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Test drove the ActiveE today.

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  • Test drove the ActiveE today.

    Gentlemen,

    Today I got the chance to test drive BMWs new ActiveE, which is a pure electric version of their 1 series. 1100 units or so will be made and will be leased (only) on the East and West coast. People who had the Mini-E predecessor get first dibs on signing a contract.

    I drove one of the first production cars and also had a chance to put it on a lift for a closer inspection.

    Overall, the vehicle gives a very nice and polished impression. The 170hp (if I remember) motor, with all torque available from 0 rpm, gives a silk-smooth acceleration away from a full stop. It is a very silent and space ship-ey feeling to drive with no gear changes and only minimal electric noise. Pressing the "Eco Pro" button gives a more conservative throttle mapping and a quite aggressive brake regenerative strategy. Letting go of the gas pedal in Eco Pro gives you the same level of braking, down to a full stop, that you would go apply in a regular car when coming to a stop light. It's a matter of taste, but I like it since I didn't have to move my foot to the brake as often when doing city driving.

    The infotainment system has been modified to provide information and interaction with the electric drive train. I didn't dig too deeply into the system, but it seemed more geared toward raw data presentation than usability, showing lots of bars and numbers.

    The main problem with this car is, as always, weight. A standard 135i weighs 3400 lbs. The ActiveE clocks in at 4700 lbs, and you can feel it. Once the initial acceleration tapers off, it is simply underpowered. The suspension is very well tuned to the weight of the vehicle, being BMW firm but not harsh, but fast lane changes immediately reveals the enormous mass being hauled around. Although the car attains 50/50 weight distribution by allocating the three high voltage (355v) packs in the front, in the tunnel and in the back, the front pack is so high up that it is more or less flush against the hood. This means a higher center of gravity, which translates into roll. I didn't have a chance to do any spirited driving, but turn in seemed ok (even with roll), probably due to the battery packs being put as close to the center of the car as possible, thus minimizing pendulum momentum. I would not, however, recommend tracking this car.

    Nicely executed as the user experience was packaged, putting the car on the lift revealed something completely different. The whole thing was, frankly, sloppily executed, which I suspect was due to stress. The brackets and sub-frames where very crudely done, and some of the brackets had brackets bolted on top of them in an obvious attempt to get some extra strength out of the assembly. Some of the high power wiring were tie-wrapped in exposed positions under the car. Even if there is probably no immediate danger for a short, a protective shield against debris would have been nice. The insulation goo applied to the underbody seams was slathered on in haste, and you could almost hear the 3am German screaming in the assembly shop with the hauler waiting outside to get the car to the port.

    There was even inklings of surface rust on the rear motor/suspension subframe on a car with 1000 SoCal miles on it. I guess there is a reason why the car is lease only.

    In conclusion: Nice user experience, prototype level engineering.

    Apparently this is the second phase, after the Mini-E, in BMW's electric roadmap. The final stage will be the all electric 3 series, which I suspect will be of better quality than the ActiveE.

    /Magnus F.

  • #2
    I would seriously commute in an electric car... as long as the distance, A/C & heat were not an issue.

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    • #3
      I was offered an Active E to lease since I was part of the Mini E program. I declined though for a variety of reasons, some mentioned by Magnus. I am interested in the BMW i3 which will be available in about 2 years. The weight problem should be solved since the body will be largely made of carbon fiber, but I'm dreading to hear what the cost will be!

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      • #4
        Every night before I go to bed I thank my lucky stars for having been born into and lived the vast majority of my adult life at the top of the bell-shaped curve of the epoch of Hydrocarbon Man. There will never be another time like this, full of 8000 hp NHRA Top Fuelers, or 200 hp SuperQuadratto powered Ducati street bikes, or ridiculous 720 hp Ferraris, or 250+ hp 1100 lb English madmen's cars, all of them roaring like lions and belching great stinking fumes.

        Seriously, how much fun will it be to hop up and electric car? Where will the smell of oil, gasoline and other precious automotively fluids mix together w/ that of sticky soft rubber tires, creating that heady mixture in your garage, an aroma that will instantly conjure all those speedy memories of drives and track days. How will the hum of an electric motor ever possibly compare to the note of a highly tuned V8?

        As I was commuting down the freeway last week in the pre-dawn hours I was met w/ the sight of an all-electric Leaf, trundling down the road w/ no lights. I have no doubt that the driver was conserving power.

        Electric cars suck.
        Chris
        ------------
        A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted

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        • #5
          Originally posted by moosetestbestanden View Post
          ...

          Electric cars suck.
          I agree. They suck - today.

          However, having driven the Tesla sport, I realise that there may be life after peak oil. The Tesla is also too heavy, but the acceleration and drivetrain smoothness is just amazing. In 5-10 years when we have the next generation of battery technology on the market, and weight has come down substantially, it will be very interesting to track the Tesla II. I can imagine, if I may speculate for a bit, that it will be a purer, more zen-like experience where earthly things such as torque bands, and gears are not any longer standing between you and that perfect apex just ahead.

          Being a Caterham owner, I agree completely with the raw mechanical power of a primitive, small car and the right engine. Looking at it from the other side, you used to have to choose between fast and comfortable, and now those two polar opposites are merging. The electric car (in 10 years) is just the next step on that path, bringing brutal acceleration, speed and handling into an environment that is easier to handle than a Lexus.

          By now Moose is howling in anguish over this hellish future, but there is hope. Caterham, Lotus, or somebody else will take that electric drivetrain, strip out all the crap, and drop it into a 1000lbs frame. You will then have something with a gas pedal, a steering wheel, brakes, and nothing else, that runs circles around our current crop of Caterhams. I'm actually quite anxious to try one of those beasts out.

          /Magnus F.
          Last edited by magnusfeuer; February 28, 2012, 08:55 AM. Reason: spelling

          Comment


          • #6
            No, they'll always suck. They may actually work at some point along the way but the vital parts, or what for me are the vital parts as previously stated, will always be missing. How well they work or how fast they may go (for a couple of minutes anyway) is irrelevant.

            However, for purposes of rational discussion:

            There are and likely always will be (the phrase being defined as 'the rest of my lifetime') severe limitations to discharge batteries powering electric motors. I've been having all kinds of fun w/ battery powered RC helicopters of late (they are, ahem, a gas!) but the fun doesn't last long. They use Lithium polymer high discharge rate batteries that deliver lots of juice for a short period of time. Then you wait for the recharge cycle - yawn. I'm not sure how much room there will be in a 1000 lb. electric car for passengers and driver and luggage and such like, current state (pun intended) of battery technology being how it is. If somehow the laws of thermodynamics and physics and chemical potential could be overturned then things might be almost reasonable. But I reckon that some clever bastard would have figured it out already were it possible. We'll see refinement and evolution of the things, pointed toward the daily consumer end, but not revolution.
            Chris
            ------------
            A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted

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            • #7
              Originally posted by magnusfeuer View Post
              I agree. They suck - today.

              ........... In 5-10 years when we have the next generation of battery technology on the market, and weight has come down substantially.......

              /Magnus F.
              They have been trying to find a away to do this for 100 years, with much more effort in the last twenty or thirty. None of the 'revolutionary inventions' have panned out. They all seem to go the way of the 100 mpg carburetor that the big automakers and oil companies are suppressing.

              There will always be alcohol, you can grow it in your back yard. More power from it too. Mileage goes to heck.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Doug Liedblad View Post
                They have been trying to find a away to do this for 100 years, with much more effort in the last twenty or thirty. None of the 'revolutionary inventions' have panned out. They all seem to go the way of the 100 mpg carburetor that the big automakers and oil companies are suppressing.

                There will always be alcohol, you can grow it in your back yard. More power from it too. Mileage goes to heck.
                Actually they have made huge strides in battery technology in the last 20 years. The original GM EV1 used lead acid batteries, but the Volt uses lithium based batteries like Chris uses in his helicopters - much lighter and more power dense.

                And all the alcohol I brew is for human consumption only! Instead, I put solar panels on my roof late in 2010. I produced over 3000 kWh more than I used in 2011 so Edison sent me a check! If I still had the Mini E, that 3000 kWh would have been good for 12,000 miles since the car averaged 4 miles for each kWh of charge (more in town, less on the highway). At $4 a gallon gas and assuming you drive a car that gets 25 mpg, that 3000 kWh would have been worth $1920 in gas ($5 gallon = $2400, and $6 gallon = $2880!). And solar panels have come way down in price over the last few years.

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                • #9
                  They're working with capacitors too.... which can fully charge quickly.

                  Of coure their were those who said "..why did we give up perfectly good horses, shoveling horseshit, shoeing, feeding... though a car can go faster, how can a greasy garage compare to the smells and aroma of a barn";)

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                  • #10
                    Speaking of "Breakthrough that will be on the market in five years", this was on Marketplace yesterday: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/su...r-game-changer

                    Their website: http://enviasystems.com/

                    I'll check them out a bit more...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Well...

                      The trouble with Lithium

                      To spare those who don't have time, here's a quote from the document (lifted from the wikipedia page on Li):

                      "There are widespread hopes of using lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles, but one study concluded that "realistically achievable lithium carbonate production will be sufficient for only a small fraction of future PHEV and EV global market requirements", that "demand from the portable electronics sector will absorb much of the planned production increases in the next decade", and that "mass production of lithium carbonate is not environmentally sound, it will cause irreparable ecological damage to ecosystems that should be protected and that LiIon propulsion is incompatible with the notion of the 'Green Car'"."

                      The 'portable electronics sector' they refer to is, well, you all know because you're probably reading this on such a device. As for me, I simply can't stand the notion that someone would be demanding a resource for transportation or communication (such as those devices provide) that I could be using for play. The nerve of those bastards. :-D

                      And that document does not address the disposal issue at all. When my LiPo RC heli batteries expire (after about 50 - 100 cycles, depending on how nicely - slowly - I recharge them) I'm supposed to do this...

                      but I just put the tiny little buggers in the trash can.

                      And then, we have to ask just how much energy is required to extract the (finite amount of) Li. And we have to ask just how that energy is generated (hint: uranium, plutonium, and our old fossil fuel buddy coal) or the environmental cost of that kind of electricity generation, which is the same energy that is used when you plug in an 'emission free' vehicle to the wall. Except by Stan, mostly that is (hi Stan! Time to 7Up yet?). His analysis isn't quite complete.

                      Frankly, Mondo is right, or almost right. He is correct in referencing horseshit.

                      Like I said, I thank my lucky stars each and every time I hit the starter. Yeah, baby!
                      Chris
                      ------------
                      A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted

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                      • #12
                        Reminds me of the old slogan from years ago regarding purists: Flatheads Forever
                        With Best Regards,
                        Jim F.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by moosetestbestanden View Post
                          hi Stan! Time to 7Up yet?
                          Well, I recently bought an old Miata, and Westfield makes a 7 with the drivetrain based on a Miata donor, so there is a possibility. I need to wait till the daughter is out of college first though.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Mo betta
                            Chris
                            ------------
                            A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Any of you guys see this Electric Birkin for sale in Australia.

                              http://www.birkin.com.au/electric-bi...3-for-sale.php

                              The ad. cracked me up that the car has a cd player. I guess when you have no engine noise you can hear a stereo!
                              Paul. Birkin S3 /Dunnel zetec/emerald ECU

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