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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Electronaut Email Raises Questions & Intrigue

When I opened my email today I noticed that BMW sent out another "Electronaut News" notification. These have been sent out periodically over the course of the past two years to the ActiveE drivers to offer tips on driving the ActiveE, updates on technical issues and information about the upcoming BMW i3. Now that the ActiveE program is just about finished, the Electronaut News emails have been more and more about the i3, and less and less about the ActiveE with every message. Well, we really must be close to the end of the ActiveE program because in this email BMW didn't even mention it! They did however offer a teaser for the Electronauts that are moving on to an i3 though. BMW has promised a special Electronaut Edition i3 for those that leased an ActiveE and are now getting an i3, with special features that will not be available to the public. However they didn't actually specify exactly what those special features would be, other than to say some of it would be a custom trunk mat and Electronaut Edition badging.

However when we had the private Electronaut i3 test drive at BMW HQ in Woodcliff Lake, NJ in December, one of the things we were told was the Electronaut Edition i3 would have features that were consistent with our pioneering spirit, leading some of us to wonder if there would indeed be some kind of special hardware that only we would get, and not simply some fancy badges. Since then, we haven't heard anything about our special EE edition cars, and we really have no idea what they will entail. Until we receive the email below:

Dear Thomas,

We can hardly wait for the BMW i3 to finally hit the streets. But more importantly, we’re sure you can’t wait to have your very own sitting in your driveway. The BMW i3 Electronaut Edition is a truly special vehicle, with exclusive features and upgrades valued at $1,750 just for Electronauts. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be revealing these features as we lead up to the arrival of the BMW i3.

The first of these two features can be found under the hood of the car. There, you’ll find a special Electronaut Edition board bag. And inside you can store your DC Combo Fast Charger Cable. With this cable upgrade, you’ll be able to charge your BMW i3 to 80% in approximately 30 minutes. This means you’ll be able to get back on the road and continue charging forward.

Please note, because orders have been so high, BMW is currently experiencing a slight delay in the release of the Tera World model. However, production is amping up, so expect to receive more information about vehicle availability shortly.

For the doors and on the floors.

So, what else will be in the BMW i3 Electronaut Edition? There’s a hint below, but we’ll be sure to fill you in on four more features in the next email. Watch that inbox.

Did you catch the "And inside you can store your DC Combo Fast Charger Cable"? OK, what is a DC Combo Fast Charge Cable? I know what DC Combo Fast charge is, and I know what portable EVSE's are for electric cars, but I have never heard of a DC Combo Fast charge cable and I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist unless BMW has some kind of new technology they are planning on revealing. If so, that would indeed qualify as letting us "continue with the pioneering spirit of the Electronaut program" so now I'm definitely intrigued. I just hope it wasn't a mistake by the person commissioned to send out the Electronaut News emails, and they have made mistakes before.

I honestly can't come up with what it would be. DC fast chargers, regardless of the "standard" they use (Tesla, CHAdeMO or CCS Combo) have a charging cable tethered to the unit and it isn't removable. These cables are thick and heavy and it would be terribly cumbersome to lug the thing around with you and hook it up every time you stopped at a CD fast charger. The only thing I can possibly imagine is if BMW developed a system to use the CCS combo port on the i3 to charge car to car, allowing a fellow i3 (or any other CCS Combo equipped car with the same technology) to give another car a boost. However that is just a wild guess because I really can't come up with anything better. I suspect whatever it is we'll find out soon. With NYIAS next week, I'm sure BMW would take this opportunity to announce it if it is indeed some kind of new technology so we won't have to wait long. Unless of course it was indeed just a mistake and there is no DC Combo Fast Charge cable to begin with.

So is this a case of miscommunication and error, or will the Electronauts really get something unique for their time spent in the ActiveE trial lease program?
An i3 charging on a DC Combo Fast Charger at the LA Auto show last year. Notice how thick the cable is so it can handle the high current used for quick charging. Could you really carry that around?

4/11/14 EDIT:

Well the fun didn't last long. A few hours after I made this post BMW sent out another email that was meant to "clarify" the original one. Looks like there isn't any special new DC combo cable as I suspected. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Below is the email sent out last night :(

Dear Electronauts,

We’ve been very excited to share the exclusive features of the BMW i3 Electronaut Edition. As a follow-up to yesterday's email, allow us to clarify the newly released features.
  • The Electronaut Edition Board Bag: This exclusive bag fits under the hood of your BMW i3 and can hold your Mobility Kit and Occasional Use Cable (OUC). As an added bonus, it is water resistant.
  • The DC Fast Charging Option: This option is being provided at no additional cost to Electronauts. It will charge your BMW i3 up to 80% in approximately 20 minutes when charging at 50kW.
We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. Please stay tuned for more Electronaut Edition features over the next few weeks.

The BMW ActiveE Team