BMW ActivE Issues Come to Fore

BMWlogo
BMWlogo

It has become industry practice before a vehicle is made available in the market, that carmakers test drive their cars to a select few for a number of months. This process would allow the carmaker insight into the performance and use of the vehicle for eventual upgrade and tweaking.

One of the cars that have undertaken this process is the BMW ActivE, the German automaker’s electric conversion of a BMW 1 Series two-door sedan. As of late, there are 700 vehicles currently on the roads today.

Last January 17, 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a recall for BMW ActivE electric vehicles that were built between August 17 and December 19, 2011. The main reason for the recall is the inadequate gear lubrication. This is one of the reasons for the recall and may be a result from the inadequate sealing of the drivetrain housing assembly. When gear lubrication goes below a certain level, the electric drive motor and gear assembly can suddenly fail, causing the gear to grind on the output shaft of the electric motor that would cause splining failure.

When the electric motor splines, then a new motor needs to be fitted into the vehicle. There have been sixteen (16) reported failures for those with the new BMW ActivE. In response, the carmaker had modified the design of its electric motor alongside a new gasket to prevent the loss of gear lubrication. The recall is being done to address all the existing areas of concern, from the fitting of a new gasket between the motor and gear assembly as well as proper sealing of the two components. Since half of the cars produced had already been modified during its regular servicing, the recall would just cover the others either those who have already been serviced or would still be serviced in the future.

The recall was issued through a letter sent by BMW to those affected vehicle lessees.

Other concerns that have been aired include the reduced range of the vehicle during cold weather, down to seventy (70) from the hundred (100) mile BMW rating or the ninety four (94) EPA mileage rating. Also criticized is the limited trunk space of the vehicle, but overall many of the users of the ActivE are happy with their vehicles on the road.

The first production electric vehicle is set to reach showrooms in 2015, with the 2014 BMW i3 being unveiled in this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

German Giant Unveils Improved Green Machine

BMWlogo
BMWlogo

BMW, the German car giant, has been giving tidbits as to their electric concept platforms. Now they will take center stage at the Paris Motor Show where they would be formally unveiling their concept electric vehicle called the i3. While this program has been in the works for quite some time, the latest version would be unveiled in the Paris Motor Show. The focus in this version would be the demand to lower the demand for fuel as well as having renewable materials both within and outside the concept vehicle.

Amongst the renewable materials utilized would be the eucalyptus wood dashboard taken from a sustainable source in Europe, as well as the use of natural fibers such as wool and tanning extracts for the leather used from olive leaves. The concept also has power under the hood, with 125kW/170bhp and 250Nm of torque would be able to drive the car from zero to 100 in just eight seconds according to the reports from BMW. The battery of the i3 has a full charging time of six hours and may improve especially when the vehicle would become available only by 2013.

The other vehicle in the electric mode design for BMW is the i8. These two cars have been geared for different markets but share a common effect of being environmentally friendly. The i3 would be a small city electric vehicle while the i8 would be a hybrid sports car with both an electric motor and a three cylinder internal combustion engine range extender. Both are built from lightweight aluminum structure with the body from carbon fiber materials. This makes the two designs lighter than usual, allowing for a smaller battery pack to run them without being inefficient. BMW says that the i3 is able to travel up to 95 miles on a single full charge while the i8 can only travel up to 21 miles with its electric motor not being assisted by the gasoline engine.

As of the moment, there have been no determined prices for these prized electric vehicles.  Other design innovations include the extensive use of glass, opposing doors, absence of a center tunnel, and high tech gadgetry on the dashboard. The gadgets include a nearly nine inch Central Information Display, six and a half inch ‘instrument cluster’ and a third touch screen that manages audio and airconditioning for the vehicles. Another feature would be the inclusion of folding iPedelec Concept bikes in the rear trunk of both the i3 and i8. Clearly, a true all embracing concept on personal mobility that is environmentally friendly from BMW.

The Current Realities that the Electric Vehicle Revolution Faces

eastshore_freeway
eastshore_freeway

The electric car revolution is facing another uphill climb and is in great danger of stalling. The first major sign is the decision by General Motors to suspend the production of its flagship Volt plug-in. Second sign is the bricking issues with Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadsters.

The major reason for the work stoppage for the Volt is the slow sales of the units currently available in the market. As for the Roadster and Leaf, warranty cancellation issues as well as the public relations issues associated with the technology and its expensive replacement costs.

All these have affected the market, as the buzz has cooled down as seen in the lesser promotion of the electric car in this year’s Geneva Auto Show. Many observers say that reality is setting in since the current vehicle platforms still have more questions that answers in their availability.

One such observer is Peter Schwarzenbauer, Audi’s Head of Marketing. Despite these issues, many other auto executives firmly believe that electric vehicles would remain a major force in the market. While some believe, others are bullish and foremost among them is Carlos Ghosn, current head of Renault-Nissan.

At the opening of the Geneva Car Show, there is more focus on traditional internal combustion engines with emphasis on emissions and fuel efficiency. Last year, a show visitor would leave with the impression that plug in electric cars would be the norm by the next year.

Many still are keeping the faith, amongst them is Dieter Zetsche, the Chief Executive Officer of Daimer, the German car and truck maker. He and many others believe that in the coming decade carmakers would still continue to find fuel sources that is not fossil or carbon based. He said, “There is no alternative. We believe it is our responsibility to push this technology forward and make it marketable.”

For its part, Daimler is offering an electric version of its two-seat Smart car costing about 16,000 euros or US$21,000. The company is continuously developing hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Zetsche notes the many issues with emission-free vehicles, such as mass-market base, lack of infrastructure, limited range and the continued high cost of the technology.

The market players still high hopes with the market. The Opel Ampera, the European version of the Chevy Volt has been adjudged as the European Car of the Year. For Nissan, it is expecting to double its sales to 50,000 units in the United States. Renault is introducing to the market its very own battery powered compact car, the Renault Zoe. BMW is set to introduce the battery-powered iSeries by the end of the year.

Just a small hiccup for the full electric car revolution.

The Sheer Silence of the BMW ActiveE

BMWlogo
BMWlogo

The adage goes, when trees fall in the forest, do they make a noise as no one hears it. This is also the same issue with the BMW ActiveE, as this rear drive coupe has no sound when it runs even at top speed.

One of the features of this vehicle is the absence of a tailpipe, or even an internal combustion engine. This is actually the first Beamer that is purely electric and the first release would be made to 700 Americans to assist in evaluation of the BMW electric technology. The only sound that this vehicle creates is a muted whir similar to a jet turbine as the 125-kilowatt electric motor goes into action.

This limited production ActiveE weighs in at a robust four thousand pounds, which is 800 lbs heavier than the BMW1 Series, which was the vehicle’s design inspiration. Acceleration from zero to sixty miles per hour comes in at a market average 8.5 seconds was not spectacular but the surges between zero to thirty and fifty to eighty were technological marvels. Despite the absence of an internal combustion engine, all the other expectations from a BMW remain, such as steering response and the luxurious accommodations.

There are nearly two hundred battery cells crammed in the vehicle, adding weight that is compensated by the calibrated suspension. Because of the added weight, the range capacity of this vehicle is at eighty miles. To allow for an extended range, there are specific settings to assist the driver, such as the Ecopro setting. For recharging, the on board 7.7 kilowatt charger plugged to any 240 volt circuit can fully charge the vehicle in just a little over four hours.

As for the interior, it is still BMW with its materials but made austere to a degree still in consonance with its luxury brand. As for the dashboard, the information display provides battery charge level readouts and other important driving information.

According to BMW’s Manager of Electric Vehicle Operation and Strategy for the United States, Rich Steinberg, said, “It’s a step up from the Mini E. 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.”

The ActiveE’s predecessor was the MiniE the previous electric program of the German carmaker. The interiors were Spartan and with a rougher drive compared to the current version. While the battery, motor and drive train are the same, the ActiveE though silent would be the future of electric cars for BMW.

New Cars Introduced In Detroit

electric motor
electric motor

There are three new cars that have wowed the visitors, kibitzers and participants in the ongoing Detroit Motor Show. These electric vehicles are from Lexus, the prime Toyota brand, Volvo, the Swedish car giant and BMW, the German carmaker.

The Lexus LF-LC concept is a rapid departure from the conservative models of the previous years. This is a two plus two seater hybrid sports coupe designed by Calty Studio of Toyota. While many say that the concept would just remain a concept and not a commercial vehicle, the design is consistent with the design development done under the CT and GS. This vehicle liberates the concept of a sports coupe to push the performance, style and technology boundaries not only for Lexus but for the industry as well. The price is $375,000 and it has a front engine rear drive hybrid power train named the Advanced Lexus Hybrid Drive.

The Volvo XC60 Plug-In Hybrid is a reworked version of the highly successful family sedan. This Volvo design has a plug-in version of the V60 wagon sold throughout Europe. A gas version electric hybrid would be available by 2015 in the United States. According to Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volvo Cars, he viewed that plug-in hybrids had greater market advantages over the all-electrics. He did say that it would take some time for the market share of electric vehicles to become significant. The XC60 has a 280 horsepower turbo charged four-cylinder engine that shares duties with a seventy horsepower electric motor. It claims to run from zero to sixty in just 5.8 seconds. With just electric power, the range is 35 miles while with the gas engine, the electric equivalent of over 100 miles to the gallon can travel over 600 miles to a full tank of gas.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 and Active Hybrid 3 were unveiled last Jan 9, 2012 and are in reality higher mileage hybrid models of the company’s top selling sport sedans. The ActiveHybrid 5 would be sold all across America by June and the ActiveHybrid 3 would become available by the fall season. The 5 series has a combined mileage of 28 miles to the gallon while the 3 Series runs 37 miles to the gallon. The hybrid vehicles would run on turbocharged 300 horsepower engine with six cylinders in addition to a 55 horsepower electric motor. The cars have eight speed automatic gearboxes and have start stop functions to avoid idling when at full stop. The ActiveHybrid 5 would cost $61,845 including delivery charges, $8700 more expensive than the conventional 535i. These hybrids are much more practical vehicles compared to the i8 plug in hybrid still to be built. Overall, there’s not much to distinguish the hybrids from their conventional cars.