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Showing posts with label batteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label batteries. Show all posts

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ActiveE Technical Issues(part 1): Splines, Splines Everywhere There's Splines!

The teeth (splines) of this ActiveE gear have been grinded away
What the hell's a spline you ask? Don't feel bad I didn't know what it was either and I'm a fairly "technically competent" guy. So when an ActiveE Electronaut posted in our Facebook group a month ago that he needs a new motor because he had 'spline failure' I had to look it up. Turns out splines are just the technical term for the teeth of both the male and female ends of a gear. Spline: A flexible connection featuring grooves cut in a shaft that mate with corresponding grooves in a connecting member, such as a hub. 

Suddenly everybody in the group was buzzing about splines like it was some advanced technology that BMW somehow under-engineered. It's just a simple gear, nothing complicated about it. Question is why are they failing on so many cars, and on a personal level why hasn't mine failed? I have way more miles than anyone else who has an ActiveE, I'm close to 21,000 miles now and the next person (that I know of) is around 13,000. Plus, many of the gears are failing on cars with less than 5,000 miles! Why would that be?

Possible Causes: (my opinion only)


Abusive driving. Maybe the people that have had the gear failure are just really punishing the car beyond its capabilities. There were a few MINI-E drivers who were known to have really abused their cars which is why BMW tightened up the rules and return policies on the ActiveE, making us more accountable for the condition the car is in when we return it. Probability: 5%

Bad batch of gears. It could be that BMW simply got a bad batch of gears that were defective metal. Probability: 15%

The car is too heavy. The drive system for the ActiveE wasn't designed for the ActiveE. It was designed for the 2013 BMW i3 which will be about 1,300lbs lighter than the ActiveE. Could it be the gear just can't handle the stress of applying 184lb-ft of torque to move a car that is over 4,000lbs before you add the weight of the passengers? Probability: 20%

Improper lubrication from factory. All of the pictures of the gears that ActiveE drivers have received from their service departments show the gears devoid of any grease. Gears like this obviously need an ample amount of lubrication or they will grind themselves away in short order. Did the factory just forget to grease some of the gears? Probability: 25%

Lubrication leak/washed away. Perhaps the factory did properly lubricate the gears, but there is either a design flaw that allows moisture to seep in and wash the grease away or there is some kind of faulty seal that allowed moisture in on some cars and that's why their gears failed and others didn't. Probability: 35%

Rusted & Stripped
Then maybe it's a combination of a couple of these possible causes. Maybe the gear is stressed to its limit because of the extra weight, there's an issue with moisture getting in there somehow and the ActiveE drivers love the feel of the instant torque so much they punch the accelerator every chance they get. Or maybe I'm missing it completely. If you think you have a better cause, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section. Of course if a BMW technician who knows the real reason(s) wants to post there also anonymously, I won't mind that either. ;)


Technical issues are expected with the ActiveE. This is a car that is purely a test vehicle, meant to fully vet the components that will be used in the 2013 BMW i3. BMW also gets the CARB credits they need, which personally I'm fine with, and they have never disputed that the ZEV credits are part of the reason they did the MINI-E and ActiveE programs. However as long as these programs allow people like me to drive electric, and help BMW improve the technology so the cars they begin selling next year are the best they can be, then I think they are more than worth while. Just about everything in the ActiveE is new. The motor, the power electronics, the KLE(onboard charger), the battery modules, the active thermal management system and the entire high voltage battery system have never before been used an any vehicle so it would be foolish to think there wouldn't be technical issues like this. I've been a big supporter of the BMW electric vehicle program and sometimes when I take a step back and look at my posts I think I may be too positive without showing all of the challenges we in the program face from time to time. That's why I've decided to add a new series of posts called "ActiveE Technical Issues" that I will mix in with my other posts, highlighting the problems the car (and the people driving them) face.

This by no means is an indication that I don't love the car and regret applying for the program, which I don't for a minute. The ActiveE is really a great electric car and just about everyone I know who has one feels the same way. But it is a test car, and the technical deficiencies as compared to a production car do come out from time to time, and I'm going to do my best to write about them, just as I do for all the great qualities the car has.

This is how the gear should look
Splines Splines Everywhere there's Splines
Failing on the ActiveE, Breaking up my mind
Do This don't do That or you'll Break your Splines...



Sunday, April 1, 2012

BMW ActiveE "Extreme" Battery Test Begins!

Yes, you're reading that correctly. I'm getting anywhere from 150 to 200 miles per charge now!
In electric vehicles like the BMW ActiveE, range means everything. Like Ponce De Leon searched for the elusive "fountain of youth," electric vehicle manufacturers search for the battery that offers the best energy density which will give their cars the best possible range.

Back for re-programming
In 2010, BMW announced that they were forming a partnership with SB-LiMotive and would be using their batteries for BMW's upcoming electric vehicles starting with the ActiveE. The ActiveE would be using SB-LiMotive's new nickel-manganese-cobalt cells for sure, but there was no official confirmation on whether or not they would be used for the subsequent BMW electric vehicles, like the i3 and i8. That's because behind the scenes BMW and SB-LiMotive have been working on a new battery, one that has roughly double the energy density as the current ActiveE battery cells.

Some of you may remember the news articles about DBM's Kolibri battery. It powered a converted Audi A2  a record setting 282 miles on a single charge. Yes, the battery was almost double the size of the ActiveE's  (63kWh compared to 32kWh), but it basically tripled the ActiveE's 90-100 mile range. Well you know BMW isn't going to be one-upped by Audi! BMW and SB-LiMotive have been quietly developing their own "extreme" battery made with the same type of Alpha Polymer that the Kolibri is composed of.

Hours of reprogramming was necessary
BMW is considering using this new battery in the i3 when it launches in the fall of 2013. They have been conducting tests with these batteries in mule i3s for about 6 months now and have even provided the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing with dozens of full size large format modules, like what is used in EVs for extensive testing. Testing was completed and the batteries passed all the tests performed. The next step was then to outfit a few cars for use in everyday real life driving. BMW chose to install the batteries in one ActiveE for use in Munich, and two for use in the US; one being on the East Coast and the other on the West Coast. If all went well, after a few months they'd outfit a couple more ActiveEs with the new batteries and continue testing for about a year.

Many of you already know I have a very good relationship with BMW. As one of the more vocal MINI-E Pioneers and advocate for all plug in cars, I developed a close relationship with the EV program managers.  BMW even choose me to be the very first ActiveE customer. So it wasn't surprising when they told me about this new battery test (many months ago) and said when the time came they wanted my car to have the battery transplant if I would agree to it. I would have to agree to have the car remotely monitored 24/7 and bring it in to BMW headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ once a week for visual inspections. In return for my participation and cooperation, my monthly lease payment would be waived from now on. How could I say no?

Battery tunnel w/o batteries
So on March 19th, I dropped EF-OPEC off at BMW HQ and drove off in a loaner ActiveE. I asked Dave Mustac, the East Coast ActiveE technical coordinator and the project manager for this experiment, if I could come back the next day while they were doing the swap to take some pictures for this blog. He agreed, but when I showed up the next day I was told I could take any picture I wanted to, just not of the new batteries, which were next to the car under a blanket and my old batteries were already removed. I could see the steel reinforcement cage that protects the batteries, especially in the old transmission tunnel. This is where the Chevy Volt had problems with side impact crash testing. After seeing how well BMW has the batteries protected with the steel cage, I doubt they would have the same issue even if the side impact was severe. There were two other ActiveEs there, not for battery transplants, just being serviced. If a dealership cannot fix whatever problem arises with an ActiveE, Dave Mustac's team has it towed here to be diagnosed and repaired. It took them three days to complete the swap and I got the call to come and pick it up along with a long list of things I am now required to monitor and record. I even had to sign an NDA and anything I write about it (like this post) has to first be cleared by Hugo VanGeem or Marian Hawryluk, BMW electric vehicle program managers.


I got 160 miles this charge
I recently learned who the lucky chosen West Coast Electonaut is, but I'm not going to out him.  It's up to him to announce it if he chooses to do so. I actually found out accidentally. Idine Ghoreishian is the West Coast ActiveE technical coordinator (like Dave Mustac is here on the East) and he called me to ask what battery temperature I've been observing after extended periods of high speed driving to compare it with their test cars results. During our conversation he let the name slip. I don't think it was really top secret, but clearly they weren't giving each of us the other's name for some unknown reason. If things continue to progress as planned, as many as 10 more Electronauts will be offered the "extreme" battery upgrade. I might just be able to put in a good word for someone, so if anyone would like to send me a bottle of wine or a nice present, perhaps I could make a recommendation ;)

Fully charged, the needle now goes way passed 100%
My range has been exceptional so far. I have had to bring it back to BMW a couple of times to try to recalculate the consumption rate and the state of charge meter. They are both way off now because they were calculated for the ActiveE's battery and while BMW had worked to adjust them, they aren't perfect yet. Even my SOC analog gauge is no longer properly  calibrated. When I'm fully charged, the needle goes way passed 100%! By the time it goes down to 100%, I've already driven about 50 miles! The best range I've seen so far was 203 estimated miles as seen in the photo at the top of the post. Although I'm typically seeing about 170 miles per charge if I drive normally. 

147 miles and finished with 26% SOC

Another interesting thing is that this battery charges quicker than the stock ActiveE's.  I don't know the actual size in kWhs of this new pack, and even if I did, I probably couldn't say, but I can say the car now fully charges in about three hours from my level 2 EVSEs which is much quicker than it did with the original batteries.

I'll continue to report here on my new "Extreme-ActiveE"(should I rename this blog?) so keep an eye out for the latest updates! 


After 71 miles the state of charge was still at 50%. Depending on temperature and how efficiently I'm driving, I can get up to 200 miles per charge with my new Alpha Polymer batteries. I can't imagine why BMW wouldn't use these in the i3.
   UPDATE- 4/2/12: This post isn't real! It was an April fools post. I hope everyone had some fun with it, sorry to disappoint those that believed it was real. Unfortunately we'll have to wait a bit longer for battery performance of this magnitude, but rest assured it's coming. I've been doing April Fools posts for the past three years now dating back to my time with the MINI-E. If you'd like to see the past April Fools posts you can read them HERE.
 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two Months, 5,000 Miles Later...

The odometer rolled past 5k about seven weeks after I took delivery
It's been two months now since I was handed the keys to my BMW ActiveE from BMW North American  President Ludwig Willisch. Since then I've driven it about 5,300 miles and I have enjoyed every mile. Not long after I took possession I did a post here on my initial impressions. Now that the newness is starting to wear off and I have had a good amount of time behind the wheel, I'm getting a clearer picture of the car's strengths and weaknesses. 

Strengths:

Pre-conditioning. I love preconditioning! The MINI-E was desperately lacking this feature. I work long hours and my car is outside in a parking lot all day. I drive home late at night when the restaurant closes, and during the winter months, my car is usually a frozen brick when I get in it.  The MINI-E would take about a half hour to get the cabin comfortably warm under these conditions, and would use a lot of energy from the battery to do so. With the ActiveE, I simply set the pre-conditioning feature to turn on about a half hour before I leave, and when I get in the car it's toasty warm inside AND the battery is warm which helps to extend the car's range. Honestly after having this feature, I couldn't ever buy another EV that doesn't have the ability to pre-condition.

Eco-Pro mode. I find myself driving in Eco Pro mode just about all of the time now.  If I need a quick burst of power, I just deactivate it for the time being and then reactivate it. It extends the car's range by about 10-15% and in my opinion it doesn't compromise the car's fun to drive factor as there is still plenty of power. There are two things that need to be *fixed* about Eco Pro though, see them later under "weaknesses".

It's a BMW. I'm not all into the status of driving a luxury brand so that's not what I'm talking about. Maybe years ago that meant something to me, but it doesn't anymore. I really don't care if it says BMW or Kia on the hood. I'm interested in how the car drives, how comfortable it is, how efficient it is, and the level of quality that went into building it. BMW has a reputation of delivering on all of these qualities and this being my first BMW, I'm not at all disappointed. It's pretty much what I would expect from a luxury brand, everything feels top notch. It really feels rock solid, something my wife still talks about every time she drives it. It's extremely quiet inside, even for an electric car and that's saying a lot. The fit and finish of the interior is great, the seats are very comfortable and the BMW Connect drive offers useful amenities.

Instrumentation. I really like the instrumentation and how it's laid out. It has all of the things that I like to see, such as the state of charge displayed in a numeric value instead of just a fuel-gauge like what's in gas cars. Some EV's only give you the gas-gauge type of reading and it's just not effective for an EV in my opinion. The ActiveE has one of those also, but as long as I can see the state of charge in a percentage, I'm happy. You can also reset all your efficiency values for every trip you make while keeping your overall consumption (miles per kWh used) in tact. This is good for data geeks like myself that like to see how efficiently they drove every day without resetting the car's overall efficiency values. Also, the large analog gauge that displays if you are using energy(eDrive), gaining energy(Charge) or in glide mode(Ready) is very useful. I can really improve my efficiency by keeping an eye on this gauge and trying to keep the needle as close to 'ready' as possible. Electric cars should help the driver improve their efficiency if they want to and watching this gauge definitely helps me.

Weaknesses

It's heavy! The ActiveE, being a converted internal combustion engine car is really heavy. That's partially because BMW needed to add a lot of steel to reinforce the frame to retain its crash-worthiness. When you remove the car's gas engine it weakens the car because the engine is this huge mass of metal that will absorb energy in the case of a front end impact. Plus, the three battery blocks needed to be protected so there is more steel reinforcement. Then add the weight of the 32kWh battery pack and this small coupe is suddenly 4,000lbs! That's just too heavy for a car of this size and the efficiency suffers from it. Having to lug around 4,000lbs plus passengers gets the better of the car and so far I'm averaging about 3.1 miles per kWh used. Plus, when you push the car hard in corners, you can feel the weight - and not in a good way. On the flip side when you aren't driving it hard, the weight makes it feel incredibly stable and rock-solid. Because of this feeling I've called it an "electronic tank".  When the i3 comes out late next year, I expect it to be at the top of the efficiency chart when compared to other EV's. It will weigh about 1,250 lbs less than the ActiveE and have the same motor and electronics. This should help to boost its consumption to around 5 miles per kWh.


Electronic glitches. Since the car launched there have been two electronic glitches that the ActiveE drivers have had to deal with. I know BMW is working on a solution, but for some it's not coming fast enough. I have been lucky and have not had a disabled car stuck on the road that needed to be towed to safety. Others, however, haven't been as lucky. The two problems are very similar. One is the 'transmission malfunction' error and the other is the 'drivetrain malfunction' error. The vast majority of the time when you see either of these error massages, the car will continue to drive and the message will simply go away. On some occasions, if your car is stopped when you get the message or if you are slowing down for a streetlight or stop sign, and you are just about to stop, the car message will display and the car will power down. Again, the vast majority of times you can just remove the key, wait a couple seconds and then restart the car and continue, but some times this doesn't work and you are stuck. I know BMW is working on these issues and hopefully we will see a solution very shortly. It would appear to me this is just a software issue and that there really isn't anything wrong with the car, it's just some kind of sensor is sensing a problem that doesn't exist. I say this because the car drives fine while this is happening and even if it shuts off, when you restart it it performs perfectly. The ActiveE is a small pilot program and issues are expected. We had our fair share of them in the MINI-E program and after a rocky start BMW corrected the issues and we were able to have many months of great, trouble free driving. I suspect the same will happen here. Once the BMW engineers figure out what is causing these issues and they develop a software patch we'll put this behind us. I just feel bad for some of the participants that have had problems with this right form day 1. They haven't been able to drive the car nearly as much as I have and get to enjoy it for what it is; a great electric vehicle.

Eco Pro NEEDS to be the default driving mode. The more I drive the ActiveE, the more I'm convinced of this and I'm not the only one who feels this way. Over on the BMW ActiveE forum MANY other people have written the same thing and there are even threads on this very topic. The way it's currently set up, you need to push a button on the center console to activate Eco Pro every time you begin to drive. You can't just set it so that every time you get in the car it's automatically in Eco Pro mode.  What happens is you forget to activate it and then realize 10 or 15 miles into your journey. This is a problem when you are trying to extend your range as much as possible to make a destination. Sometimes when I have multiple stops, I remember to set it when I first get in the car, but after one stop when I get back into the car I don't remember to activate it again and I don't remember until later along my journey after I've wasted energy driving in regular mode. Eco Pro mode allows you to extend your range and it doesn't really compromise the driving experience so I think really the car should default to Eco Pro mode, but if BMW doesn't want that at the very least they need to make the switch a toggle type so you can set it and leave it on all the time. Or have a setting that the driver can choose what mode the car defaults to. I feel VERY strongly about this and I will hound BMW for the next two years to make sure they change this for the i3. Expect to read me complain about this many times here on this blog for the next year to make certain it sinks in at BMW! ;) The other thing I'd like to see changed with Eco Pro mode is the heated seats do not work when in Eco Pro mode and I think they should. Heated seats use less energy than the cabin heater and I'd rather just use the heated seats when it's cold and turn the cabin heater way down or even off.

Overall the car has been pretty much everything I had hoped it would be. It's fun to drive, very comfortable and I can charge it with the sunlight that reigns down on my roof. What's gas cost these days anyway? I couldn't care less!

Monday, January 16, 2012

BMW ActiveE Doesn't Disappoint!

Yes, I transferred my EF-OPEC license plates from the MINI-E!

I've been anticipating driving an ActiveE since it was first announced two years ago, so when I was presented with the keys to my car this Friday it was really a great feeling.

I do miss my MINI-E. The ActiveE sure has some big shoes to fill because that little car was really a fantastic car to drive. However as great as it was, it did lack some essential features that the ActiveE has, and now that I have had some time with it this post will detail my initial impressions.


Instrumentation:


The ActiveE's instrumentation is worlds better than the minimal gauges we had in the MINI-E. The state of charge meter is deadly accurate and doesn't bounce up when you stop for while like the MINI-E's did. When driving the MINI-E, if you drove on the highway for a bit and then got off and drove slower on the secondary roads, the SOC would go up as much as five percent. It's not that the car recharged, it was that while driving fast on the highway the car couldn't read the SOC accurately and always gave you a reading that was lower than your actual SOC. That doesn't happen with the ActiveE, the SOC never goes up when you slow down or stop for a bit meaning the reading is always spot on.  The large analog gauges in the instrument cluster are well laid out, simple and not over done. However you don't need to look far to get to the the goodies. The center stack info center has all the controls and settings for the car. From the navigation system to setting the preconditioning to checking out your trip efficiency data and much more, everything is controlled with a knob on the center console and displayed on a large screen in the center of the dash. The navigation system allows you to choose the "most efficient route" which is a nice addition to the usual "fastest" and "shortest" route options usually offered by nav systems. I'm not sure just how the car calculates the most efficient route, but I assume it is a combination of shortest distance and lowest average speed of the roads on the route. I doubt it considers hills as compared to flat roads and I haven't used it yet, but hopefully it is relatively accurate in the route it chooses as most efficient.

New Features

The ActiveE is a four seat coupe with a trunk. Now the back seats aren't really roomy for adults and the trunk isn't as large as the regular 1 series trunk is, but compared to the MINI-E which had no back seat and very little hatch room it has lots of room. It has very useful backup sensors with a visual display on the center display and there is a new "Eco-Pro" mode. A small button behind the gear shifter activates this mode which extends the cars range by reducing the power the car uses for the motor and the cabin heating and cooling. I can say for sure two things: First, it works. The car definitely goes further when you use it. I think by combining efficient driving techniques and using Eco Pro, you can squeeze as much as  15 to 20 more miles out of the car. If you just use Eco Pro and drive the same as you usually do you can probably expect about 10 more miles. However the second thing I learned is that by selecting Eco Pro the cabin air conditioning, heating and heated seats are severely impacted because of the reduced power they get. The seat heater barely even warms the seats at all. What I've been doing now that it's very cold here in NJ is begin my trip in regular mode and let the seat heater get the seats nice and hot and then turn on Eco Pro. The car seems to be able to maintain the warm seats in Eco Pro mode, just not get them hot to begin with.  Then there is the glide mode which allows you to coast along without using any energy and without activating the regenerative braking. There is a large analog gauge that displays whether you are using energy or recouping energy through regen, and right in the middle of the two it just says "ready" and when you are driving along and coasting the gauge is right on the ready position. Speaking of regenerative braking, the ActiveE's regen is definitely less aggressive than the MINI-E's, but it's definitely strong enough to allow us to drive with basically one pedal like we could with the MINI-E and it's much stronger than the regen on either the Nissan LEAF or the Chevy Volt. Perhaps the feature that I've been most looking forward to is the thermal conditioning and the cars ability to precondition the cabin and battery. While I've had a little getting the cabin preconditioning to work(I'm still learning how to set it to go on) the battery preconditioning works great and really makes a difference now that it's cold here in New Jersey. Tonight the car was parked outside for 10 hours in 15 degree weather and I turned on the preconditioning 30 minuted before I left and the battery was at 58 degrees when I started my journey. The MINI-E battery would have been about 40 degrees and when it got that cold the cars performance suffered, the regen would disengage and the range would be severely diminished. However with a 58 degree battery, the ActiveE  made the 31 mile trip home using only 40% of the battery. The MINI-E would have used 55-60% of the charge in these conditions according to my MINI-E data logs.


The ActiveE's scored great in the EPA's fuel efficiency tests. It achieved a combined 102 MPGe better than both the Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt with a 107 MPGe city and 96 MPGe highway.









Conclusion

Although I loved the MINI-E and have only had the ActiveE for a couple days, I'm really liking it. The ride quality is 100% better, it's quieter inside(if you can believe that), it's smoother during both acceleration and while using the regenerative braking and it feels rock solid while your driving it. The handling and acceleration may be just a tic below what the MINI-E offered, but it's still a fun car to drive and has great performance for spirited driving. The negatives so far are few, but there are some in my opinion. First, it doesn't seem to have the extra "reserve" range built in. When the MINI-E's range hit zero, I knew I could drive at least ten miles before it couldn't go any further. One of the first things I did when I got the car was to test how far it could go once the SOC reached zero. To my surprise, after one mile the car was finished. So anyone reading this that is getting an ActiveE take notice, zero means zero, don't push it or you'll get stuck. The second thing I'm struggling with is getting the cabin preconditioning to work. I don't know if I'm just doing it wrong or if my car isn't working properly but I can only seem to get it to warm the cabin about 50% of the time. I haven't spent much time on this and admittedly didn't read the owners manual so maybe I'm just doing it wrong, but it shouldn't be difficult to figure out. Lastly, the car is taking way too long to charge, as much as ten hours. Now before anyone gets worried about this, I contacted BMW and they told me that's not correct and the car will charge completely in 4 to5 hours. They asked me to bring it back for them to look at and fix whats wrong, but I'm having too much fun driving it to bring it back yet. I'll do that later this week and let them figure out what's going on. I put a meter on it and it's only accepting about 2.75kW. The onboard charger can charge up to 7.7kW so there is definitely something wrong. I'm sure they'll get it straightened out, but it is worth noting that there is a problem.

I know a lot of MINI-E pioneers will miss their cars, but after a while driving the ActiveE I think the overwhelming majority of them will agree the car is a much more complete car and with the addition of the new features and additional luggage and passenger space they will soon grow to love the car as they did the MINI-E.(And dare I say even more!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BMW ActiveE First Drive


A few weeks ago I received an email from Dave Buchko of BMW inviting me to BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany to attend the press event for the BMW ActiveE First Drive as well as four workshops for upcoming innovations in BMW’s ConnectedDrive initiative. Even though my primary interest was the ActiveE, all persons invited to the event were required to attend the four workshops on ConnectedDrive, which turned out to be really interesting although not really connected to the ActiveE.

Dave was my host (a very gracious one at that) and accompanied me to all of the press events and dinners as well as taking me to the BMW Welt and giving me a tour of the BMW museum.  On the day of the ActiveE First Drive, BMW provided about 40 ActiveE's for the press to drive on a pre-selected course through Munich that would bring us to BMW's research & Development facility, the FIZ. The route was pre-programmed in the cars navigation system and we were asked not to stray from the course which was about 35 kilometers. I actually did stray from the course, but it wasn't on purpose, really! I had turned down the volume of the nav system so I could listen to the car and I was so busy looking at the car that I found myself a few miles off course. I ended up driving exactly 40 km which is about 25 miles and I used 33% of the battery. That's a little more than I would have used with the MINI-E, so I'm a bit concerned that the car may not get an average of 100 miles per charge like I'm used to with the MINI-E. However I did drive it aggressively when I could and was going about 75 to 80mph on the section of the course that was on the autobahn, plus it was cold (40 degrees) and raining and I had the heat and heated seats on, so I really can't say for sure what the range will be. However from the small sample I witnessed, I think it's safe to say that it won't have a greater range then the MINI-E, and probably a little less.

That shouldn't be a surprise though. The ActiveE is a bigger and heavier(4,001 lbs compared to the MINI-E's 3,230 lbs) car and has a smaller battery pack (32 kWh compared to the MINI-E's 35kWh). Based on my experience I do think it will get close to 100 miles per charge, but will probably average just a bit less on most days. 

Driving impressions: 

Anyone that has read my MINI-E blog knows how fond I am of it, so understand I'm not putting it down by saying the ActiveE is a much more refined car; the fact is, it just is. BMW claims the ActiveE goes 0-60 in "under 9 seconds" and the MINI-E does it in 8.5 seconds so it is slightly slower than the MINI-E. It definitely felt slower, but I think part of that is because it is quieter inside the cabin and smoother than the MINI-E is. It's not slow by any means, and actually has more torque than the MINI-E and you could feel it. It was incredibly smooth, much more so than the MINI-E. I didn't notice the 1/2 second delay when you accelerate from a stop like the MINI-E has, and power feels a bit more linear than the MINI-E as you are accelerating. 

The regenerative braking is less aggressive than the MINI-E, but still strong. I've driven LEAF's, Volt's and Tesla's and the MINI-E had the most aggressive regen of all of them by a long shot. I believe the ActiveE also does, it's just that it's less aggressive than the MINI-E's. Being rear wheel drive I expected this, and I'm not disappointed in the level of regen at all, I think they hit the nail right on the head and within a half hour I was driving with one pedal just like I do with the MINI-E. The transition from acceleration to regen is seamless, and there is no "jerky" feel I sometimes get when I lift off the accelerator on the MINI-E. Perhaps because it's dialed down a bit, the transition is smoother. 

Tobias Hahn addresses the press
The glide mode is something new in the ActiveE. It allows the driver to glide (coast) without either accelerating or entering regen mode. You activate the glide mode by slightly lifting your foot off the accelerator, however not too much or the regen will begin. I found it a little tricky to get the proper position where I entered glide mode. You really don't have much play once you back off the accelerator or you enter regenerative braking mode. I was able to "glide" a bit, but a few times I activated the regen before I actually wanted to by lifting off the accelerator too much by accident. Now I didn't have much time on the autobahn where you would typically use the glide mode as I was too busy testing the cars power. I was trying to activate the glide mode on secondary roads and that's not when you would typically use it so perhaps my lower speed made it more difficult for me to stay in glide mode. 


I liked the large analog gauges, the only complaint is that there is no numeric charge percentage on the main display, only a useless fuel-gauge like display. You can have the batteries charge percentage in a numeric display on the center stack display, but I'd prefer it front and center. I want an exact number staring me in the face so I know my SOC and therefore I know how far I can go. The fuel gauge type readout isn't precise enough. Leave it behind with gas cars please, we don't need that in an EV.The Nissan LEAF only has a fuel gauge like display without numeric readout and it is widely criticized by many LEAF owners. Most EV drivers agree they want the charge display presented in a numeric value, front and center. Hopefully this will be corrected in the BMW i3.

The ActiveE has a near 50/50 weight distribution and you can feel it in the handling. Even though it weighs a portly 4,000 lbs, it handled nimbly and feels very balanced. BMW purposely split the battery up into three separate blocks; one under the hood, one in the transmission tunnel and one behind the rear seats. They did this to keep the weight distribution even and you can feel it when you push the car into turns. 

Fit and finish is on par with any BMW product. They interior is well laid out, the seats very comfortable and the blue stitching on the white leather is a nice touch. There's not much legroom in the back seats, but coming from the MINI-E, just seeing a back seat is a treat. The heated seats worked well and the center information display has integrated navigation as well as displays things like state of charge, battery temperature, estimated range and whether the batteries are discharging or you are regenerating energy. 

In summary, the car is about what I expected. It's silky smooth to drive, handles great, is very comfortable and has four seats and a trunk. I know I'm going to be fighting my wife to drive it. As much as she liked the MINI-E, she didn't mind letting me drive it everyday. I don't think that's going to be the case when I get my ActiveE, she's going to want me to share a bit more with this one.  The MINI-E pioneers that transition into the ActiveE are going to love it, and so will the others that are lucky enough to get one. 

Update: I wrote a review for plugincars.com on the ActiveE. It can be found HERE.