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Electric Beemers on their way <-- now those are proper cars

Sorry, is my brand appreciation showing? And why not anyway. BMW has been showing off its ActiveE Concept electric car at the Geneva Motor Show. This one is based on the current BMW 1-Series Coupe and, in an effort to remain true to the look and feel of the marque, it has managed somehow to fit in the electric drivetrain and three lithium-ion batteries while retaining the same head, shoulder and leg room as you would get in a standard model as well as about 200 litres of boot capacity.

BMW ActiveE electric concept carWith 125 hp and 250 Nm of torque, it can hit 60 mph in under 9 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 90 mph. It also increases the driving range by 20% by driving current back to the batteries every time you take your foot off the accelerator, so that puts full range at about 110 miles. Then you can charge it back up in just 3 hours using BMW's 230/240 volt 'wall box'.

BMW is planning to test 1000 of these in the US, Europe and China from 2011 to provide insights into the everyday use of the ActiveE which will help in its development of the i3, AKA the Megacity, that goes into production in 2013.

It's maybe worth recalling that BMW has been tinkering with EVs since 1969 when it produced the 1602 Elektro prototype, and since 2009 its MINI E has covered more than 10 million kms of test. Among other things that should give them plenty of feedback about the dreaded 'range anxiety' issue.

The Megacity vehicle, as its name suggests, is aimed at the rapidly expanding megacities and will feature high-tech material predominantly used in racing cars and aircraft construction to save 50% weight compared with steel bodywork and 30% compared with an aluminium chassis. Lots more science stuff here if you're interested.

As a driver of a BMW for many years, I can't say this particular model really floats my boat in terms of looks, but as one comment says on Autoblog, "It's a BMW, so I want one" and I know just what he means. It's going to be hard for start-up carmakers like Think, CODA and Tesla to compete against the consumer franchise that marques like BMW have already built up. OK, by the time the Megacity comes out there'll be loads more electric sedans on the market, but they'll have to find ways to justify their pricing and with a known brand you have more idea of what to expect for your money.

"This is BMW i – Born Electric" say the boys in Munich. "These cars are purpose designed and purpose built for sustainable, premium mobility." I'm inclined to believe them. Proper cars all right.

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