Overview: BMW Active E

Click here to see our article from May, 2010 about the Concept Active E show car.

The 2011 Geneva Motor Show will see the world premier of the BMW Active E. Based on the current BMW 1-series Coupé, the Active E is the second electric test vehicle — after the Mini E — to be fielded by the BMW Group.

The electric Einser has four seats and a luggage compartment of 200 litres — not much, particularly in the light of the increasingly ingenious packaging of E.V. battery-packs we have seen elsewhere. Nevertheless, the occupants have the same amount of room as they would in a conventionally-powered 1-series coupé.

The Active E uses a synchronous motor with peak rated outputs of 168PS and 250Nm — by way of comparison, the 120d offers 177PS and 350Nm. BMW claims that the electric coupé will reach 60mph in nine seconds from a standing start, with a maximum speed electronically limited to 90mph. So far as handling dynamics is concerned, a low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution should do no harm.

Replacing the engine, transmission and fuel tank are three large battery-packs. Their lithium-ion cells were developed in conjunction with SB LiMotive. These battery modules are protected by a steel-plate housing with an integrated liquid cooling system.

Like the Mini E, the BMW Active E is engineered so that when the driver takes his foot off the accelerator pedal the motor becomes a generator and feeds the electricity created from kinetic energy back into the vehicle battery, creating negative (braking) torque at the driving wheels. Unlike the Mini E, the accelerator pedal has a ‘neutral’ position, where the car is effectively freewheeling without using power and without being braked.

The car’s operating system has an Eco Pro mode, in which the drive configuration and comfort functions are modified to use less energy and promote a more efficient driving style. In Eco Pro mode, the heating and air conditioning system are programmed to use less energy, and the accelerator is less responsive.

The Active E has its own unique instrument cluster, with the fuel gauge and rev counter replaced by dials that show the level of charge left in the battery and the amount of energy being used or recuperated.

The BMW can be charged using a 32A wall-box in five hours, or overnight from a conventional domestic socket.

A test fleet of over 1000 BMW Active E vehicles will shortly enter trials in the USA, Europe and China. BMW intends that the trials will provide insights into the everyday use of electric vehicles and into the attitudes and concerns of the users. The knowledge and insights gained from the field trials of the Active E will be fed back for the future development of the BMW Megacity vehicle, which is due to go into production in 2013. BMW U.K. will be part of the trial project, leasing Active Es to selected customers.

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