BMW Electric Car Sharing – ActiveE Today, i3 Tomorrow

BMW i8 Mission Impossible Paula Patton

BMW i8 Driven by Mission Impossible’s Paula Patton




By John Addison (8/20/12)


BMW Adds ActiveE to DriveNow Car Sharing

It’s never been easier to get into an electric car and drive away. I hold my Drive Now card to the window of this BMW ActiveE, the car unlocks and I take the driver’s seat. I type in my 4-digit passcode, touch Start, shift into Drive and away I go. Today, BMW has added 70 of its electric cars to a unique car-sharing program in San Francisco. I drive a dozen blocks to a parking garage near a meeting at the Marriott. I park the car, log-off with a push of the button, use my membership card to lock the car and I’m done.

Drive Now only charges $12 for the first 30 minutes and I don’t need to bring the car back to where I started. This is point-to-point car sharing. The model has worked great for BMW’s Drive Now with 42,000 members in Germany. Now BMW is bringing their carsharing to the U.S. and starting with its new electric car.

The program is great for getting 4 busy professionals to their next meeting, tourists doing a quick 5-hour tour, or getting a skipper to the starting line of the America’s Cup – quick, fun, no hassle. A carsharing member can pay for the EV by the minute with a max of $90 for the day. These electric cars with their 100-mile range are easy to keep charged and the city’s 100+ charge points are programmed into the navigation system.

BMW is now in the car sharing business in competition with Zipcar, Enterprise and Hertz. BMW is also competing with Car2Go, owned by German competitor Daimler. In San Diego, Car2Go has thousands of members who share 200 Smart Electric Drive cars that can be used point-to-point. In Portland Car2Go has 30 electric cars. From the U.S. to Europe, car2go has over 100,000 members, a large fleet of gasoline smart cars and a growing number of electric smart cars. BMW does not intend to see competitors get to far ahead.

San Francisco is an excellent city for electric car sharing. Thousands of its citizens already own electric vehicles including Mayor Ed Lee who bought his own Chevrolet Volt. The city has ambitions to be totally powered with renewable energy in ten years and already has 3,000 solar rooftops. With over 100 public and private Level 2 charges, the city is ready for electric car sharing.

ParkNow Finds the Cheapest Parking Space Fast

Today, BMW not only introduced me to their new carsharing, but to a great way for any driver to find the best place to park in a city.  The ParkNow app lets smart drivers easily find and book a parking spot in advance at ParkNow garages located in and around San Francisco. ParkNow garages are currently located in downtown San Francisco, San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport and Palo Alto, with more to come. ParkNow is a joint venture formed by BMW i Ventures and Urban Mobility. If it succeeds, it is likely to spread across the nation.

The ParkNow app locates the nearest available off-street parking options at both ParkNow locations and non-member garages and provides real-time best parking rates, as well as information about additional related services, from where to get a car wash to the availability of bike rentals within ParkNow locations.

Drivers can search for parking spots by actual price, availability during their desired parking time or by distance from their destination, and further refine the search by comparing EV charging availability, handicap accessibility, garage safety features, customer reviews and other options.

The system always looks for the cheapest available price, automatically including available discount offers. Once customers book a parking spot, a valet e-ticket is sent straight to their phone, and payment is automatic with their ParkNow account. They simply present the QR code to the garage attendant (at a valet garage) or scan it automatically (at an automated garage).

ActiveE Prepares BMW for Major Electric Car Production

BMW is now leasing for $499 monthly 1,000 ActiveE all-electric cars in metropolitan markets of California, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The ActiveE is an electric car conversion of the BMW 1 Series Coupe. This demonstration electric car is the follow-on to the successful leasing of 600 MINI E cars.

The ActiveE climbed steep San Francisco hills with ease as I drove it. The navigation system smoothly guided me through busy streets. The ActiveE specifications are zero to 60 in 9 seconds, but it seems to take me no time to go zero to 40. Regen braking starts when I lift my foot off the accelerator. I would rarely need to use the brakes in this electric car.

The ActiveE is a demonstration car, not a production vehicle. BMW converted the Series One to be electric. This 2-door car has little legroom in the back seat for two people. Due to room demanded by the lithium battery pack, the trunk has a small 7 cubic feet of space. This BMW does not have nearly the room of electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Volt, and Ford Focus Electric.

The BMW ActiveE is state-of-the art in infotainment and smart app controls. With BMW MyRemote, BMW enables the user to access the extensive range of BMW ConnectedDrive functions via an app on an iPhone, iPad, Droid, or web browser. You can USB connect your smartphone or use Blue Tooth wireless. Set it up in advance and you can use voice commands with a touch of the button. The user has at his or her disposal all BMW ConnectedDrive remote functions. Use the CarFinder app for locating the car within a radius of up to 3,300 feet as well as the Google Local Search function.

Your music, car sharing, car-charging apps can communicate with the navigation display.  In addition, new remote functions developed especially for the BMW ActiveE for battery charge control and vehicle preconditioning have been incorporated into the range of functions.

The ActiveE has an electric range of about 100 miles, less on freeways and more driving 30 mph down quiet streets. The ActiveE is a good fit for car sharing. This demonstration car is setting the stage for two brand new electric cars from BMW.

BMW i3 Electric Urban Mobility

BMW i3 Electric CarThe BMW i3 is an exciting new all-electric car that will compete with cars like the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi I, and Ford Focus Electric. In less than two years, you will be able to order one from a local dealer. Out guess is that it will price for about the same as the LEAF, around $35,000.

The near-future BMW i3 is a new design to improve the electric drive experience, achieve more range from a smaller lithium battery, and be ideal for urban mobility. The first time I heard about this new car it had the working title of Megacity Vehicle.

The i3 architecture is a Life Module on top of a Drive Module. This design approach will allow BMW to ultimately deliver multiple vehicles that can use standard all-electric and plug-in drive systems.

The i3 body consists of two independent modules that are separated from each other horizontally. The Drive Module consists of an aluminum chassis. This accommodates the powertrain: the lithium-ion battery, the performance electronics and a compact but powerful electric motor.  On top of the Drive Module sits the Life Module, a passenger cell made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP for short.

The carbon fiber for this car is made in the State of Washington and shipped to BMW Germany for manufacturing these new global electric cars. The BMW-SGL joint venture, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, has acquired 60 acres in Moses Lake for the plant, and has an option on 60 more. Only renewable energy, hydropower, will be used in the carbon manufacturing.

This extremely light but rigid material has previously been used in racing, aviation and space travel. As Tesla has shown us with similar materials, you can extend the range of an electric vehicle by making it lighter and still improve passenger safety.

The BMW i3 is ideal for day-to-day commuting in big cities. It has compact dimensions but still offers a generous sense of space.

Both the BMW i3 and i8 will have standard J1772 connectors so that the thousands of standard Level 2 public chargers can be used. The cars will charge at the faster 6.6kW/32 amp speed. You should pick-up about 25 miles of range for each hour of Level 2 charging. Like other electric cars, most charging will be done in driver’s home garages.

BMW Venture Capital has invested in Coulomb Technologies, which has a network of over 3,300 charge points globally. “BMW i Ventures recognizes the importance of a global charging network for electric vehicle drivers,” said Dr. Ulrich Quay, Managing Director of BMW i Ventures. “ChargePoint is the largest, longest established network with a significantly advanced and mature feature set. This investment will forge a close and strategic relationship as we further our electric mobility offer.” The new BMW DriveNow membership card also functions as a ChargePoint network card.

BMW i8 Electric Sports Coupe

BMW i8 Electric Sports CoupeWhile the BMW i3 is an all-electric designed for urban mobility, the i8 is a plugin hybrid (PHEV) designed to go on the freeway for hundreds of miles in BMW style. It is currently named the BMW i8 Concept Spyder. Hopefully, you can order either the i3 or i8 in 2014.

The BMW i8 is the red-hot sports coupe that Tom Cruise was driving in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol.  Step on the accelerator and the i8 engages two electric motors, one on each axle, and a turbo diesel engine. This sports coupe accelerates from zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds. Sports car drivers lament the end of the Tesla Roadster and hesitate to order the Fisker Karma, the BMW i8 will be at the top of their test drive list.

With two electric motors, the i8 Spyder is expected to have excellent all-wheel drive (AWD) performance on wet and icy roads.

The i8 is speced to accelerate from zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds, using the 3-cylinder turbo diesel engine in a rear axle hybrid configuration, coupled with a front axle second electric motor. The beautifully designed sports coupe, seats 2+2. The PHEV hugs the ground and is so aerodynamic that the drag coefficient is only 0.22. The car is electronically limited to 155 mph, more than enough speed for most autobahn drivers. BMW Series i Site

Sustainable from Cradle to Cradle

BMW is investing over $500 million in new Series I manufacturing in Leipzig, Germany. The new plant is so efficient that the energy needed to produce each car is cut in half and water use is reduced 70%. Only renewable energy will be used at the Leipzig plant. Germany is the world leader in the use of wind and solar energy.

Wind and solar energy are also growing in the United States. Many early adopters of electric cars also use solar energy. Most live in states with little coal power and where utilities are increasing the use of renewable energy.

The early drivers and DriveNow car share members are showing us how to navigate through cities without needing to visit the gas station or pollute the air. With electric cars, you can live more sustainably. With BMW, you can have an exciting electric drive.

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability.

One thought on “BMW Electric Car Sharing – ActiveE Today, i3 Tomorrow

  1. Ralph
    August 21, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    it would be good to see a map showing where solar PV charged batteries could be exchanged. BMW could have made a quick change version, or an inductive type so that the source would always be from natural sunshine.
    Electric bike sharing may also be made available in the hundreds of thousands. it is exciting to see the forward progress moving away from carbon monoxide spewing, health damaging types our grandfathers drove.

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