Driving the BMW ActiveE

This is not an in-depth review, but two weeks ago I drove the rear-wheel drive ActiveE for 2.9 miles through the streets of midtown Manhattan during lunchtime. Driving in New York during peak hours is akin to bungee jumping: sure, people do it regularly but that doesn’t make it smart, safe or sane.

The suggested route consisted only of straightaways and lefts. But on the way towards 11th Ave., I noticed the traffic gods saw fit to suffocate 51st with a unionized construction crew. I took a left onto Broadway, then got the thrill of a single right turn onto 49th.

Conclusion: in quick, hard right (or left) turns, the ActiveE handles delightfully.

And thrust? Unlike a combustion engine, an electric is either on or off. Like a toddler after naptime, it’s instantly up and ripping about. Rev-free full torque out of the gate shoots you silently — maybe not silently, but the quiet hum is smothered in the megacity — into any gaps that form. You can seize all opportunities and be back before lunch gets cold. (Watching New York traffic from above is like viewing a school of fish. It’s mayhem but it works, however, if you’re not committed to the flow, you’re toast.)

The ActiveE is efficient with power. Regenerative braking kicks in soon after your foot leaves the gas pedal, whether you’ve depressed the brake or not. Fortunately, the brake lights go on with it, so the vehicle behind you is warned.

Speaking of warning, with well over a quarter “tank” left, the instrument panel sang and displayed an icon reporting that we may want to start thinking of distance versus power.

All ActiveEs are produced in Leipzig, lessening the global footprint. All parts but the battery are made by BMW, and they made a genuine effort to lessen greenhouse gasses throughout the production process.

The batteries are produced in Korea, in a joint venture between BMW and SB LiMotive, before being shipped to Germany for installation. Being newer technology, the batteries last for up to 160km.

Not perfect, but BMW has also ponied up with the green, dedicating $100 million towards the establishment of their own venture group which funds international green mobility initiatives. BMW iVentures’ Managing Director, Dr. Ulrich Quay told me, “We’re doing 3 to 5 investments a year… into companies we find interesting.”

Among the results are apps that can help anyone, BMW driver or not, travel more effectively and, consequently, greenly. ParkNow finds you a local spot that you pay for from your phone, minimizing your searching and swearing time. ParkatmyHouse is a marketplace that lets you rent a spot you may have on your property — or find one. MyCityWay interfaces with scores of other apps to find the most efficient way around the world’s biggest cities, whether it’s by car, foot, train or whatever.

BMW completely hasn’t solved the big issues, but they’re proving that they get what getting greener demands: thinking beyond a single model of car and traditional model of business.

This is a test