What are they?
BMW’s full electric development units trialled before the arrival of the i3 and i8. The Mini E was built in 2008 and the ActiveE followed three years later. Neither is for sale to the public.
How do they differ?
The Mini E uses an outsourced propulsion unit whereas the ActiveE uses one developed by BMW with bits of the drivetrain very similar to those fitted in the i3. . The Mini E divests its rear seats in favour of the lithium-ion system but the ActiveE has batteries stored in the engine bay, down the drivetrain and in the boot – it’s still a viable four seater. At 1800kg the ActiveE is heavier than the Mini and crucially 600kg more than the carbonfibre-bodied i3.
Do they work?
Yes, very well. Both offer a range of 100-150km and can be fully charged in under an hour by using BMW’s charging unit. Torque delivery is instant and flat while speeds of 100km/h are easily obtainable, even on inclines. There’s a lot more engine braking when off throttle while the dampers and tyres have been upgraded to handle the extra weight.
A universal charging system needs to be agreed by manufactures and countries within the next year and government will need to incentivise electric ownership. The development of new battery technology is continual.