BMW’s first factory made entry into the EV market is the Active E. Based on the 1 Series sedan The Active E is similar in size to a Mercedes C class sedan. The active E is a factory conversion not a ground up EV development like Nissan Leaf. The BMW engineers stayed true to the core values of BMW design by making the Active E a drivers car. Details like 50/50 weight distribution, rear wheel drive, analogue gauges and tight responsive steering make the Active E a true BMW.
The only hint that this is not a standard gas engine equipt 1 series comes from the unusual tunnel mounted shift lever and a dash mounted start button in place of the standard shift lever and keyed ignition.
The main info screen is understated with and unobtrusive, a total departure from the Nissan Leaf display that begins each drive with a short melody and quick display of flashing lights and sweeping bar graphs. The BMW simply initiates the dash displays and brings the analogue gauges to life with a single blip of all the analogue gauge needles in unison. various perameters are controlled from steering wheel mounted buttons as on many modern cars but the eye is drawn to the center mounted charge discharge gauge a black face white numeral display that starts with the needle centered pointing up to 12 o’clock until the throttle is applied.
Initial take off is brisk and controlable. Electric whine is audible and pleasing adding some sensation of speed to the driving experience. As with most BMW products the motor noise is intentionally introduced to the passenger cabin while road noise and wind noise are kept to a minimum. The everpresent whine noise eminating from the fixed ratio electric powerplant helps keep the driver aware of approximate vehicle speed with out checking the speedometer. The Nissan Leaf offers a more removed driving experience with noticably less motor noise and a more disconnected steering experience. The black cockpit and off white leather seats of the BMW interior is also much sportier than the Leaf’s micro sued and plastic futuristic cabin.
The down side of all the sporty driving pleasure of the BMW active E is the price tag. At near $60,000 the Active E begs the question – Should I just wait to buy a Tesla before spend $60k on this thing. To be fair to BMW this is a high quality EV maybe the best combination of sporty drive feel and practicality of four seats that is currently available to buy. As with any new technology the early adopters pay a premium price. If you need to be the first kid on the block with a high performance Electric sedan the BMW Active is the one and only choice currently available to buy.
The technical details of the Active E are:
32kWh battery divided into three sections. The reason BMW engineers divided the battery into three pieces was to maintain 50/50 front rear weight distribution and to build the car on the existing 1 series platform. One portion of the battery is under the hood another in the area normally occupied by the transmission the third in place of the fuel tank.
As with other EV products the manufacturers are very secretive about battery controll startegies, this is the secret sauce that could be easily replicated if the formula got out. The overall capacity of 32 kWh is listed in the vehicle specs but it is unknow how much of that capacity is used before the battery gauge shows empty and computer controls shut down the car. Assume 90% as a rough estimate and the BMW battery usable capacity would be 28.8 kWh, a fair amount more than the Nissan leaf 21.6 kWh capacity but quiter a bit less than the upcomming Tesla model S 37.8 kWh battery pack ( Nissan and Tesla capacities also reduced to reflect 90% discharge until empty estimate)
-Motor: The Active true to BMW heritage is a rear wheel drive. This may not be important to many drivers but rear wheel drive is a nice feature when negotiating high speed maneuvers. In my experience rear wheel drive does not increase the safety of a vehicle but makes the vehicle more predictable when it is pushed past the limits of safe road handling.
In terms of motor power output again the Active is a middle ground between the Leaf and the Tesla S
Nissan Leaf Motor power output 80 kW
0-60mph 9.9 seconds
BMW active E Motor power output 125 kW
0-60 8.5 seconds
Tesla S Motor power output – TBD
0-60 5.6 seconds
The BMW Active E is at the top of it’s field. There is no better choice if you are looking for a high performance practical (four seater) EV. Unfortunately the field of Electric Cars is changing so quickly that no one will remain on top for very long.