At Opportunity Green 2010, BMW announced the upcoming ActiveE field trial. The BMW ActiveE field trial, scheduled to begin in 2011, would follow up on BMW’s successful MINI E pilot project. The ultimate goal of these two trials is for BMW to gather as much information about electric vehicle technology in an actively used environment as possible and then put what they’ve learned into the production of the Megacity Vehicle, which will be available in 2013.

Although the BMW ActiveE trial hasn’t even started, BMW is already prepared to address consumers’ most pressing concerns about electric vehicles – range anxiety. Thanks to the MINI E trial, which consists of 450 vehicles here in the United States and another 150 abroad, BMW knows that an electric vehicle with a 100-mile range is more than enough to meet consumer’s daily driving needs.

According to Rich Steinberg, Manager of EV Operations & Strategy for BMW North America, participants in the MINI E trial were surveyed and BMW discovered that many consumers enjoyed the guilt-free driving experience so much that they looked for more driving opportunities. Essentially, consumers went above and beyond their daily home-to-work and back commute and purposely chose the MINI E for other trips around town. This is definitely not typical of a range anxious driver.

While the range anxiety concerns were assuaged through real-life testing, BMW did encounter a few other limitations during the MINI E trial. First, the backseat of the MINI E was removed to make room for the batteries and so the two-seat vehicle had a limited market. The second limiting factor was the small luggage capacity of the MINI E. Finally, extreme heat or cold situations reduced the driving range of the vehicle.

All three of these issues have been addressed with the BMW ActiveE. The ActiveE is based off of the 1-series and so it has ample luggage space as well as a backseat that is ideal for extra passengers and families. The technology has also been enhanced with the introduction of a liquid heating and cooling system to help address the weather factor.

As part of the new heating and cooling system, the BMW ActiveE will include the ability to control the cockpit temperature using a remote phone application. Drivers in New York City in December that want to warm up the vehicle before driving can do this remotely using a phone. The cockpit will be warmed while the vehicle is still plugged in to the local grid. Once the vehicle is ready to drive, the batteries won’t be drained trying to heat up the car. The same holds true for cooling the vehicle in warmer seasons.

The BMW ActiveE trial will be available to consumers in Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco and Boston. The trial will be run similarly to the MINI E program with consumers leasing the vehicle directly from BMW and participating in follow-up surveys. Although specific details about the launch date and pricing aren’t yet available, interested consumers can sign up for ActiveE updates on the BMW USA website.

BMW ActiveE today, Megacity Vehicle tomorrow
Data gathered from the BMW ActiveE field trial in 2011 will help the company launch the Megacity Vehicle in 2013.