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Green Car Guide to drive BMW ActiveE in RAC Future Car Challenge


Paul Clarke
Founder and Editor of
, is to drive the
BMW ActiveE
in the
RAC Future Car Challenge event which takes place from Brighton to London on 5 November 2011.

The BMW ActiveE is an electric 1 Series, and it is BMW’s showcase of its latest electric drivetrain technology. It represents a step ahead of the electric MINI E, and is a test bed for the technology that will appear in the forthcoming BMW i3 and i8.

“The BMW ActiveE is an excellent car to drive in the RAC Future Car Challenge because it is a rear-wheel drive electric BMW and it is a symbol of what is to come in the future in terms of BMW’s exciting electric car offering. It looks like there will be three of us in the car, so it will be even more important to drive carefully in order to post a good result for the efficiency of the vehicle, as this will be measured on the event.”

Based on the current BMW 1 Series Coupé, the BMW ActiveE is the second electric test vehicle to be created by the BMW Group.

With four seats and a luggage compartment of 200 litres, the BMW ActiveE is the first electric vehicle from the BMW Group to combine the space of a traditionally powered BMW with a fully electric drivetrain. Intelligent packaging ensures that the driver and all three passengers have the same head, leg and shoulder room as they would in a standard BMW 1 Series Coupé.

At the heart of the BMW ActiveE is a powerful electric synchronous motor which propels the car from zero to 60 mph in just nine seconds, delivering 168 hp and maximum torque of 250 Nm, from a standing start. Its top speed is electronically limited to 90 mph. The BMW ActiveE maintains the trademark BMW low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution.

Replacing the engine block, transmission and fuel tank are three large energy storage units containing lithium-ion cells. These modules are protected by a steel-plate battery housing with integrated liquid cooling system, to keep the batteries at optimum operating temperature helping to increase the range. These housings also help to ensure that the BMW ActiveE meets the same safety standards as the BMW 1 Series Coupé, meeting and exceeding the levels legislated.

The BMW ActiveE is engineered so that when the driver takes his foot off the accelerator pedal the motor becomes a generator and feeds the electricity created from kinetic energy back into the vehicle battery, while at the same time braking torque is created, slowing the vehicle down. This recuperation of energy can increase the range by up to 20 per cent.

For the first time in a BMW Group electric vehicle the BMW ActiveE features an ‘intermediate position’ for the accelerator pedal that results in the car’s own kinetic energy being used to move forward, without consuming energy from the batteries; in essence a ‘gliding’ mode. With previous electric vehicles when the accelerator lifts the car automatically starts to brake. To further increase the range of the BMW ActiveE, ECO PRO Mode can be selected, where the drive configuration and comfort functions are modified to use less energy and facilitate a more efficient driving style. In ECO PRO mode the heating and air conditioning systems are programmed to use less energy and the accelerator demands less power with the same travel.

The BMW ActiveE can be charged using a 32-amp wallbox in five hours, or overnight from a conventional domestic socket.

A test fleet of over 1,000 BMW ActiveE vehicles are being trialled in the USA, Europe and China and will provide valuable insights into the everyday use of the car. The knowledge and insights gained from the field trials of the BMW ActiveE will be fed back for the future development of the Megacity Vehicle, due to go into production in 2013.

The RAC Future Car Challenge event takes place between Brighton and London on Saturday 5 November 2011. The aim of the challenge is to drive 60 miles from Brighton to London using the least energy possible within the 2 hrs 45 min minimum and 3 hrs 30 min maximum time permitted. Imperial College London will monitor the energy usage using data-loggers which will measure fuel consumption and CO 2 emissions, or current and voltage (in the case of electric vehicles).

The formal finish of the event will be in Pall Mall followed by a special ceremonial finish and presentation in Regent Street. Here, the vehicles will join the display of around 100 pre-1905 motor cars in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run International Concours in front of an audience of an estimated 250,000 people.

Read about the RAC Green Grand Prix , a ‘warm-up’ event for the Future Car Challenge.

For more information see: