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Europe: The All-Electric BMW Active E

The ActiveE is BMW’s all-new electric vehicle, designed as a ‘beta’ version of the forthcoming i3. Based on the swell little 1 Series Coupe, the Active E uses similar drive train and battery technologies as the i3, but in a less future-luxe package.

BMW says the Active E represents the second part of their three-phase electric vehicle development plan, which will culminate in the series production of the BMW i3 electric vehicle sometime in 2013.

What’s New?

BMW took what they learned from the MINI E and created, for the first time, what feels like a fully realized electric car. BMW developed everything in the car – the energy storage module, its wiring, the electric motor, the power electronics and the transmission. The power plant – a 170-horsepower, 184 pound-feet-of-torque, 125-kW electric motor – is shoehorned into the engine bay and is powered by a 32-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. While BMW designed the battery pack too, the cells are made by SB LiMotive, a partnership between Samsung and Bosch.

Because lithium-ion batteries are so temperature-sensitive, BMW developed a new management system with a ‘Smart Function’ that warms the battery pack remotely, resulting in less loss. Also new on the Active E is a ‘Gliding” mode, which makes for a less obtrusive drive. That said, it takes some time to learn to drive an electric car. Whereas in a gas-powered car, you slow down by using the brakes, in the Active E, you can slow down using the accelerator pedal, via brake energy regeneration. To wit: when you lift off the accelerator, the electric motor becomes, as BMW says ‘a generator that feeds the electricity gained from kinetic energy back into the vehicle battery,” resulting in torque braking. BMW says you can spend 75 percent of city driving never using the brake pedal. On our 20-mile loop in the car that proved true.

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