BMW Moves Methodically Toward Electric Cars
Active E, an electric 1-series, is the next text platform for a BMW electric car.
One step at a time—slowly but surely—BMW is developing the knowledge and capacity to deliver a small all-electric car by 2013. In 2009, the company began leasing an electric two-passenger version of the Mini Cooper to about 600 drivers in California, New York, and New Jersey. That program was designed to help BMW learn about real-world driving and charging experiences.
Beginning in 2011, a similar number of drivers will lease BMW’s next electric test vehicle, the four-passenger ActiveE—essentially an electric-drive version of the BMW 1-series. The ActiveE will allow the company to further refine the requirements for a line of large-volume future electric cars, as part of its “Megacity” project. That name, the current working title for its 2013 small electric car, is based on the idea of targeting urban commuters in, well, megacities. Although the ActiveE will cleverly package the power electronics to allow for a decent sized trunk, the Megacity is expected to be a four-seat, three-door hatchback—similar in size to a Honda Fit.
The ActiveE puts out 125 kilowatts (170 horsepower), a similar amount of power as found on other 1-series Bimmers. The ActiveE’s 32-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack is slightly smaller than the Mini E’s. All of the vehicles apparently are targeting about 100 miles of range on a single charge—although aggressive driving and cold weather conditions have reduced the Mini E’s range by 20 or 30 miles according to multiple reports from drivers. That’s exactly the kind of information that BMW wants to gather from its test drivers. And that’s why the ActiveE will use liquid cooling to control temperature range, as a strategy to maintain driving range despite cold weather.
BMW appears to be very serious and specific about its electric car program. For example, the company yesterday announced it will use its plant in Lepzig to produce the electric vehicles. The inside story is that BMW executives believe that zero-emission electric cars, and fuel cells for that matter, are a must—that is, if the company is going to meet stricter guidelines for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the world’s major global auto markets.