STUTTGART -- BMW will launch the second phase of its Project i city-car initiative at the Detroit auto show with the unveiling of a plug-in electric version of the 1-series coupe.
Known as the Concept ActiveE, the new four-seater foreshadows a production version set for a limited lease program for preferred customers in selected markets, including North America, beginning in late 2010.
Conceived along the same lines as the front-wheel-drive Mini E, the Concept ActiveE switches the emphasis to rear-wheel drive with a synchronous electric motor mounted in the rear axle casing.
Rated at 170hp and 250Nm (184 lb-ft) of torque, the brushless motor draws energy from two separate banks of lithium-ion batteries, developed in a partnership between BMW and SD LiMotive.
The main battery pack sits beneath the rear bench seat in the space usually taken up by the 1-series' fuel tank. A second battery pack is nestled low under the hood.
At 1,800kg (3,968 pounds), the Concept ActiveE is considerably heavier than the most fuel-efficient of its more conventionally powered 1-series siblings.
BMW puts the concept car's real-world range at 160km (100 miles) -- sufficient, it says, for the Concept ActiveE to handle most urban-based motoring needs.
Battery recharging is handled via a standard electric socket. A high-charge function enables a recharge in three hours at 50 amps/240 volts in Europe. In the United States, which uses a 32-amp/110-volt system, the recharge time is put at 4.5 hours.
Following the example from the Mini E, the Concept ActiveE reclaims kinetic electricity with a generator that provides an engine-braking effect on deceleration. BMW says the energy regeneration helps increase range by up to 20 percent.
Although the concept car adheres to the look of the 1-series coupe, detail changes such as the inclusion of low-drag wheels shod with low-rolling-resistance tires, additional composite cladding underneath and smaller cooling openings in the front bumper help lower drag.
BMW is not providing too many details about the lease program. The production version of the Concept ActiveE is set to be shown at the Paris auto show next September.