Tom Moloughney introduces a new series on BMWBLOG: Living with the BMW ActiveE. Tom is the first customer to take ownership of an ActiveE electric-vehicle and over the next months, he will share with us his experience behind the wheel of the first full-electric BMW vehicle. Prior to the 1 Series electric car, Tom also leased a MINI E.
On January 13th 2012, BMW’s North American president Ludwig Willisch presented me and my wife Meredith with the keys to our BMW ActiveE. We were the very first customers in BMW history to buy, or in this case lease an all electric BMW. It was a great honor and I thank BMW for choosing me for this distinction. It didn’t happen by chance though. I had been driving an electric MINI-E for the past 2 1/2 years and during that time I have become a strong vocal proponent for BMW’s electric vehicle program and also managed to drive the MINI-E more than any other person in the trial lease program, putting over 73,000 miles on it in the 30 months I had it.
Now that I’ve been driving it for nearly two months and have about 5,000 miles on the odometer, I feel that I have enough time with it to appreciate it’s advancements over the MINI-E and also have formed my opinions on what still needs to be refined before it’s implemented into the 2013 BMW i3.
First of all, the car is an absolute pleasure to drive. I’ve driven just about every electric vehicle produced in recent years like the Nissan LEAF, the Chevy Volt, the Mitsubishi iMiEV and the Tesla Roadster and the ActiveE is definitely the best all around electric vehicle in my opinion. Sure I’d love to take the Roadster out on the track for a while, but for every day utility and driving pleasure and comfort, it’s no comparison to the ActiveE. The BMW engineers deserve a lot of credit here because it’s extraordinarily difficult to take a car that was meant for an internal combustion powertrain and retro-fit an electric drivetrain and still maintain the cars balance, poise and fun-to-drive aspect and they did.
As good as it is it’s still a test vehicle, who’s purpose is to refine the components and software that will be used in the BMW i3 when it’s launched sometime in late 2013, and thus improvements can and will be made. I’d like to point out a few of the things I particularly like as well as a few things I’d like to see improved upon.
Very smooth transition between regenerative braking acceleration. Some of the other EV’s felt a bit “jerky” transitioning back and forth. The MINI-E wasn’t nearly as smooth as the ActiveE is.
Strong, right-pedal regenerative braking. I like the regenerative braking to be activated by the right pedal. Some automakers are putting it on the friction brake pedal on the left. BMW has it right here and this allows the driver to basically drive using only the right pedal. It only takes a few days to get used to and once you do you won’t want it any other way, trust me. Most experienced EV drivers that have driven cars with strong right pedal regen concur.
Great driving experience. The car is just what I would expect from BMW. It’s rock solid, has great handling, is very comfortable and the cabin is exceptionally quiet, even for an EV.
Charge rate of 7.7kW. The time it takes to charge an EV is critical. You don’t want the car’s inability to charge quickly restrict it’s utility. BMW has allowed the ActiveE to accept up to 7.7kW of electricity when charging at home or at level 2 public charging stations. That’s more than double what the Nissan LEAF or the Chevy volt can accept. The LEAF does have an optional level 3 DC quick charge port, but since the ActiveE program is only 24 months it wouldn’t be worth it to have level 3 DC charging available because there are very few DC quick charge stations installed and working. There are a few in California, but none here in New Jersey so I wouldn’t be able to use it anyway. However the i3 should definitely have the ability to charge at level 3 DC stations which will be able to charge the car to 80% capacity in under a ½ hour and make long distance driving possible.
The ActiveE isn’t very efficient. So far I’ve been averaging a little over 3 miles per kWh of electricity consumed. If I drive very efficiently I can push it up to about 4 miles per kWh which is good, but not great. This is mostly the effect of the cars 4,000lb weight. Even so, the EPA rated the ActiveE at 102MPGe, which is better than the Nissan LEAF, which is remarkable since this is a converted ICE car and BMW had to add hundreds of pounds of steel to reinforce the frame and protect the batteries. To make an efficient EV it needs to be designed from the ground up as an EV and BMW knows this and is doing so with the new “BMW i” cars. I fully expect the i3 to achieve 5 miles per kWh in normal driving conditions.
The ActiveE has an Eco Pro mode that is designed to extend the cars range. It does so by reducing the power sent to the motor and limiting the power the cabin heating and cooling receives. It works –very well actually and I can get about 10-15 miles more range using it. However there are two things I would change. When in Eco Pro mode the heated seats do not work at all. I would prefer if they did because I would expect that they use less energy than the cabin heater does and I could easily turn off the cabin heater and leave the heated seats on when it’s not too cold out and I believe that would be more efficient. I would also have the car default to Eco Pro mode instead of making you press a button to activate it. Even better, let the owner configure which mode they want the car to default to.
The car won’t charge to 100%. For some reason, every time I get in after charging, the state of charge is either 98% or 99%. Other ActiveE drivers have reported the same thing so it’s not just my car. I know this is a minor thing, but I want to see 100%! The car must stop charging just a few minutes before it is really 100% charged and BMW needs to correct it.
Overall I’m very impressed and extremely pleased with the ActiveE. It’s fun to drive, very comfortable and offers a great electric driving experience. Honestly, I expected no less from BMW. After all, this is the Ultimate driving EV.
I maintain a blog about my experiences living with an electric BMW and it can be found at: