When BMW announced the lottery for electric Minis, it found itself awash in interested people all clamoring to get their chance to be early adopters of electric cars. The success of the program, and the bounty of lessons learned have been channeled into a different BMW product, with the same aim of tailoring future BMW EV products to best fit consumer needs. The current offering is the BMW ActiveE, a 1-series based pure electric built to further hone the lessons necessary to make the upcoming i3 and i8 EVs successful. Available only as a lease again, the ActiveE will be offered to more customers than Mini E, with 700 to be available as part of the nationwide program. Also unlike the Mini E trial, which was limited exclusively to the Los Angeles/Orange County area, and the New York City metro area, the ActiveE will be available in San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Connecticut, and Boston.
As the EV world is never standing still, the ActiveE represents the latest consumer-ready advances in EV technology: A heated and cooled lithium-ion battery pack provides the ActiveE a 100 mile range in a wide range of conditions, while the 170hp motor pushes the coupe to 60 mph in less than 9 seconds. Unlike the Mini E, seating for 4 is retained as a result of the more compact battery pack and larger underhood space for packaging electronics. Intriguingly, BMW has engaged in app use to select customers for the cars. BMW-Evolve was developed to track prospective customers driving habits to see if they would be a good fit for the program. If selected, they have the opportunity to put $2250 down and pay $499/mo (for 24 months) for the privilege of driving the second BMW EV. The use of iPhones and iPads are also integral to owning the ActiveE. Either Apple device can be used to lock and unlock the car, locate where you parked it, control battery charging, view the battery state of charge, and to remotely turn on the climate control devices including seat heaters or air conditioning.
Of course the ActiveE is just a stand in for the main event: the i3. Due for launch in fall of 2013, the i3 (formerly known as the Mega City Vehicle) will BMW’s consumer-ready EV product. Details on this car remain scarce aside from tantalizing tidbits about its design and construction. Nevertheless, the ActiveE is available now, and promises BMW driving dynamics in a usable and relatively affordable package.