MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
BMW Brings DriveNow Electric Carshare to Bay Area
Using ActiveE electric cars based on BMW 1 Series, DriveNow charges a one-time fee of $39; you then pay $12 for the first half hour and $0.32 for each additional driving minute.
Business Insider 23 May 2014
BMW's car-sharing service, called DriveNow, is adding 80 cars to its fleet in the Bay Area, and starting this month, it will offer street parking spots in the Mission District in San Francisco.
That means that you don't have to drop the car off in a dedicated lot, as you would with, say, Zipcar. Instead, the car will tell you when you're in an approved drop-off zone, which is between Potrero Avenue and Folsom Street and between 16th and 26th streets.
"We're starting in certain streets in the Mission District, and on those streets, we only have to contend with street cleaning," Dana Goldin, DriveNow's chief marketing officer, told Business Insider. "So right now we're avoiding meters and we're avoiding residential permit areas."
After you drop off the car, push the "End Booking" button, and all you have to worry about is avoiding a street cleaning ticket. You can also drop the car off in one of the 17 DriveNow stations, located around the Bay Area, including Palo Alto and both the San Francisco and Oakland airports.
"On the website, in the app, and in the car, you can view the DriveNow drop-off zone," Goldin said.
And one-way dropoffs are allowed, which makes for a way cheaper ride than taking a taxi to the airport.
DriveNow charges a one-time fee of $39; you then pay $12 for the first half hour and $0.32 for each additional driving minute. If you park or charge the car during the rental period, you only pay $0.13 per minute. You can also pay by the day.
Let's all just get along
Although it may seem that DriveNow is gunning after Zipcar, that's not necessarily the case, said Richard Steinberg, CEO of DriveNow USA. With Zipcar, you reserve the car further in advance and it's up to the drivers to return the cars to the appropriate spot when their time is up.
But DriveNow allows you to use the car as you need it: you can book the car just 15 minutes in advance.
"We're not necessarily giving you the same liability or guarantee that Zipcar does, but we give you the spontaneity," Steinberg told Business Insider. "We believe the two services are complementary: their service makes sense in certain instances, and our services makes sense in other instances."
Luxurious, eco-friendly cars
The fleet consists of 70 BMW ActiveE all-electric cars, which are based on the BMW 1 Series Coupe. They have a range of about 100 miles before they need to be charged.
I didn't get a chance to test-drive the ActiveE, but I did get a chance to take the similar i3 out for a spin. The i3 is the next phase in BMW's "Project i" program, which aims to develop a lightweight, eco-friendly electric car for city dwellers. People field tested and gave their feedback on the ActiveE, and BMW followed up with the i3.
The i3 offered a smooth ride and cool looks. The body is made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, and the inside is made of recycled and eco-friendly materials.
Looking forward, DriveNow looks to expand its number of cars, so that there could be a DriveNow car on every block. It just added 80 cars to its fleet, bringing the total to 150 in the Bay Area.
DriveNow and its street parking component is already a success in Germany, where they have around 2,350 cars in the fleet.
It wants to extend street parking to include areas of Bernal Heights, Haight Ashbury, Noe Valley, NOPA, Alamo Square, and Potrero Hill in San Francisco by 2014 — all parts of the city that allow DriveNow to stay within parking regulations.
"Street parking has been a challenge for us, because that's our true business model," Goldin says. "So we took a hybrid approach with having stations here first, and then we want to open up more street parking."
DriveNow here in the U.S. is based on how it works in Germany, where there's basically a car on every block. "Pretty much anywhere you are, you're going to find a car," Steinberg said. "And that's the model we're basing it on."
BMW Launches Electronaut Effect Web Site
Web site features aggregate car data for the 700 BMW ActiveEs drivers who are participating in electric car field trials since January 2012.
BMW Blog 14 Apr 2013
BMW today launched the Electronaut Effect, a new digital tool that gives consumers access to key aggregated data about the range, cost savings and positive environmental impact that actual BMW ActiveE drivers – called “Electronauts” – are experiencing across the country. This unfiltered information, updated weekly, will help inform consumers’ decision about purchasing an electric vehicle.
The Electronaut Effect at www.bmwusa.com/ElectronautEffect features aggregate car data for the 700 BMW ActiveEs – the first fully-electric BMWs – and their drivers, participating in the BMW ActiveE Field Trial that began January 2012. This streamlined data is presented in three basic categories: Range (i.e., most miles driven in one day), Savings (i.e., total money saved), and Environment (i.e., gallons of gas not used).
As of today, Electronauts have driven approximately 6.1 million miles; the most miles driven in one day by a single Electronaut was 367.7. These ActiveE drivers have already saved more than $740,000 collectively by driving the all-electric cars (calculated by subtracting the money they spent on charging, from the amount they did not spend on gas). Together, they have saved well over 275,000 gallons of gas.
“The Electronaut Effect is an exciting tool because it offers consumers unvarnished, hard data on the driving performance of our fleet of ActiveE vehicles, providing a very accurate picture of the BMW electric vehicle experience and the benefits of all-electric driving,” said Jacob Harb, head of Electric Vehicle Operations and Strategy, BMW of North America. “This is an important, new resource to help drivers considering an electric vehicle purchase make informed decisions.”
The 700 Electronauts, meanwhile, will have access to a related tool, available at www.BMWActivateTheFuture.com that offers a detailed, more in-depth look at data specific to their BMW ActiveE, as well as to the entire fleet. Electronauts can see the average number of times he or she charges their ActiveE per day, average remaining charge at the end of the day, and their personal reduction in driving-related carbon footprint. Electronauts may also choose to opt into a “Current Standings” section that lets them compare select statistics to those of other Electronauts. They can view the top 25 Electronauts in the U.S. for select data points and can see their current ranks for these statistics. Or they can compare West Coast vs. East Coast driving data, such as total miles driven by coast.
Non-Electronauts who visit the www.BMWActivateTheFuture.com site will be able to view the aggregate version of this more in-depth data.
Test Driving BMW's Next Generation Electric Car
Evening test drive at average 49 mph achieved a range of 101 miles with 9 percent of battery charge remaining.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette 19 Feb 2012
Falling trees may not make a sound when nobody is there to hear -- but the sound not coming from the BMW ActiveE poses an equally profound riddle. Even in full sprint, the rear-drive coupe has absolutely no exhaust note.
That's because the car doesn't have a tailpipe -- or an engine, for that matter. It's the first 100 percent electric Bimmer, offered to 700 Americans who will help BMW evaluate its electric technology.
I recently spent a week driving one of the first production units around the San Francisco Bay Area, and never stopped marveling at the muted whir, like a jet turbine's, from the 125-kilowatt electric motor. Which poses the question: Is a BMW any less of an ultimate driving machine if it is silent?
The limited-production ActiveE -- only 1,100 will be produced globally -- weighs a hefty 4,000 pounds, some 800 pounds more than the BMW 1 Series on which it is based. But the ActiveE carries its bulk with near-gymnastic dexterity. I thoroughly enjoyed tossing the two-ton Teutonic subcompact between the lanes of the Bay Area's bridges, up and down San Francisco's steeply pitched streets and along the winding roads of Berkeley's hills.
Acceleration from a stop to 60 miles per hour comes in an unremarkable 8.5 seconds, but the feel behind the wheel -- especially the swift and smooth-as-silk surges from 0 to 30 m.p.h., and from 50 to 80 -- was blissful. The steering response is everything you would expect from a BMW.
A well-calibrated suspension helps to counter the extra weight. Dave Buchko, a BMW spokesman, said, "Our engineers are really good at selecting shocks and spring rates that provide well-controlled jounce and rebound."
Removing the engine and related parts lightened the 1 Series donor car, but installing a 32 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack added back 992 pounds. The 192 battery cells are crammed all over the place: under the raised "power dome" hood, along the driveshaft tunnel and where the fuel tank used to be.
The added bulk takes a toll on driving range. Yet I managed at least 80 miles of charge every day, even when flogging the system. Driving with more restraint took me closer to 90 miles.
One evening I took a two-hour highway spin, averaging 49 m.p.h. Using the Ecopro setting -- which dials back the throttle response, but not to a compromising degree -- I went 101 miles with 9 percent of the battery charge remaining, according to the dashboard monitor. Plugged into a 240-volt circuit, the on-board 7.7-kilowatt charger provides an empty-to-full charge in about four hours.
The interior is quintessential BMW, with tasteful materials, austere but useful displays for information like the battery state-of-charge and attention to detail that extends to each meticulous stitch in the leather upholstery.
"It's a step up from the Mini E," said Rich Steinberg, BMW's manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy in the United States. "It's got leather. It's got navi. It's got cruise. It's got heated seats. It's got satellite. All the things you'd expect from BMW."
Mr. Steinberg was referring to the all-electric version of the Mini, the previous test platform, since discontinued, in BMW's electric-car program. The Mini E was a relatively spartan car with a rough ride and batteries where the backseat might have been. The ActiveE is more refined in all respects, and it uses the same battery, motor and electric drivetrain -- developed by BMW in partnership with Bosch and SB LiMotive -- that will end up in the company's full-production electric car, the i3, which is to start trickling into the market late next year.
In the ActiveE, BMW added a liquid-based thermal management system to keep the batteries from becoming too cold or too hot. This helps to prevent the loss of driving range -- as much as 40 percent -- experienced by Mini E drivers in extremely cold weather.
The most remarkable feature carried over from the Mini E to the ActiveE is the very assertive regenerative braking, which applies strong deceleration as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerator. I drove the ActiveE down Marin Avenue, the steepest street in the Berkeley hills. Without my touching either pedal, the ActiveE slowly glided down the incline to 20 m.p.h. and eased to a crawl -- as if in an ultralow "granny gear." Imagine that same sub-first-gear feel applied on flat roads as soon as you lift your foot, bringing the car from 40 m.p.h. to a stop in about four seconds.
"One-pedal drive is something we're proud of," Mr. Steinberg said. "We're continuing to exploit it not only for the energy reasons, but also because of the driving experience." BMW estimates that one-pedal driving increases by 20 percent the amount of energy reclaimed when the electric drive motor switches into generator mode and pumps juice into the battery pack.
It took me only a few stops to figure out how to approach a stoplight -- lifting my foot off the accelerator at the right time to reach a complete stop at the right spot without touching the brake pedal. On highways or surface roads, I learned how to gently move the accelerator pedal slightly up and down, never taking my foot off, to produce the desired speed -- or to find the sweet spot where the car glides along as if coasting.
E.V.'s like the Tesla Roadster have used the single pedal approach, but BMW's one-pedal E.V. driving will become, I believe, the model for electric car engineering. I'm a convert to the single pedal, and wish the Nissan Leaf -- my usual car for daily commutes -- drove the same way.
Most E.V. makers aim to give their electric vehicles a driving and braking experience as familiar as possible to drivers of conventional gas-powered cars. The Leaf, even with its impressive quickness, has a wispy feel, whereas the ActiveE operates like a maglev train, hurtling forward, hugging corners and engaging the road (while not burning a drop of petroleum, I might add).
I had ample opportunity to switch back and forth between the ActiveE and my own Leaf. My week with the ActiveE coincided with the week I was to drive my daughter's car pool to high school. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in my latest effort to convince my daughter that her electric-Bimmer-driving dad is cool. The driver seat, slid all the way back to make room for my 6-foot-4 frame, touched the rear cushion, leaving insufficient room in the back seat for her schoolmates.
The batteries in back also trim the trunk space to a barely usable 7 cubic feet. The Leaf, on the other hand, can handle five people along with some gear under the hatch.
So the four students piled into the Leaf each morning. As soon as my parental duties were completed, I rushed back to park and plug in the Nissan and jump into the ActiveE -- transforming myself from dad-nerd to electronaut, the name BMW invented for the 700 consumers in a few Northeast and West Coast cities who are putting down $2,250 and paying $499 a month for a two-year lease. The ActiveE is not available for purchase.
The car is a "technology shakedown," according to Mr. Steinberg, letting BMW gain feedback as it continues development of the i3. That purpose-built electric four-seater -- not a conversion -- is to go on sale in a few markets by late next year, followed by wider release in 2014.
The company hasn't officially announced prices or sales goals for the i3, but a year ago Ian Robertson, BMW's head of global sales and marketing, told Automotive News that the company hoped to sell 30,000 of the futuristic cars in 2014.
Given that the ActiveE is a test platform, it was perhaps not surprising that I encountered a few glitches. Several times, a warning screen told me the shifter couldn't be moved to "P" -- and to take the car to a service center. Another time, a more emphatic "drivetrain malfunction" screen warned, "Stop carefully and turn off vehicle." I knew from online forums to ignore these as false alarms.
There were also small hiccups in ultra-low-speed driving when various conditions that were hard to identify or replicate -- maybe high torque on wet roads or braking-software miscommunications -- produced momentary wheel shake. This happened three times during my week of driving; BMW said fixes were expected within days.
As engaging as I found the ActiveE, it is just a step toward the i3, which will have a body mostly of lightweight carbon fiber. The i3 will have more legroom, four doors and subfloor packaging of the batteries -- and most important, weigh some 1,300 pounds less than the ActiveE. This will let BMW reduce the size of the battery pack to about 20 kilowatt-hours, from 32, while still providing 100 miles of range. Using the ActiveE's drivetrain and 170-horsepower motor, the much lighter i3 is likely to be a startling performer.
BMW's electric efforts won't end with the i3. "To one degree or another, you'll see plugs cascade throughout the entire BMW line," said Mr. Steinberg, the company's electric vehicle manager.
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