BMW ActiveE Electric Car

“We are acquiring pioneering future technologies and raw materials that we need for our MegaCity vehicle on competitive terms,” said BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer.

Dubbed as the MegaCity under the company’s Project i division, the car is being developed for extreme lightweightedness. To achieve this “extreme” level of lightness, the car uses a plastic reinforced with carbon fiber.

Some 450 Mini Es are scattered around the east and west coasts as part of a 600-vehicle international test fleet, and the ActiveE (based on the 1-Series Coupe) will be tested in a similar program. The first ActiveE will be shown off at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

BMW has just unveiled the next step in the program, with the electric vehicle that will be revealed in the Detroit Auto Show and is called the BMW Concept ActiveE which evolves the MINIE to the next level.

This is a 4-door 4 seat compact sedan which borrows its stylish shell from the current 1 series.

It uses a a 170 hp (125 kw) electric motor which is mounted to the rear axle, making the car rear-wheel drive. BMW says this “guarantees the characteristic sheer driving pleasure which is typical of BMW.”

It is a pure electric car and will derive power from a newly designed and engineered lithium-ion battery pack produced in cooperation with partner SB LiMotive. The car will have a 100 mile “real-world” electric range, 8.5 second 0 to 60 time, and electronically limited top speed of 90 MPH.

The ActiveE has many of the attributes of the Mini E, but with a different battery supplier, SB LiMotive (a Korean-based collaboration between Bosch and Samsung). With a 170-horsepower electric motor (125- kilowatts) and a 32-kilowatt-hour battery pack, it can reach 60 mph in 8.5. seconds, close to the Mini E. Cruising range is the same 100 miles. Although it’s a BMW, speed is electronically limited to 90 mph. It won’t kill the competition on the autobahn, but it could do well on I-95. Charge time from 220 volts is said to be 4.5 hours.

The newly crafted electric power unit is unlike asynchronous electric motors and is specially designed to deliver high torque not only at the start but at higher speeds, more closely simulating a combustion engine. 184 lb-ft of torque is available at the start. The lithium ion pack appears to be 44.4 kwh of which 35.5 kwh is useable.

The battery system uses a liquid-cooled “intelligent battery management system” which allows the car to achieve its stated range regardless of outdoor climate conditions. The current MINI E range drops significantly in cold weather.

The battery pack is housed in separate modules which are placed where the normal car’s combustion engine and fuel tank would be. The car will have a curb weight of 3900 pounds and 50-50 weight distribution. This differs considerably from the bulky pack taking up the rear seat location in the current MINI E.

The vehicle will continue to offer high intensity regenerative braking that will occur as soon as the accelerator is released, similar to what is seen in the current MINI E, allowing single pedal driving in almost all situations.

The interior is tastefully designed utilizing liquid white and blue highlights. Gone are the spartan accoutrements of the MINI E, replaced with high tech more sophisticated driver interface. A 7 cubic foot luggage space is also provided.

The power electronic unit, prone to failure in the MINI E, will instead be “reliable and safe.”

Charging can be done at 240 volts and 32 amps in 4.5 hours. A specialized electric HVAC system has also been designed which can be remotely programmed to acclimatize the car using grid energy before the driver actually takes off. This can be triggered via a mobile phone application as well, and limits use of on-board energy to attain passenger comfort. The mobile application will also provide charging status information.

BMW states they have already begun building these vehicles and will introduce them into a new field test involving consumers and utilities in the US and Europe. The current MINI E fleet of 450 cars are due to be returned in the summer of 2010, and these cars will likely replace them and be offers in siginificantly higher volumes. Pricing and lease details have not been announced.