It's unlikely to spark a movement and a movie, the way a certain EV1 did a decade ago, but anyone who's seen Who Killed The Electric Car? will likely cringe at this bit of news. Despite the fact that crushing and recycling old vehicles is standard operating procedure in the auto industry, when EVs are involved, it's always a touchy subject.

The next phase will see "all of the lithium-ion batteries being repurposed for Battery Second Life research projects."

So, what's the news? Well, the image you see above, which comes from the spotting of 16 smashed BMW ActiveE EVs on flatbed trailers on California Route 91 near Los Angeles, CA. EV advocate Chelsea Sexton told Green Car Reports, "It's all very déjà vu, right down to [BMW's] DriveNow promotion as a don't-look-behind-the-curtain distraction – recall GM touting EV1s being donated to museums and universities? – and VINs spray painted on the sides, allowing former drivers to identify their own cars."

BMW's take on this is that the ActiveEs were always meant to have a limited lifespan, and their time has come. As spokesman Dave Buchko tells AutoblogGreen, "The learning begun with the ActiveE will transition to the next phase with all of the lithium-ion batteries being repurposed for Battery Second Life research projects." (You can read his full statement below.) Originally, there were 700 ActiveEs leased to Electronauts (give or take). Yahoo! Autos points out that the ActiveEs were originally imported into the US as "pre-production" cars, which means they can't be sold, they can only be used for carsharing projects or re-leased. Eighty of those ActiveEs recently found a second life as vehicles in BMW's DriveNow carsharing fleet in San Francisco (bringing the total of ActiveEs in the program to 150) and "some have also been returned to Munich for additional research markets," Buchko said.

The big picture here is that no one should be sad to see these cars go. Yes, they may have had some life left in them, but the rules say their time is done and everything is being done to crush responsibly in accordance with the law. Like Plug In Cars says, we're in a completely different era now than we were when GM crushed all those EV1s a decade ago. Instead of marking the end of a plug-in vehicle program, sending the ActiveEs away to be recycled is a symbol of the evolution and growth of BMW's i Project. As further proof, despite a few minor hiccups, the first BMW i3 runabouts with range extenders are being delivered in the US this week.

Show full PR text
Anyone who has watched BMW's ongoing development in the electric vehicle space and observed our investment in BMW i, has seen clear evidence of the company's commitment to sustainable mobility.

BMW has always been clear that the ActiveEs were prototype vehicles and that the program would have a limited timeframe, which is now drawing to a close. Our time with the ActiveE and our Electronauts has been a great learning experience which has prepared us well for the arrival of the BMW i3 electric vehicle which is now in US showrooms at authorized BMW i Centers. As enthusiasts, we understand and appreciate the emotional connection that individuals can make with their cars. The enthusiasm that the Electronauts brought to the BMW ActiveE test program was truly remarkable.

The learning begun with the ActiveE will transition to the next phase with all of the lithium-ion batteries being repurposed for Battery Second Life research projects.

As prototypes, the BMW ActiveEs may not be resold. Based on increasing demand, the most well cared for cars have been deployed to bolster the fleet of Drive Now, BMW's car sharing service in the San Francisco Bay Area, for a limited period. The total number of BMW ActiveEs in the Drive Now Fleet totals 150. Some have also been returned to Munich for additional research markets.

Legal requirements make it impossible to keep these cars on the road in the US indefinitely. Recycling of the vehicles locally is the most sustainably responsible means of handling the cars that are being taken out of service.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 81 Comments
      Bernie Kressner
      • 7 Months Ago
      Gee, that looks like a good idea for all EV's.. (^_^)... ---------------
      artspeedperformance
      • 7 Months Ago
      Should have crushed the drivers as well ( ala Goldfinger) . . . 85% of BMW owners all pretentious and / or clueless about the cars. Stick a kidney grille and propeller logo on it (and of course an automatic transmission so that they are capable of driving it, and they'll buy it.). Don't get me wrong, most of the CARS are great, but the drivers and SUVs that never leave the pavement . . .
        karlInSanDiego
        • 6 Months Ago
        @artspeedperformance
        You are pretentious and clueless about BMW drivers. I won't suggest crushing you, but try talking to a BWM drivers instead of assuming you know how dumb they are and making up your own feel good about yourself stats. You say this as if Chevy, Ford, Toyota, and Mercedes drivers aren't "clueless about their cars".
      carguy1701
      • 7 Months Ago
      I personally find it hilarious that some ecotards are getting all bent out of shape that most of the cars are being crushed even though they KNEW that this would eventually happen.
      knightrider_6
      • 7 Months Ago
      "BMW's take on this is that the ActiveEs were always meant to have a limited lifespan" Aren't all BMWs meant to have a short life span?
      Stinkyboy
      • 7 Months Ago
      BMW = Big Money Waste
      ihatemacs9
      • 6 Months Ago
      the pile on the left, why is every other car's front fascia different? VIN 2X0648 is missing the signature bmw kidney grille. even the headlamps appear to be from a dodge caliber
        Letstakeawalk
        • 6 Months Ago
        @ihatemacs9
        That's the rear fascia. The cars are stacked facing in alternating directions.
      ms
      • 6 Months Ago
      I live in a German town called Leipzig and I can confirme: they saved some. I prevoiusly just saw them in Marin County. In the last days I spotted two in US spec (small license plate cutout and stuff) with Munich plates driving around here. So I guess they are preparing some for the BMW collection. To be honest: Everyone here knew that the 1 series electric conversion was a stopgap. A great way to test much of the i3s technology, but some kind of "public beta". And as always with public betas the engineers are proud of having reached an important milestone - a product ready for being tested by a tech savvy audience, but not for gerneral mass consumption.
      Craig Ewing
      • 6 Months Ago
      Or... We can excuse BMW because we get better headlines, regardless of the facts. And we can condemn GM because we get better headlines, regardless of the facts. No auto mag will upset its roundel fanboys, but kicking GM is easy (lazy) journalism.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 7 Months Ago
      It isn't typical for auto companies to just crush leased cars and throw away the value... ..unless they're electric cars. Seems to be a pattern there.
        Rotation
        • 7 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        No, it's not common for cars which are saleable. They sell them instead of crushing them. These cars are not legally saleable.
          raktmn
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          2WM -- There are very limited exemptions expressly for testing, under very controlled conditions: § 85.1705 Testing exemption. (a) Any person requesting a testing exemption must demonstrate the following: (1) That the proposed test program has a purpose which constitutes an appropriate basis for an exemption in accordance with section 203(b)(1); (2) That the proposed test program necessitates the granting of an exemption; (3) That the proposed test program exhibits reasonableness in scope; and (4) That the proposed test program exhibits a degree of control consonant with the purpose of the program and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (hereafter EPA) monitoring requirements. Part of the requirements under this exemption is that the car makers state upfront, how they will remove these test cars from the roads by documenting ahead of time “(5) The intended final disposition of the vehicles...” The "reasonableness of scope" requirement keeps car makers from just building test cars and leasing them to anyone on a large scale. Now before anyone takes a leap into la-la land, BMW absolutely DID do crash testing on these cars before putting them into the hands of customers. They were safe cars, even if BMW didn't spend the money to dot all the i's and cross all the t's by going through all of the official certification process.
          Rotation
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          Because they aren't designed and tested to the regulations that make them saleable. BMW maybe could get them through the tests and regulations, but it doesn't make financial sense for them to do so. They'd spend more doing it (and modifying the cars if necessary) than they make selling them.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          Why are they not legally saleable?
          2 wheeled menace
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          Is it true that you can lease a car that doesn't meet federal regulations ( safety requirements? ), but you can't sell one? I thought that the law was this: if you want it registered for highway use, you need to meet highway car regulations ( or get some weird experimental car license, but that's not something that i see a big automaker using ) I doubt that these cars don't really meet the regulations. If you can just lease cars that don't meet regulations, i would think that at some point, you would see automakers producing cars just for that purpose ( to keep costs low and liability lower )
      treehugger.inc
      • 7 Months Ago
      What a waste! I'm sure they have a lot of parts in common with the 1series. Could've at least used those to fix other cars. Mainly doors, windows etc come to mind. Sustainability my a$$.
      Avinash Machado
      • 7 Months Ago
      Might as well have kept a few for museums.
        Dean
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        No doubt that some will be preserved for museums.
          Rotation
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Dean
          Really? They're just 128is with 135i hoods. Who wants to view that in a museum?
        carguy1701
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        A bunch were saved for some car-sharing fleet.
      reattadudes
      • 6 Months Ago
      this story made my day! I remember watching that silly "Who Killed the Electric Car?", and its obvious bias against General Motors. now here we are with BMW doing the same thing. where are the BMW owners (who were not actually owners, since the cars were leased)....but where is their feigned "outrage", like we saw against GM? it seems that perhaps the folks who leased the BMWs understood the concept of a CLOSED END lease, and the fact that they could not buy the car when the lease was up. this simple fact seems to have escaped the EV-1 lessees, as GM also gave them a closed end lease, too. EV technology advances quickly, and vehicles like this and the EV-1 are already look like Fred Flintstone cars with regard to technology.
        Joeviocoe
        • 6 Months Ago
        @reattadudes
        --"it seems that perhaps the folks who leased the BMWs understood " Well, you are correct. The EV-1 was sold at a time when "compliance vehicles" was a fairly new concept. So the general public really did not expect GM to stop making the EV-1. Very similar to what we are seeing with FCVs today... people getting excited about them, not knowing that a "lease only" is a death sentence waiting to be executed. By the time the ActiveE came around... there had already been several "compliance cars" that came and went. So nobody really expected to see the ActiveE suddenly go into production. Plus, BMW certainly managed customer expectations WAY BETTER than Saturn/GM did.
          Rotation
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          BMw managed customer expectations batter than Saturn/GM? Chelsea Sexton and others had a fit because GM was very up front about what to expect. They accused GM of trying to talk potential lessors out of getting the car.
        AronD
        • 6 Months Ago
        @reattadudes
        ")....but where is their feigned "outrage", like we saw against GM?" Why would they, the Active E was a test bed for BMW's e-drive, test car are crushed all the time. The biggest difference is where GM destroyed the EV1 and killed it's electric cars commitment, where as BMW is using the knowledge they got from the Active E to build a completely new sub-brand.
          JakeY
          • 6 Months Ago
          @AronD
          @Rotation "CARB killed EVERYONE'S electric cars commitments" Well not everyone. The RAV4 EV was still being built, but GM sold the nimh patents to chevron which then banned all EV sized battery packs from using that technology.
          Rotation
          • 6 Months Ago
          @AronD
          CARB killed EVERYONE'S electric cars commitments. When CARB dropped the requirement to make EVs, every company stopped making EVs. That includes Ford (Ranger), GM (EV1, S-10), Honda (Honda EV) and Toyota (RAV4 EV). CARB hasn't dropped the requirements this time, so GM is still making EREVs and EVs and BMW is too.
          Rotation
          • 6 Months Ago
          @AronD
          JakeY: The RAV4 EV was discontinued like the rest. It was discontinued in 2003 like the EV1. It just wasn't on a closed-end lease so it remained in the field. Like the S-10 EV did and I think the Ford Ranger.
        Technoir
        • 6 Months Ago
        @reattadudes
        At the time, GM said that leasees could buy the EV1 at contract end.
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