30 May 2012

Driving the Future with BMW ActiveE

BMW ActiveE (Photo M Vincent)
I recently got the chance to drive the all-electric BMW ActiveE, and it's now my favorite electric car for daily commute driving. My article below explains why.

The BMW ActiveE accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in under 9 seconds (184 lb-ft of torque with up to 170 hp)
which is perfect for those short San Francisco Bay area highway on-ramps and active driving in all types of traffic which can change at any second.
If you live in the Bay Area, don't live near quality public transportation and drive alot, you know what I'm talking about.
Lithium-ion batteries enable a driving range of up to 100 miles. The handling and maneuverability when quickly changing lanes in fast-moving multi-lane highway traffic was superb.

If you like Features, the ActiveE will exceed your expectations.

1. Brake Energy Regeneration - As you ease off the accelerator, Brake Energy Regeneration is activated to convert kinetic energy into electrical energy that is fed back into the battery. During this process, braking torque is created by the electric motor to slow down the vehicle through its rear wheels. In most day-to-day driving, around 75% of all deceleration can be accomplished without using the brake pedal — increasing energy efficiency and significantly extending brake component life.
I rarely used the Brake when driving the ActiveE, and after getting back into my car, I had to use the brake again. The BMW Brake Energy Regeneration technology literally saves an extra step! :)

2. ECO PRO Mode allows a driver to increase the range of the BMW ActiveE by modifying its features for even more efficient performance.

When activated, ECO PRO Mode lowers the amount of power delivered by the accelerator pedal — versus what’s used in normal driving mode — increasing the amount of regenerative braking and lessening the amount of energy given to the heating and air conditioning systems.

Photos: M Vincent
3. Preconditioning is a function that adjusts the temperature of the battery units and vehicle cabin relative to the outside climate. Depending on the ambient temperature, preconditioning will either warm or cool the batteries and passenger cabin. A preconditioned vehicle offers two advantages: first, when battery units are at an ideal operating temperature they provide the highest possible power output and a longer range. Secondly, an interior that has been preset to a comfortable temperature requires much less power from the battery for heating and cooling while driving.
With the My BMW Remote app, preconditioning can be activated directly or even set to a predetermined time. Instead of using additional energy on the way to work, your vehicle will be prepped for high-performance, first thing in the morning.

4. eDrive, visible from the BMW ActiveE’s high-resolution center display, highlights the vehicle’s energy flow. While driving it shows the energy that is being taken from either battery or recovered through regeneration and allows the driver to monitor remaining power and vehicle range. The display functions can also be viewed as a split screen for simultaneous visibility of entertainment features and the eDrive or navigation system.

5. Charging - By using an installed charging station, the lithium-ion batteries can be fully charged within four to five hours (25 driving miles per hour of charging). A driver can also plug into a standard outlet if needed and with every hour of charging through a conventional household socket, it will gain up to 4 additional driving miles.

On a full charge, I drove roundtrip to and from San Francisco just fine (80+ miles) and that left me with less than half of a battery charge.
I don't have an installed charging station so after an overnight charge on a 110 outlet, I was not able to quickly drive a San Francisco roundtrip for example.
I could have stopped at a Charging Station, but I didn't have the time to wait for a sufficient charge. If you get this car and travel alot, I recommend you install a charging station at your home or apartment complex. If you commute, ensure you have a Charging Station at work.

6. Music - My favorite mobile phone music app easily connected to the ActiveE via Bluetooth.

Energy Internet Cloud Platform

Photo: M Vincent
In January 2012, Tendril, an Energy Internet cloud platform and the BMW Group Technology Office USA announced they are partnering to build out a demonstration smart energy home in Mountain View, California to prepare for the roll-out and integration of the new BMW ActiveE.  Per Dirk Rossberg, head of the BMW Group Technology Office USA, “Tendril’s cloud platform allows us to control the EV charging process in conjunction with a smart energy home environment and adds a simple, yet powerful consumer energy management application in Tendril Energize. It allows us to bring the connected vehicle together with the Smart Grid. Our goal is to ensure that the BMW ActiveE is a good ‘grid citizen’ in 2012 and beyond.”

eMobility Lab
Photo: M Vincent
Before I test-drove the ActiveE, I was given an early preview of the e mobility lab including the Solar Tree, and once it's completed, I'll post an update here.
In the interim, here are some live graphs on BMW's solar tree production. The yellow lines are charging sessions and the red line is the cumulative energy generation.

Car-to-X Communication, Traffic Light Assistant

Photo: M Vincent
BMW USA is also working on Car-to-X Communication, particularly a Traffic Light Assistant.

Here's a BMW video demonstrating a use case with a large truck in front of you blocking the view of a traffic light.

This Car-to-X Communication allows the car to stop at the traffic light, which would avoid accidents.

Right now, the ActiveE is not available for purchase and all cars are leased at this point. In closing, California is quickly installing fast charging stations, and I look forward to driving the car again and hopefully to LA! Stay tuned for further article updates on the BMW eMobility lab.