BMW has ignited the second phase in its 'project i' city car initiative at the Detroit motor show, with the unveiling of a new plug-in electric version of the 1-series coupe.
Known as the BMW 1-series Concept ActiveE, the new four-seater previews a zero-emission BMW that will to go into a limited lease programme for preferred customers in selected markets.
This will include the UK, where the new car is expected to form a major part of BMW’s recently awarded official London Olympics car supplier programme from late 2010.
Conceived along the same lines as the front-wheel-drive Mini E – the car credited with kick-starting the BMW Group’s 'project i' initiative - the ActiveE switches the emphasis to rear-wheel drive. It uses a synchronous electric motor mounted within the rear axle casing to provide propulsion.
With 170bhp and 184lb ft of torque, the brushless unit draws energy from two separate banks of lithium ion batteries – one where the fuel tank usually resides and the second in place of the engine.
Its strong torque sees it deliver impressive straightline performance. BMW claims 0-37mph in just 4.5sec and 0-62mph in less than nine seconds. The top speed, meanwhile, is limited to 90mph to safeguard the level of charge within the batteries.
BMW puts its latest concept car’s real world range at 100 miles – sufficient, it says, for the ActiveE to see to most urban-based motoring needs.
Recharging of the batteries is achieved via a standard power socket. A high-charge function provides the new BMW with a recharge time of just three hours at 50 amps/240 volts in Europe.
Following the example laid down by the Mini E, the 1-series Concept ActiveE also stows kinetic electricity. A generator provides a considerable engine braking effect on a trailing throttle in a process which, BMW claims, helps increases the range by up to 20 per cent.
Although the new concept car adheres to the look of more conventional 1-series coupe models, detailed changes such as the inclusion of low-drag wheels shod with low-resistance tyres, additional composite cladding underneath and smaller apertures for cooling within the front bumper have helped lower drag.
At this early stage, BMW is not providing too many details about the lease programme that it has developed for the production version of the 1-series Concept ActiveE, which is expected to make an appearance at the Paris motor show in September 2010. However, expect prices to mirror those of the Mini E, which is offered at a monthly payment of £550.