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ActiveE BMW brings us a step further to premium brand EV products

08 February 2012
ActiveE BMW brings us a step further to premium brand EV products

By Robin Haycock, Head of Transport, The Climate Group.

(February 8, 2012) 

The relentlessly planned and calculated drive of BMW towards its launch of the i3 pure electric production vehicle towards the end of 2013, really is a fantastic force to witness.  

Recently I was given the opportunity to drive BMW's ActiveE, which is in the public stage two of its journey and follows on from MiniE, now testing the powertrain of the i3.

In the USA, Europe and China, a test fleet of over 1000 BMW ActiveE vehicles produced by the Leipzig plant (as part of BMW's bigger picture of what sustainability over lifetime emissions of a car actually means) will be assessed by a wide range of people, to further build the right decisions into the i3 ahead of its much anticipated launch.

With a power output of 125 kW/170 bhp and maximum torque of 250 Nm, the car accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 9 seconds. It’s a great drive, but the unique quality for me is the fact the car has been designed around the use of the throttle only! What does that mean? Well the pleasure for me is the fact that the BMW engineers have got the regen breaking perfect. I only had to use the brakes once on my test drive - when a van got dangerously close to me and my passenger, Angela Konert the charming Government Affairs Executive who managed my whole experience in the professional way I have learned to expect from them.

So the ActiveE beats conventional vehicles hands down in terms of driving pleasure in congested London. Its near silent, has no smell, and is seamless with its automatic acceleration and perfect regen breaking.

There must be something I can criticize? Well the cup holder… but that obviously has nothing to do with the EV concept on offer.

Angela gave me lots of engineering details about the ActiveE but I’m not going to bore you with that. I am an engineer, but I want to focus on the two other major steps forward I talked to her about - they are going to launch! And it’s not just a calculated marketing issue dependent on whether the market for EVs picks up. They have a new factory dedicated to EV products (and hence optimised for that powertrain only).

They also have an exciting launch plan. I have seen lots of plans and sketches of what might be, but BMW is a market leader determined to carve their space in an emerging technology. They may have been a little late at the start, but they're charging ahead now. Engineering, research, focus and determination is what I can see from BMW.

The product is unashamedly premium. They believe that EV is a premium product with unique features that beat the alternatives. They have taken the weight out through carbon fibre – a technology we could spend the whole article and more debating, but I am happy with the discussion. With a premium product and no real competition, then the performance can be enhanced, and the price sensitivity of introducing carbon fibre to a mass market 3 series is avoided.

If my primary vehicle choice wasn’t a bicycle then I would be straight to the showroom to consider the future ownership of an i3.

On that point, I am now on the waiting list to test drive their electric bicycle Pedelec which we will all see in a few months at the 2012 UK Olympics.   

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