Ultimate Driving EV”.

    • Manny Antunes says:

      Thanks Tom. Great point on the thermal liquid management system. It was one of the highlights we discussed yesterday at our drive event. BMW is very proud of this feature. Hugo( ActiveE engineer) stated that maintaining and pre-conditioning the battery temperature has increased travel range by up to 10% in some EU markets.
      I’m pretty sure the ActiveE will be a success for BMW in helping it move toward the BMWi cars. 

  3. Peder Norby says:

    Great review,
    As a Mini-E driver I’ll share some of my insights,  When I went for the first time to drive the car my concern was that it would go slow up hills or that it would be hard to pass on the freeway. Let me assure you that these ActiveE cars if even close to the fun of driving the Mini-E can be your sports car on the weekend and the daily driver as the article pointed out.    The performance and fun (torque and continuous rev/regen) is unlike any other car.
    I also kept a second car thinking the Mini-E could not handle all my trips. After two months I sold the second car and for the past 2.5 years the Mini-E has made all my trips with the exception of three trips to Napa in which we took the wife’s car.  The electric car proves to be far more practicle than most think it will be.

    • Giom says:

      That’s really good to know Peder. It gives one a new anticipation for what lies ahead. Can’t wait to see what the i3 and i8 is going to be like!

  4. Michael Kobb says:

    So, question.  Your second photo shows a battery readout, showing a nearly full battery (93%).  Below that, it has what looks like a range graph, showing 54 of 58 miles remaining.  This implies that a full charge is only 58 miles, far below the 100 claimed by BMW.  Can you explain what this indicator means, and why it would be showing such a low figure?

    • Manny Antunes says:

      Hi Michael. Good eye! When we received the ActiveE, it was fully charged, showing us a range very close to 100miles. Since i was driving the car aggressively for a number of miles in and around North Jersey; lots of full throttle applications, the computer was simply anticipating a range based upon my driving habits. Had i been driving the car like a normal person, it would have shown a range on the order of 90 miles or so, but I’m not normal :-)

      Seriously, I’ll have our center’s demo in mid December. I plan a long weekend drive with the ActiveE and will report back my findings.

  5. Dmenagh says:

    What happens with those of us that already have a car charger installed (Blink with a SAE J1772 plug)? Do we still need a on-site consultation? Will we be forced to buy & install a AV charger (BMW’s partner)?

  6. Bprojas says:

    To everyone at BMW USA:
    This is the first time in 14 years of being a BMW customer that I write a note to you and I’m doing it simply because I’m extremely dissatisfied with the way BMW USA and the Active E car allocation process has been managed.  It was almost a year ago that I learned about the Active E car and as soon as you opened the preregistration process, I completed the online form.  Unfortunately, the lack of communication between your company and your customers has been inexcusable and to some extent insulting.  From the time I registered in your Active E website to the time I got the letter below, it has been a guessing game with very little information received from anyone, including from your Stevens Creek, Santa Clara, CA BMW Dealer (no blame on them, because they seems to be as lost as we are).  I can’t even count the number of emails and calls I made to BMW in the past few months, including to your AeroVironment charging station consultation partner to find out if they had any updates or if anything else was needed to expedite the process. Everyone I talked to told me the same thing: “We have very little information from BMW North America and we cannot help you at this time”. 

    I really thought that by acting quickly in the pre-registration process and by completing all the steps required, I was going to get one of the Active E cars, but I only got a note that reads: “BMW Electronaut Recruitment: You’ve been placed on the West Coast waiting list”, with no further details about what this means, where in the waiting list I’m in, for how long I need to wait, or what criteria was used to determine the car allocation.

    My current car leasing is coming to an end in a couple of months (April, 2012) and for the first time in 14 years, me and my family are saying goodbye to the BMW brand.  I feel that your company was not very straight forward with us when advertising the Active E car and the lack of customer care that your company has demonstrated throughout this process has hugely impacted my perception of BWM.  With that said and until you fix this mess; I’m taking my business elsewhere.

    • Rklein8 says:

      So far I fully agree..with you ,..  I too am very frustrated with BMW and all the marketing Hype.. BMW is adverstiving the all new activeE as a field trial to the select few? 
       The select few who want to pay almost $1000.00 a month for 24 months to have an electric car that maybe can go 100 miles.. plus at the end you are stuck with an electical charging station ?? 

    • Dmenagh says:

      Bprojas —
      My experiences are exactly what happened to to you, and your opinions are also identical to mine. What are the BMW executives thinking? Are they believing their own marketing? Good customer service is exceeding the expectations of the customer. Hype is just hype. If BMW can’t even get it together to lease these vehicles to us enthusiasts there are big problems on the horizon. FYI to BMW: customers are getting turned off by all the electric car over promises (marketing hype), failure to deliver what is promised, and the over price. Look at Chevy, who has just taken a 5 week lay-off in building Volts (very few customers are buying/leasing gas-assisted electric cars, do you think you’ll sell/lease many all electric vehicles that get 80 mile +/- range?).

  7. Anonymous says:

    We’ve had our AE for five days and have driven 172 miles on about $3 worth of electricity!  Love the car but hate the decals.  Drove from Connecticut to midtown Manhattan yesterday for a total of 103 miles RT.  (got a free re-charge at BMW Manhattan). Car worked perfectly and the balance between charging and discharging is almost equal in midtown traffic. Westside Drive was crawling from zero to 10 MPH during our commute and we lost virtually no battery charge thanks to the regeneration feature. So far, so good — real good!

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