A significant anniversary has occurred. The BMW ActiveE has been in field testing for a year now, driven by seven hundred select BMW enthusiasts in a leased program. The ActiveE is the company’s full-electric prototype for its coming i3; the program is gathering user data and experience in the wild. Based on BMW’s schedule, data looks good…
First up was Tom Moloughney in New Jersey, who has racked up an astounding 35,000 miles in that year. Tom owns a restaurant where he has J1772 charging stations, so he can go 80-90 miles out and back if necessary. Which he does, almost every day (hello, hospitality industry). Tom is by a clear margin the most active “electronaut” (as the drivers in the program call themselves). Note that he, like others, can charge via solar panels (yes, even in New Jersey), and thus kept right on driving through the Sandy mess.
Others are not far behind. David Pascuale and another electronaut (who doesn’t blog) in California have also accumulated big EV mileages. They even have a leaderboard for their little (big?) mileage-marathon.
Obviously, it’s not all barleywine and edelweiss. This is an experimental program, and BMW found out that they didn’t lube a transmission joint right. Some drivers had to bring in their vehicles for major transmission work. The trip would have happened anyway, since one of the lease terms is that drivers must come in every 5,000 miles for diagnostics and other data. At the end of the leases, BMW will do teardowns of their test fleet. Also note that the transmission lube was not something particular to electric drive, and could happen with any large machinery.
The point of all this is to clear the ways for the BMW i3. Late in 2013, BMW will offer their luxury electric. One of the strategies is to implement carbon fiber in the structure; the passenger cage (I’m being serious this time) will be much lighter due to the composite construction. The nose and tail will still be metal, so you can go to a regular bodyshop for collision work.
The i3, meanwhile, will clear the ways for the BMW i8. They are also planning an electric two-wheeler. Needless to say, BMW is serious about the electrification of the car. This, from an organization known for their piston-engine refinement and technology. They see the future coming anyway, and want to be a part of it, not part of the past. BMW is not about to be left behind in electric drive, certainly not by Chevrolet. Daimler Benz is partnering with Tesla; Toyota and Volkswagen (yes, Volkswagen) are also threatening to lead the field in carbon fiber. And they’re all looking over their shoulder for the Chinese.