BMW ActiveE electric car, January 2012, New Jersey
That car was delivered to New Jersey residents Tom and Meredith Moloughney who have signed up for a two-year lease on it.
They were one of the inaugural MINI E pioneers in 2009, and having been so in love with that car it was only naturally that they would upgrade to the next-generation of electric cars from BMW.
Before we get into the driving impressions, we’ll just go through a quick refresher on the ActiveE. The zero-emission vehicle marks the second phase of BMW's electric car development program, and follows on from the MINI E. Getting the specifications and the dynamics of electric car ownership correct with the ActiveE is crucial for BMW as the next phase will be the launch of the long-awaited i3 some time in the following year.
At 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the ActiveE is among the more interesting electric cars around, though it falls well short of the Tesla Roadster. Built on a standard 1-Series platform adapted to EV use, the ActiveE should provide rewarding driving dynamics, even if it doesn't light up the dynamometer. Newly developed lithium-ion batteries facilitate a driving range of up to 100 miles on a full charge.
Key attributes that stood out for Voelcker on his initial drive? He found that the performance was good in both normal mode and in the more conservative "EcoPro" setting. He said the entire car feels somewhat heavier and more deliberate in the EcoPro setting, and while power is reduced, it still felt fine in traffic.
Like the Tesla, the ActiveE is also easy to drive on a single pedal. The regenerative braking is relatively aggressive, but very well modulated, and it takes only a few minutes to learn just when to lift off so the car comes to rest just behind the car in front at a stoplight, according to Voelcker.
Finally, he also found that BMW had done a good job in reinforcing the 1-Series body and re-tuning its suspension and handling to cope with a very different arrangement of mass and power delivery than in the gasoline versions. Remember, the ActiveE tips the scales at some 4,000 pounds. This added weight reduces the litheness of the original, but it also means a low center of gravity which in turn enables the car to corner tight and flat.
To read the full first drive report on the BMW ActiveE, head over to our sister site Green Car Reports.