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Part 1: Living with the BMW ActiveE

ActiveE, Featured Posts | March 5th, 2012 by 37
bmw-activee-review-02

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 …

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.

Likes:

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.

Dislikes:

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:

http://activeemobility.blogspot.com/

 

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  • cag4

    Thanks Tom, those of us who are still waiting for delivery of our “E’s” are living vicariously through you — at least for now!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you. Your time will come and you won’t be disappointed. It’s a great car, regardless of the propulsion system. Being electric is the icing on the cake!

  • http://jpwhitehome.wordpress.com JP White

    Good article. Here’s hoping BWM make a car people can keep. Audi are right behind BMW, looks like Germany will break the Japanese dominance.

  • Larrylgreenhill

    Tom:
    The E82E service guide distributed last week on the Active E forum states on page 157 that the Active E takes 24 hours to charge fully if one uses a 120V/20 AMP source. Have you tried to charge the Active E using the 120V outlets in your garage, and does it take 24 hours?

    Does this mean that it wouldn’t be useful to charge my Active E during the 8 hour work-day using the 120V outlets available to me in our office’s parking garage?

    Larry

    • Anonymous

      Larry, I really don’t use the 120v ‘convenience’ EVSE unless it become necessary. I have done some tests with it so far just to see how quickly(slowly) it charges the car. It seems to charge about 3-4% per hour so I’d say it would take a little longer than 24hours to fully charge a depleted pack. You do need to know how fast it does charge in so if you are stuck and need to charge 120v you’ll know how ling to wait before unplugging. You don’t have to keep checking. I tell everyone to bank on 3.5 miles per hour of charging at 120v. If you are dangerously low of charge it’s better to find a 120v outlet and plug in, then get your phone out and search for the nearest level 2 public charge points and charge just enough to make it there because you can then charge up quickly. There are also apps like PlugShare where you  can see not only where there are public EVSE’s, but also private homes where people have level 1 & level 2 charging that they share with others in need. Check it out, I think you’ll be surprised how many people out there have their home listed and will let you charge there if needed.

    • Anonymous

      I just realized I didn’t really answer your question. Of course it would be useful to plug in 120v while working. In an 8 hour workday you’ll be adding 25 to 30 miles of range and that’s a nice cushion in case you need to go to other destinations before you arrive home. Plus, it’s about 8kWh’s of electricity every day that won’t be on your home electric bill ;)

  • Kevinmoloughney

    bmw and the electric car industry in general have a great spokeman. the car will certainly be put through its paces and we will get a real world accessment of it. thats what is needed to move the technology ahead.

    • Anonymous

      That you Keven. Love the last name! ;)

  • Plaxico

    nice post.Tnx man…But there is one problem,and please dont take it personally but car is heeeeeellllaaaa ugly,that only mother can love.Hope next 2er will be much better looking

    • Anonymous

      “Looks” are subjective and while I like the 1 series, I know others don’t.  There are a lot of people that say they hate how the i3 looks, but having seen the concept in person, I like it and want the utility of a small hatchback as my commuter car.

  • chuckhawley

    Just finished my first week with my Active e, Tom, and I have elected to use only the 110V charger at home, due to the $3500 I was quoted to install the fast(er) charger. My commute is only 40 miles, so I can stay ahead of the consumption curve during the week and have a full “tank” for the weekend. Interestingly, in Santa Cruz, one of the city-owned parking garages offers free Level 2 charging plus free parking, so it absolutely makes me consider downtown for dining and shopping.

    I have been averaging about 3.3mi/kVh in driving that is about 40% urban and 60% freeway. Distance calculations seem very accurate, albeit a tiny bit conservative. Fully topped off, my DTG display says 92 miles in EcoPro, and 80 or 81 miles in regular. I think I am getting closer to 100 miles in EcoPro.

    Thanks for documenting your experiences!

    Chuck

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      Chuck,

      This is a great report also. Thank you.

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      Chuck,

      This is a great report also. Thank you.

    • Diego Letamendi

      Hello Chuck, I am a fellow resident of Santa Cruz County, and I think I have seen your ActiveE around a couple times. Actually yesterday 6/13 I saw an ActiveE leaving Watsonville going to Aptos. Well I have a two questions for you if you’d be so kind to answer them. First is you mention a free Level 2 charger in a Santa Cruz parking lot. Exactly which one would that be? I own a Leaf and am usually driving with my family near downtown with low battery, so it would be a blessing to charge at one of the parking lots there and be able to eat dinner at one of the restuarants there. Is it the one near that Cafe? Also my second question is which dealer you leased your ActiveE from? My husband currently owns a BMW 328i and is looking to lease an ActiveE while he waits for the i3.

  • chuckhawley

    Just finished my first week with my Active e, Tom, and I have elected to use only the 110V charger at home, due to the $3500 I was quoted to install the fast(er) charger. My commute is only 40 miles, so I can stay ahead of the consumption curve during the week and have a full “tank” for the weekend. Interestingly, in Santa Cruz, one of the city-owned parking garages offers free Level 2 charging plus free parking, so it absolutely makes me consider downtown for dining and shopping.

    I have been averaging about 3.3mi/kVh in driving that is about 40% urban and 60% freeway. Distance calculations seem very accurate, albeit a tiny bit conservative. Fully topped off, my DTG display says 92 miles in EcoPro, and 80 or 81 miles in regular. I think I am getting closer to 100 miles in EcoPro.

    Thanks for documenting your experiences!

    Chuck

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