In March of 2008 BMW first announced plans to establish a new research division called “Project i,” whose task would be to develop a number of solutions for a vehicle designed for congested city motoring.

The goal of Project i was never to exclusively develop one type of vehicle or another, but to come up with a range of technologies BMW could introduce across its fleet. Last year’s Mini E electric vehicle, which is currently testing in small fleets around the world, was the first tangible evidence that Project i was in action.

Now, BMW has released details of a new all-electric concept car, which will be based on the 1-Series Coupe and make its debut next month at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. Like the Mini E before it, the Concept ActiveE will go into limited production and be offered to interested customers keen to help out with the electric vehicle test program.

Feedback gathered from the trial users will be used to help design a production BMW electric vehicle that officials have confirmed will be put on the market under a sub-brand of BMW in the first half of the next decade.

As for the Concept ActiveE, BMW has shown that it is able to install all the necessities for an electric powertrain into the body of a compact car while still retaining space for all four passengers as well as up to 7 cubic-feet of storage.

Powering the concept is an electric motor located in the rear axle, making it rear-wheel drive. Peak output stands at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to offer 0-60 mph acceleration times of approximately 8.5 seconds. Top speed has been limited to 90 mph.

The electric drive system draws its energy from a new, advanced lithium-ion battery pack developed jointly by BMW and its partner SB LiMotive. It enables a range of roughly 100 miles and will take about 4.5 hours to fully charge.

Regenerative braking is integrated into the rear wheels, turning the electric motor into a generator when the driver lifts off the accelerator. BMW says up to 75% of all deceleration occurs without using the brakes, recapturing 20% of the battery's energy. When greater brake force is required, pressing the brake pedal engages the friction brakes just as in a standard BMW.



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