September 27, 2010, 10:53 am

BMW ActiveE Electric Car Headed for U.S. Trial

BMW Concept ActiveE BMW Concept ActiveE

BMW is bringing its ActiveE, the company’s second-generation electric car, to four regions in the United States next summer. The regions are the New York metropolitan area (including Connecticut and New Jersey), Southern California (including San Diego), Northern California (greater San Francisco and Sacramento) and the Boston area.

The four-passenger ActiveE is based on the 1 Series Coupe. Introduced at the Detroit auto show in January, the ActiveE will deliver 100 miles on a charge and takes 8.5 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour. The top speed is electronically limited to 90 miles per hour. The show car had a 32-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

Rich Steinberg, BMW of North America’s manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy, declined to specify the number of ActiveEs in the program. In contrast to the Mini E pilot program, which was deployed worldwide — now with more than 600 test cars in its second year — the ActiveE is scheduled to be rolled out in only the United States.

Mini E drivers will be favored as test pilots for the ActiveE, Mr. Steinberg said, and in July could switch seamlessly to the new car when their existing leases expire. The other cars will go to people who apply online (and are lucky enough to live in the four areas) and to some fleet operators.

Mr. Steinberg said that BMW wanted to widen its reach to the whole New York metropolitan area with the ActiveE, which is why Connecticut was added. Boston, he said, offered a chance to place the car with people living in multifamily dwellings, without the garages often considered essential to E.V. charging.

The cars aren’t allocated yet, but California might get twice as many ActiveEs as the East Coast, Mr. Steinberg said. “It’s amazing how committed California cities and utilities are to E.V.’s and to creating a public charging network,” he said. “All the automakers are focused on California.”

In part because BMW experienced cold weather problems with the Mini E, the ActiveE will have liquid cooling and liquid heating. Mr. Steinberg said the thermal management system would allow the company to keep ActiveE batteries at an optimal performance temperature. An added benefit is that drivers can use their smartphones to preheat or cool their cars’ cabins.

The ActiveE is not scheduled to be a production vehicle, but its battery technology, developed with SB LiMotive, and other electric components are very close to the system that will be deployed in the all-new electric Megacity Vehicle, which BMW is planning for congested urban areas in 2013. In some ways, then, the new car is a “test mule” for that program. “The ActiveE trial is going to give us very useful feedback,” Mr. Steinberg said.


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