• Jan 27th 2010 at 12:55PM
  • 24
BMW Concept ActiveE – Click above for high-res image gallery

BMW released some of the findings of a study conducted with University of California – Davis yesterday about how participants in the Mini E test program adapted to their small electric vehicles (EVs). The BMW message was totally upbeat – the headline was "Mini E Drivers Delighted with Electric Vehicle Experience" – but the reality isn't quite as positive as BMW made it sound. Read more on that here.

At the Washington Auto Show, though, the message was pretty much all good, all the time. One of the biggest complaints about EVs is their limited range. BMW found, though, that the Mini E's range (officially given as 100 miles, but it varies in the real world between 70 and 100) were "sufficient for most trips." The drivers got used to planning their drives with the limit in mind, said Rich Steinberg, manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy for BMW of North America. Part of getting used to the Mini E, Steinberg said, was becasue the drivers have fun in their EVs (i.e., what some people call the EV grin). In fact, the cars worked so well that, once they had the Mini E, the participating households said they used it for 90 to 100 percent of vehicle trips. In fact, all respondents said that they didn't use their other vehicles as often one the Mini E was available to them (see, again: EV grin). Read on past the jump for more.


Photos Copyright ©2010 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

So, who are the respondents? Of the 450 Mini E drivers in the world, UC – Davis got detailed with 57 self-selected participants. BMW also interviewed some German Mini E drivers and found there were differences between how they recharged their vehicles and how the Americans did. Steinberg said that most American drivers plugged in the car as soon as they got home, no matter how far they drove. Most Germans, on the other hand, only recharged when they actually needed to, when the car was low on energy. In either case, Steinberg said charging is not a big issue with these early adopters, "even without an extensive network of public charging stations."

Of course, the remaining key issue with the Mini E is that there's no room for a lot of cargo or more than two people. The company's ActiveE, which was displayed prominently on the stand, eliminates these problems. As reported, a field trial program for the ActiveE similar to the Mini E leases will start in 2011. BMW will use data from both of these programs to build their Project i Mega-City Vehicle, coming who knows when.

MINI E Drivers Delighted with Electric Vehicle Experience

* 26.01.2010
* Press Release

UCDavis study shows participants enjoy driving MINI E. Feedback sets stage for next phase of BMW Group Mega-City Vehicle initiative

Woodcliff Lake, NJ – January 26, 2010 12:55pm EST... The BMW Group today announced at the Washington Auto Show the first results from a comprehensive study conducted in cooperation with the University of California (UC Davis) and consumers leasing MINI E electic vehicles as part of a year-long program to acquire real world use patterns. The MINI E program is the first large population field test of current generation electric vehicles and therefore sheds a realistic light on both the opportunities and challenges from this innovative new form of mobility.

The UC Davis study results of 57 drivers, combined with updates continually provided from the log books of all 450 users show the following:

* The range of about 100 miles is sufficient for most daily needs
* Charging at home provides enough energy for most daily driving
* Demand for additional charging is centered on the place of work, or where sufficient time is spent during the day (shopping centers, stadiums, etc.)
* Driving the MINI E is a delightful experience and there is no sacrifice of "real car" values
* Unmet demands focus on having enough space for four passengers and more cargo to stimulate even more use of an electric vehicle

"There's been a lot of conjecture about electric vehicle user demands and being the first to the market with obtaining 'real world use' patterns, we're now able to shed some accurate light on this subject," said Rich Steinberg, Manager – EV Operations and Strategy for BMW of North America. "What they shared with us is that, for the most part, the MINI E suits their daily driving needs and that they really enjoy driving it. This makes us optimistic that electric vehicles have a role in the future of mobility in America by being a part of the overall vehicle mix."

More than 1,800 people and organizations applied to be part of this ground-breaking field trial of 450 MINI Es now on the road in the US. From that, 450 were selected based on specific criteria that included the amount and type of use in which they would engage, home suitability to installation of a fast charging system and desire to be engaged in a field trial that requires continual feedback.

MINI E drivers provide ongoing feedback that has already proven invaluable to the development work being done by the BMW Group's Project i on what is called a Mega-City Vehicle – the company's innovative program to develop a volume transportation solution to the demands of the world's biggest cities in the 21st century. This vehicle is scheduled to be introduced just before the mid-point of this decade.

The self-selected group of 57 that agreed to participate in the UC Davis survey is part of a more extensive research project. Feedback from this program shows that the range of the MINI E enables drivers to use it for most daily driving needs. Reported range under normal circumstances varies between 70 – 100 miles with 45 percent reporting a typical range of 100 miles. MINI E drivers reported an average trip length of approximately 30 miles. Other studies have found that driver's in the US average about 40 miles per day1. This makes the range of the MINI E suitable for most daily driving needs.

Many households in the study have replaced the primary vehicle of one driver with the MINI E. One-third of the participants have reported driving the MINI E even more than the household vehicle it replaced. The lack of a back seat and a usable trunk, rather than range, is most often the reason the MINI E is not chosen for a particular outing.

Drivers have also reported that driving the MINI E is fun. Most adapted quickly to the characteristics of the Brake Energy Regeneration function and like the feeling of control it gives them in being able to proactively extend the range of their MINI E by how they drive. Brake Energy Regeneration captures energy ordinarily lost on deceleration and coverts it into electrical energy to recharge the batteries. All drivers in the US study said they enjoy using one pedal to accelerate and decelerate. Many reported that once they became acustomed to the BER function, they enjoyed driving their conventional vehicles less.

The study found that keeping the MINI E charged did not pose a problem. Recharging in the US requires four – five hours and, while it wasn't always necessary based on their driving needs, about half of the drivers in the study report recharging daily as a matter of routine. Additional recharging away from their home charging station by-and-large proved unnecessary.

This first field-trial has provided Project i with invaluable insight as it prepares for its second field trial with the BMW ActiveE. The electric drivetrain developed for the BMW ActiveE will be used in the BMW Group's first Mega-City Vehicle. The newly developed and more compact lithium-ion battery pack in the BMW ActiveE vehicle features liquid heating and cooling in order to provide a more consistent and predicatable driving range. Smartphone apps will enable the user to remotely check the available range of the BMW ActiveE's battery. The apps will also enable the driver to begin heating or cooling the interior of the BMW ActiveE and thus the battery while still connected to the grid. This will allow the battery to function at its optimal operating temperature without affecting the range of the car.

The field trial for the BMW ActiveE will begin in 2011. As announced at the North American International Auto Show earlier this month, lease extensions will be offered to a number of MINI E drivers who wish to continue their electric driving experience until the BMW ActiveE becomes available.

BMW Group In America

BMW of North America, LLC has been present in the United States since 1975. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars NA, LLC began distributing vehicles in 2003. The BMW Group in the United States has grown to include marketing, sales, and financial service organizations for the BMW brand of motor vehicles, including motorcycles, the MINI brand, and the Rolls-Royce brand of Motor Cars; DesignworksUSA, a strategic design consultancy in California; a technology office in Silicon Valley and various other operations throughout the country. BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC in South Carolina is part of BMW Group's global manufacturing network and is the exclusive manufacturing plant for all X5 Sports Activity Vehicles and X6 Sports Activity Coupes. The BMW Group sales organization is represented in the U.S. through networks of 338 BMW passenger car centers, 335 BMW Sports Activity Vehicle centers, 142 BMW motorcycle retailers, 90 MINI passenger car dealers, and 31 Rolls-Royce Motor Car dealers. BMW (US) Holding Corp., the BMW Group's sales headquarters for North America, is located in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

The BMW Group
The BMW Group is one of the most successful manufacturers of automobiles and motorcycles in the world with its BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce brands. As a global company, the BMW Group operates 24 production facilities in 13 countries and has a global sales network in more than 140 countries.

The BMW Group achieved a global sales volume of more than 1.43 million automobiles and over 101,000 motorcycles for the 2008 financial year. Revenues for 2008 totaled EUR 53.2 billion, with earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of EUR 921 million. The company employed a global workforce of approximately 98,000 associates as of September 30, 2009.

The success of the BMW Group has always been built on long-term thinking and responsible action. The company has therefore established ecological and social sustainability throughout the value chain, comprehensive product responsibility and a clear commitment to conserving resources as an integral part of its strategy. As a result of its efforts, the BMW Group has been ranked industry leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for the last five years.

Information about BMW Group products is available to consumers via the Internet at:


Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by the Auto Alliance.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      PeterM, that is strange. I live in Slovenia, EU and I registered my Vectrix 1.5 years ago and I only had to wait 1 day for my registration. Even that 1 day would only be 1 minute, if someone at the ministry for traffic would enter 0ccm instead of leaving the field blank. After that was done, my Vectrix was registered for the road.

      However, there are multiple electric conversions made that went on the road without any delay.

      And this week, Slovenia got it's first Tesla Roadster owner.

      And I can't wait for my Citroen C-Zero :-)
      • 5 Years Ago
      Would BMW tell you if their cars stunk? This is just marketing. Better talk to the E Mini drivers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's the point of the article. The study that BMW presented was put together by an independent group (UCDavis) that interviewed 57 Mini E drivers.

        "Drivers have also reported that driving the MINI E is fun. Most adapted quickly to the characteristics of the Brake Energy Regeneration function and like the feeling of control it gives them in being able to proactively extend the range of their MINI E by how they drive. Brake Energy Regeneration captures energy ordinarily lost on deceleration and coverts it into electrical energy to recharge the batteries. All drivers in the US study said they enjoy using one pedal to accelerate and decelerate. Many reported that once they became acustomed to the BER function, they enjoyed driving their conventional vehicles less."
      • 5 Years Ago
      It points out an interesting problem that had never occurred to me. Normally what we do now whether using a conventional vehicle or a hybrid is that we plan our trips to minimize our fuel use. One longer trip with many stops is better than many one stop trips. If your range is limited that gets more difficult to do and with the long recharge period what could have been done on a long Saturday errand day might take several days or a change of cars to complete. And while an EV is efficient it is not free. Dividing a long errand day into several shorter episodes is not only inconvenient it strikes right at the EV strength, its efficiency. And just to be mean where do you put your packages in this car in the single passenger seat?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I disagree about lots of short trips - in my case anyway - being a waste of time. When I know what I want, I'm in and out of the store very quickly. I usually spend less than 10 minutes total in the store. And since they're all only a few blocks apart, I get a lot more done in less time.

        I can go to the bank, to the (whatever)store, do the shopping, and be home in half an hour. When my GF makes the same errand-trip in her car, she takes a couple hours because she has to drive further between stops. I live in the city, she lives in the 'burbs.

        It more about where you do your errands, than what you do them in. The distance between stops matters more than how many trips. That's why we would do better to change where people live than what they drive.
        • 5 Years Ago
        As a bicyclist with limited cargo capacity, I make a lot of short trips. I go the grocery almost every other day - generally picking up fresh meat/veg/beer for the evening meal, sometimes twice in one day if I'm stocking up on staples on sale. It is just a matter of making a minor adjustment to your errand pattern.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I guess I was not clear. The luggage area was a joke about the battery solution on the car. You could always get a rack with a lockable compartment. Your bicycle trips may accomplish your goal if it is exercise you are after, but it is not efficient in the use of your time. Neither is it cost or carbon efficient if you end up driving, say, 50 percent more miles at the end of the week because of many short trips because of range limitations instead of a couple of longer use trips. It is not a big deal since no one of any sanity would make one of these their only transportation, but I thought it was kind of ironic that you have to sometimes use a more efficient vehicle in a less efficient manner.
      • 5 Years Ago

      I hope you are right, I really do, I live in Belgium, there is a story doing the rounds here that the first TESLA owner went to get his car registered.. and ran into a small SNAFU..
      when filling in the forms the lady are car registration asked:
      1/ What is the cylinder capacity... (Duh!)
      2/ What fuel does it run on (Diesel, LPG, CNG, Petrol)

      When answering NO to both of those questions, the registration was refused...

      I guess someone somewhere is working on sorting this out..

      Oh and the LEAF will not be introduced in Belgium (the seat of the European Parliament) because there is no local government sponsorship (ie tax breaks)..

      I hope you are right and the HYDROGEN hypers dont win the war

      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm only one data point but I am very happy to be driving a MINI-E. It is lots of fun to drive and I like the fact that it makes the concept real to other people whenever I take someone for a ride. I am happy with the approach of "use it now while we improve it". The trial has been nicely run, with periodic exercises provided to gather input from us. All the things I care about in terms of the trial and car are great.
      • 5 Years Ago
      From what I can tell, the Mini-E has been a bit of a let-down. But some of that is because it was a kludge retrofit. The worst part was the battery-pack . . big, bulky, inadequate thermal management, and inaccurate modeling of the amount of charge available.

      But it was a learning experience and I hope BMW and all the other car makers learn from it. Lots of lessons like:
      -Current car sized EVs absolutely require a 220V charging system at home. 110 is fine for opportunistic trickle charging but is not sufficient for daily use.
      -Thermal management of batteries is very important.
      -Retrofits don't work so well since they don't have places designed to hold the batteries.
      -Battery state-of-charge indicators are REALLY hard to do well. One needs to do a lot of tuning and collect a lot of information. Current voltage, charging history, usage history, temperature, battery aging, etc.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It would be best to redesign the complete grid nationwide whilst migrating to a smart grid to comply to the continental Euoropean standards (230 / 400 V 3-phase). Eurpoeans certainly won't incur "time" trouble while charging their EVs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Even the crappiest EV that bmw could muster to put together makes people happy. Even this doesn't surprise me.
        • 5 Years Ago
        There are a lot of people that are unhappy actually, have you been reading this site or just the headlines?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It seems they are unhappy about some aspects, but they drive the car more than their other cars, so that means in general they like the car.

        Of course all the people who signed up were people extremely interested in an EV, so it's not exactly a general audience. However, given this car was a rough engineering experiment, it didn't do too bad and does provide valuable insight into what automakers have to look out for when building EVs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What this study told them, they already knew. Carb should close this loophole and force these people to sell it or not get the CARB credit. Must be nice to do research on some one else's dime.
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good points.
      This is why EV's won't really sell in any appreciable numbers until they have some real range. Unfortunately a gas car is still needed, as i don't see people modifying the way they live for a car that is 2-3 times more expensive anytime soon.

      This is why i'm always applauding GM for the Volt. This problem has already been solved. All-electrics are not ready for prime time, but the plug-in hybrid style car is the next step of evolution towards that. I just wish more automakers were on board. Toyota could have a great plug-in Prius if they really set their mind to it.

      The Mini E is such a half ass deal, it must be a way around CAFE, just like in the 90's when California said 'oh hey, you guys have to make an electric car now. peace'. We all know how well that went.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree with your feelings about dirty imported oil 100%, and frankly just the national security & economic justifications for getting off oil is enough for me, but you need to develop a more coherent argument.

        "Try not to look at whether a particular model will work for you" Are you serious?

        Driving on sunlight is groovy if you live in sunny SoCal and have a short commute, but what about the rest of the universe?

        • 5 Years Ago
        There are things electric vehicles do particularly well, and commuting is one of them. The Mini is the ideal commuter car.

        Try not to look at whether a particular model will work for you, but whether the energy you use to move it comes from inexpensive, domestic, renewable sources, or dirty, expensive, foreign oil.

        That's what's important.

        I've been driving a fully electric Toyota RAV4 for over 7 years. The car has needed virtually no maintenance and today runs exactly as it did the day it was new. It's more powerful than the gas version, and runs on sunlight.

        We generate most all the kWh hours for our house and car from the sunlight falling on our roof. We never go to a gas station, we drive on sunlight.

        None of our money goes to the oil companies, and by extension, the Saudis.

        There are currently several hundred American families doing what we're doing. Starting at the end of 2010, thousands more will join us. In 2011, tens of thousands more will go electric. By 2015, one million Americans will have thrown aside their oil burners in favor of a car that can run on sunlight.

        It all starts this year.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My marvelous journey into the future continues.

      This past Sunday January 24th 2010, after 7 full months in Mini-E # 183, I passed 10,000 miles on the ODO.

      Pause a second and think about this. 10,000 miles in a fun hot car powered only by sunshine.

      Game changer? I think so!

      The car is incredible and the best thing I can say about driving #183 is that it has settled into an entirely normal routine as a super fun and responsive daily driver accomplishing 100% of my driving task. The best attributes are the shear fun of driving the car, the times saved by not going to the gas station, the fact that its 100% charged and ready to go every time I hop in, and the $1800 a year I am saving on gas by powering the car with sunshine. The drawbacks, no rear seat which is a minor drawback and that’s about it.

      Even the lease payment of around $800 a month while at first glance high, for me is pretty consistent with my other cars that I have had. A $450 car payment, $100 on maintenance (service tires, brakes) $130 a month on gas and $60 a month on collision and auto insurance, all of which are included in the lease of the Mini-E. I do look forward to the electric cars reducing in price and I acknowledge that I am paying a premium as an early adopter. Again for me its really not that much if any of a premium.

      One of the joys of this journey is not only personally understanding and gaining knowledge as to if the electric car will work for myself and my family (passes on all fronts, you can really drive on sunshine!) but also to share this collective knowledge of 600 drivers with others interested in the electric car future.

      No doubt that future will consist of many options in electric drive ranging from Hybrids to Plug in Hybrids to Range Extended Hybrids to Battery Electric cars to Fuel Cells.

      BMW has reported on some of its findings to date in this 600 car field study. As a Mini-E driver I was one of 57 who also participated in an extensive study by UC Davis, the results of that study are ongoing but the first information on that study has been posted.

      There are some pretty big surprises in the reports that counter commonly held beliefs such as range anxiety being a big issue, public charging being a major issue and the majority of drivers needing additional charging.

      My personal experience is consistent with the majority of the report. I reported an average range under all conditions of 90 miles per charge and a daily drive of 40 miles.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Thanks for posting your experience.
        Lucky bastard :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        While this is a neat program and no doubt useful for the company, your conclusions about these study results need to be taken with a big grain of salt. The opinions collected are hardly representative of the general population and range anxiety - public charging - additional charging issues you seem to brush off are real ones for the industry to deal with even if no big deal to you.

        I see these Mini-E leases as more of an engineering validation trial, less of a "learning about public acceptance" exercize. When you hand-pick people (like early adopters) to participate in a test like this, you can't assume their perceptions are valid for the public at large. Especially when they pay top-dollar for the privledge - it will seriously skews the results as they are far more likely to maintain a favorable opinion of the experience. In fact, is seems this particualr press release is more a PR stunt than anything else.
      • 5 Years Ago

      for 32 years I drove normal gas cars. This is my first electric drive and I would catorgorize myself as a bit of a hopeful sceptic getting into the car.

      Prior to getting in to the Mini-E my perceptions and concerns were range anxiety, getting stranded by software bugs are battery problems and that the car would be lethargic. A test drive took car of the lethargic part.

      The point of the information gathered from hundreds of us who are actually driving electric cars not just pontificating, is that the assumtion that this is the biggest problem really does not pan out in real world experiance.

      After getting into the car and driving a few trips, range anxiety goes away. I have never used my 110 charging cord nor do I carry it with me as I have never had to top of or charge anywhere. If there where charging stations everwhere I would not use them as I would have no need to, charging up at night (with super low rates) in the garage is more than enough.

      If you are a driver that needs to drive a different route everyday or are unsure if you need to go 30 miles or 300 it would be a different story. But for us, we have a predictable communte well within the hundred mile range to our work places and the 100 mile range gets us anywhere we want to go in san Diego County or Orange county.

      A quick funny story, The only trip we have taken in the 7 months that the Mini-E could not make was a 450 RT to Paso Robles for a wine tasting weekend. On the way up there I was talking about this and how this is the first time we had to leave #183 behind and had to take the Ford Escape. My wife starts cracking up and she looks at me and says, "Honey we did this exact same trip 18 months ago" I said I know that, and then she said "we left your volvo s60 behind then as well because we took the Ford Escape."


        • 5 Years Ago
        Hi pnorby,
        I wasn't trying to knock your experience with the vehicle. I was trying to point out that if they really wanted valid opinions for feedback reasons, they would have gone with a more typical user, and not 'primed the pump' in so many ways to get positive feedback. It seems like the folks driving the Mini E's are quite pre-disposed to go on about how awesome it is. Having people spend so much money for the priveledge of driving what amounts to a test vehicle pre-disposes them to rate their experience positively, regardless of the actual experience. (look up Cognative Dissonance in Wiki) Don't doube for a second that their marketing dept plays a big role in this program.

        Given the way this was done, it's clear that real-world feedback - the opinions of the drivers - isn't what they were looking for. Not that they wouldn't use any positive spin to get some good PR - in fact that's exactly what they've done with this article. I suspect the real reason for these leases is to gain some real-world validation of the test fleet and build up some green cred - which the Germans have been lacking according to those that don't love diesels.
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