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.
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.
Unlike the much-maligned drive on the MINI E, the drive on the Active E is pretty damn good, electric vehicle or not. The regenerative braking is a lot less active than on the MINI E, which was close to the point of being obtrusive. While BMW told us the MINI E customers liked the regenerative braking, the engineers went back and did a major re-think, resulting in the new gliding mode. BMW calls this 'a distinctive intermediate position of the accelerator pedal' which allows the vehicle to glide without using any energy.
It's somewhat hard to fault the short range of an electric car, but, while we really enjoyed the Active E, it would be hard to present it as an option for a one-car household. With a range of 100 miles or so, we'd still live in fear of running out of juice at an inopportune time or if your short commute turns into a long one due to traffic.
Also, you'll need to rethink the way you drive. Due to the aforementioned regenerative braking and glide mode, you'll need to learn to drive with just your left foot -- and think of the 'gas' pedal as both an accelerator and a brake. Whoa!
The ActiveE is available with a 24-month lease in limited markets - Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, New York, Boston and Hartford. For $499 per month, with $2,250 down, you too can drive off in one of the 700 electric BMWs allocated for the US. Which is about the same price you'll pay for a well-equipped gas-powered 1 Series. Don't forget, you'll also need to pay for an in-home electric charging station, which runs about 2500 dollars.
BMW presents a pretty compelling proposition here. But while we admire and respect what BMW has accomplished with the Active E and feel they'll have no problem leasing all 700 that are coming to the states, the Active E is starting to make us pine for the third stage of the BMW group electrification, the iBrand vehicles. That said, if you want an electric car now that ups the style factor from the Nissan Leaf, the Active E is the car for you.
The one thing I have never been able to find a solid number on is the relationship in savings between paying for gas and paying for the electric in one of these. I mean if you had a solar system and charged it with that yeah amazing deal it would be worth the extra couple hundred a month in price of the car. If you do not and are paying the electric company off the grid this could get pretty expensive I would imagine if not more expensive that using a gas car that gets 35-40 miles to the gallon....I know we are saving the environment but I think these companies making these cars could really come out on top if they quantify these things and offer help in actually reducing the costs. THe masses don't really care about how much they are saving the environment BUT if they were never gonna spend money in gas/electric well then you would sell thousands.
@Delkomatic - the ActiveE has a 32 kwh battery. Given an average rate nationally of $0.15/kwh of electricity, it would cost $4.80 to charge this battery from completely empty (which the battery management system would never allow to happen). If the car actually makes it 100 miles on this charge, that means it costs about 4.8 cents per mile to drive the car (losses through the charger are negligible).
Going on the assumption that a comparable gasoline car could achieve 35 mpg, and gas is about $3.50 per gallon right now, it would cost about 10 cents per mile to fuel the car. That means that electricity is about half the price in this setup.
When you start talking about cars like the leaf, which have a smaller battery and achieve the same range, the cost of each charge goes down, and each mile costs a little less.
GE sells an in-home level 2 charger, the wall-mount Wattstation, for $1100. Therefore, the installed cost would probably be substantially less than $2500. It's also worth pointing out that these chargers use a standard connector, and hence can be used on this car, and the next car, and the next car, making it a one time investment. Prices will come down even further as the technology develops.
Very good write up.
You're absolutely right. As demand on the electric grid increases so too will the cost per KwH; potentially to a point that this becomes a really unattractive bargain. The solution as I see it is:
As you stated, is off-grid power, but with a twist. This mean significantly expanding LOCAL energy production down to the scale of individual homes. This means each home being as energy efficient as possible while using a combination of solar, geothermal, and possibly wind power. But that isn't enough because energy demands can fluctuate greatly by any number of factors. So local municipalities will need to offer energy as well, this would be thorium based nuclear reactors, large scale wind projects, and large scale geothermal power (if possible). This still, isn't enough. Regional power would have to keep up with more intensive forms of energy (wave-power, hydro, uranium-nuclear, and coal).
This level of redundancy and potential-excess-capacity will significantly drive down the cost of energy to the extent that when you pay your (much smaller) energy bill, most of it is going to maintain the infrastructure as opposed to the cost of the energy itself.
The second thing we need to do is create national standards for partially-or-fully electric powered vehicles. Recharging is a major concern holding back the market. Travelers cannot afford a 4- 6- or 8-hour wait to go the next 100 miles. Being able to drive into a service station, have the battery core robotically replaced, and continue to your destination in roughly the same time it takes to fill a gas tank is vital to this industry taking off. The commoditization of the EV battery industry will further drive down the cost of ownership, making these vehicles more accessible.
Lastly, I don't tihnk we should place tax-rebate incentives on EVs. Instead, I think ICE-vehicles should be subject to a penalty, much like the gas guzzler penalty but greatly expanded. Thats a much bigger population to tap, with the revenue from those penalties going to pay for the construction of this new EV infrastructure. I presonally drive a Ford Explorer, getting ~15.6MPG so I would be paying this penalty myself. So would my wife whose Buick gets about 18MPG.
A hundred dollars a year from the more than 250 Million vehicles on American roads should be more than enough to move us into the future. This penalty should be based on fuel mileage, and increase inversely to the number of ICE vehicles on the road (meaning the very last person to have an ICE car will pay the biggest penalty).
My two cents...
As a side note the insurance savings should be substantial, with the level of technology in these vehicles it should be relatively easy to tell if a car has stolen parts in it. Penalize the owner of the vehicle for receiving stolen goods, and they will put the pressure on their mechanics to be certain they are using approved parts. That said, insurance costs should drop significantly because auto thefts would almost completely be wiped out.
"you’ll need to learn to drive with just your left foot"
I only use my left foot for the clutch pedal. When I drive a car with an automatic transmission, my left foot is merely a passenger. If you're using your left foot for the brake (or the accelerator), you're either doing it wrong or you're using a car adapted for someone unable to use the normal pedal arrangement.
On the note about insurance you are very right. I drive a 2010 Genesis Coupe (which is surprising fuel efficent I get an average of 29-30 but I Do drive mostly highway.) MY wife drives a 2007 Dodge that we are about to get rid of . The insurance on my Sports Car is 100 full coverage my wifes Sedan is 160 full coverage and neither of us has a ticket or accident on our records. Its just crazy the diff.
Steely, the main problem I have with your math is this: You won't be paying $0.15/kwh in the test cities to charge it up, you'll be paying more, probably a whole lot more.
The average price paid in those metro areas is over $0.20 per kwh. But more important, the PG&E rate structure is such that if you use more than about 130% of "baseline" usage you'll be paying about 30 or 33 cents a kwh. Certainly anyone who can afford this car is likely to already be in that tier. And if they aren't, they certainly will be when they start charging up their vehicles from the outlet.
So in a real-world scenario the math (using the same generous assumptions about negligible losses, etc that you used) may look more like this: 32 kwh will cost you about $9.60 for each hundred miles driven (32 * 0.30). Gas (30 mpg, $3.50/gal) would cost you about $11.67 per hundred miles driven. Not quite as large a discrepancy. Plus, as the life of the battery goes on, performance will drop significantly.
Some other thoughts that come to mind:
The battery pack and controller will probably weigh about 900 to 1000 pounds (660 for the leaf for a 24 kwh pack). That added weight that has to be lugged around town for 100 miles (compared to 26 gallons of gas) of stop and go driving will definitely diminish the effectiveness of any energy savings.
Electricity losses in transmission in the US are around 6.6%, so in terms of total energy used, you have that much of an initial loss to overcome. Certainly there is also energy used in order to create the electricity just like there is to refine and ship gasoline.
These battery efficiencies may be true at the beginning of battery life. But what about in 5 years of cycles and temperature extremes? The numbers can only get worse very quickly for electric as time goes on. For gas vehicles the efficiency drops are MUCH slower. A 30 MPG engine with basic maintenance in 20 years will still be relatively close to 30 MPG. I know Nissan says their packs will still have 70-80% capacity left after 10 years (if you take perfect care of it and how/when you charge it), but anyone who has owned a laptop for more than a year or two can tell you that the life of batteries is never as good as advertized over the long-haul.
Replacement costs for batteries are enormous, as they are by far the single biggest expense in this kind of car. The Leaf's battery pack costs Nissan an estimated $18,000. What would the cost be for this vehicle's production model's pack (which will really need to double range to be worth selling)? $25,000? $40,000? Right now the Tesla Roadster battery pack (53 kwh) would cost about $36,000 to replace.
Plus taxpayers are footing a big chunk of the bill for these cars, which I don't think is very fair. Since mostly the rich are buying them, seems like the average Joe is paying for a rich-man's toy, as well as for a bunch of guys creating startups to become more rich guys.
I think we need to continue to take steps, not try to make leaps. Leaps don't work in the real world, there is simply too much in place that would need to be changed. Steps work better, and are more practical.
So I'd be much more in favor of HHVs (hydraulic hybrid vehicles). They work with today's technology, and can double the city mileage of even an SUV (NREL put an HHV system in a Ford SUV and more than doubled its city mileage). They don't cost as much as electric hybrids or EVs and they won't lose 30%-50% of their efficiency in a few years. Even without government subsidies, payback time in production quantities is just over 2 years.
It's not the final solution, but it's a very nice step in the right direction. If every new car sold in America was an HHV and doubled its city mileage, that would be HUGE for our overall fleet mileage. It could be a reasonable step for the next 20 years. In the meantime, battery technologies would continue to improve, until maybe it is more practical.
Thats very interesting about HHVs. On the electric note, there are some promising alternatives on the horizon, we just need more funding to bring them to the masses. This includes nanotube batteries and nano structure batteries (and even both, together). These could increase charging time, capacity, and resilience ten-fold.
I'm mainly a proponent of pushing for electric because oil is getting scarce and while the industry would like to sell us all on NG or fuel from coal, those fuels aren't nearly as efficient as gasoline and are just as scarce. Electricity however is plentiful. Just look at the untaped potential of thorium-reactors. Each major metropolitan area could afford its own, clean power thorium reactor, further decentralizing the grip of energy monopolies.
Its where we're heading one way or another, so why do tomorrow what you could do today?
"With a range of 100 miles or so, we’d still live in fear of running out of juice at an inopportune time or if your short commute turns into a long one due to traffic."
One of the best things about EVs is that when you are in heavy, slow traffic, this is when you get the best efficiency, so no worries about running out of energy under that circumstance. It's just the opposite of internal combustion in that regard.
Marcoreid said: "Plus taxpayers are footing a big chunk of the bill for these cars, which I don't think is very fair."
To be fair, oil is being subsidized enormously with both direct federal tax benefits and all manner of external costs that are not paid at the pump.
The federal credits and other benefits number in the billions each year, quite a bit more than alt fuel vehicles get. But it's those externalities where the big money is. Here are some of them:
According to a recent RAND study, our military spends $80 billion each year for protection of our access to the world's oil. That works out to 55 cents/gallon by itself and is exclusive of the cost of the wars for oil. http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG838.html
The Iraq war would not have been fought were it not for their oil. We've spent north of $1.5 trillion and counting. We lost thousands of dead soldiers and have tens of thousands of wounded soldiers who we'll be paying for the rest of their lives. I don't know what the price per gallon for all of that is, but it's got to be at least a dollar/gallon for several decades.
Pollution from internal combustion caused the premature deaths of thousands of Americans every year. Hundreds of thousands get very sick, but don't die. Many are children who through no fault of their own happen to live near freeways where cancer, heart and lung disease skyrocket.
The environmental damage caused by extracting, shipping, refining, delivering and burning of oil is measured in the tens of billions every year.
Lastly, the cost of procuring 25% of the world's oil when we have less than 4% is about $400 billion every year, and as we reach the other side of peak oil, that will only go up. The "strategy", if you can call it that, of remaining 99% reliant on oil for our transportation is a sick joke on the American people.
Cars like the Volt, LEAF, Active E and many other plug-in vehicles coming to market allow us to have a choice of continuing to pollute our environment, spend our treasury, fight wars and send our citizens to an early grave, or not.
Has nobody heard of "blacklightpower.com" ?
The energy, pollution and transportation problem could be a thing of the past. Mass transportation and even space flight could get a big boost.
Dr Randell Mills has combined the forces of nature and found a way to drive the orbital electron in hydrogen into smaller orbitals. This results in 200 times the amount of power one would get by simply burning the hydrogen in an ICE. The exhaust, mainly, is oxygen because it uses water for the hydrogen.
He already has 7 power plants in operation around the world producing around 800 MW of power. No fuel costs - they run on water.
His plans for a car is one that can go 2500 miles on 5 liters of water. No need for an expensive battery array, just one to get the process started.
Go check it out. Tell me what you think. I've been reading articles on his website for a couple of years and so far, no one can prove him wrong. His process has been proven by dozens of labs and does just what he says it does.
He also has a number of spin-off technologies that are worth reading about.
To me, this could be that energy breakthrough that could put us safely into space.
I've heard of tons of this quackery... over-unity, HHO, whatever... it's a game of confusion, a shell game. If it really did work, there are prizes offered for any such device to pass a controlled test monitored by trained scientists, and these quacks never even apply for the huge prizes-- millions of dollars-- to prove their assertions. Anyone that is skilled at doing sleight-of-hand will tell you it's ridiculously easy to fool the naive, those that WANT to believe, and those with an untrained eye. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH!!! A battery is like a spring-- it only supplies as much energy as you put into it, and silly talk about hydrogen electron shells is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
If Paul Scott, above, is the Paul Scott I know, he's a good friend I will be seeing in a couple of hours at a meeting of the Electric Vehicle Association in Diamond Bar, CA. I was about to make the same correction to the statement about slow traffic reducing your range.
@ J A Guzic, author of the article: it is far too easy to make gross mistakes such as the one I just mentioned if you do not actually immerse yourself in the technology and the culture. It's about like trying to write about Buddhism or Mormonism if you're not of the faith-- next time you write such an article, contact someone that has hands-on experience before publishing. It'll require far fewer corrections, and result in less embarrassment.
In a similar way, many of the responses made to this article reflect a lack of actual experience with the subject matter. For instance, EVs actually REDUCE the load on the grid and REDUCE the overall cost of electricity when it is managed properly. V2G, or Vehicle to Grid, is a system being deployed in many areas and will eventually be implemented throughout the country that allows EVs to charge at night when loads are low (and windmills at their highest efficiency), and then the ulitities can "ask" for some of that energy back during the daytime to help alleviate spikes in energy demand. It requires what is referred to as "smart cars", or "smart charging", in which a car owner could decide if they want their car to be used on any given day, and by how much-- if you won't be doing any driving, you may be very willing to share some electrons with the power company in exchange for fair compensation on your power bill. With enough smart charging, we could eliminate or delay the building of expensive new power stations. Google Vehicle-to-Grid for more info.
Some people have highly simplified ideas of the cost/ benefits associated with EVs-- they think only in terms of how much it costs for electricity per mile to drive an EV, or they only think in terms of "global warming", or air pollution, or dependence on foreign oil. But the change to EV use as a culture is extremely complex, with tons of benefits in many ways that many people never even consider. Once all of the costs and benefits are balanced relative to ICE cars and EVs, electrons come out as the clear way to go, hands down. We need to get this technology matured and online as soon as possible.
Have to go now... don't want to be late for my EVA meeting...
This is not quackery, hho or over-unity nonsense. Go to Dr Mills website and read for yourself. I'm not claiming anything.
His power unit produces the electricity on-the-fly, it doesn't store it in a battery.
I'm asking readers to go there and read what he has published. Tell me what you think
To everyone at BMW USA:
This is the first time in 14 years of being a BMW customer that I write a note to you and I’m doing it simply because I’m extremely dissatisfied with the way BMW USA and the Active E car allocation process has been managed. It was almost a year ago that I learned about the Active E car and as soon as you opened the preregistration process, I completed the online form. Unfortunately, the lack of communication between your company and your customers has been inexcusable and to some extent insulting. From the time I registered in your Active E website to the time I got the letter below, it has been a guessing game with very little information received from anyone, including from your Stevens Creek, Santa Clara, CA BMW Dealer (no blame on them, because they seems to be as lost as we are). I can’t even count the number of emails and calls I made to BMW in the past few months, including to your AeroVironment charging station consultation partner to find out if they had any updates or if anything else was needed to expedite the process. Everyone I talked to told me the same thing: “We have very little information from BMW North America and we cannot help you at this time”.
I really thought that by acting quickly in the pre-registration process and by completing all the steps required, I was going to get one of the Active E cars, but I only got a note that reads: “BMW Electronaut Recruitment: You've been placed on the West Coast waiting list”, with no further details about what this means, where in the waiting list I’m in, for how long I need to wait, or what criteria was used to determine the car allocation.
My current car leasing is coming to an end in a couple of months (April, 2012) and for the first time in 14 years, me and my family are saying goodbye to the BMW brand. I feel that your company was not very straight forward with us when advertising the Active E car and the lack of customer care that your company has demonstrated throughout this process has hugely impacted my perception of BWM. With that said and until you fix this mess; I’m taking my business elsewhere.
Just buy a tesla they have done the electric car right!
People who buy electric cars are almost always liberal , and vote for Obama does that tell you anything about electric cars?