ActiveE Electric Cars Are Crushed: Is There a Bright Side?

By · May 22, 2014

Crushed BMW ActiveE Electric Cars

Source: Facebook

When General Motors crushed the EV1 electric car a decade ago, it became a rallying cry by EV fans—calling for automakers to bring battery-powered cars to market. The sight this week of a trailer full of crushed BMW ActiveE models—posted to Facebook—reasonably recalled the same feelings of anger, frustration, and regret for Electronaut’s (BMW’s name for those who leased test vehicles). On the surface, it looks the same story of automaker intransigence regarding EVs.

Yet, the context for the demise of those ActiveEs has dramatically changed in recent years, begging this question: Can devoted EV drivers stomach the image, and put the EV1 debacle in the past?

With the first deliveries of the BMW i3 electric car this month, the company concluded its test program—which used the Mini and 1-series cars as a test platform. If we look on the bright side, BMW is in no way killing its EV program. Just the opposite. It has put an extraordinary amount of resources to the success of its electrification program, which it views as a long-term investment.

The ActiveE, based on the 1-series, was always considered a temporary platform for evaluation, and that’s how it was described to those who leased the ActiveE (and the earlier MiniE). Of course, it’s understandable that ActiveE drivers became emotionally attached to those vehicles. But is there a risk in over-reacting, by responding as if the crushing of some models was wanton destruction?

A number of returned ActiveE models have been put into service in BMW’s DriveNow electric carsharing program. In some cases with other disused cars, automakers donate test cars to college engineering programs, or if historically significant, offered to museums. These are great re-uses of test cars.

But, as reported on March 6 by Auto Week, it is common practice for automakers to crush or otherwise destroy pre-production cars that can't be legally sold or re-purposed. Chrysler recently ordered 93 first-generation high-horsepower gas-thirsty Dodge Vipers to be crushed, after the cars were used in training programs. Auto Week cited insurance and safety reasons for the Viper demolitions.

A Post- "Who Killed" World

Every driver of an electric car today should pay homage to the previous generation of EV activists who protested the crushing of the EV1, and the dismantling of electric car programs. Every day, electric cars become more of a mainstream automotive option—viewed as a viable “normal” car, just like any other vehicle on the road (except for its lack of tailpipe or use of petroleum). And like other cars, test vehicles sometimes get crushed—either in crash testing or because they have served their purpose.

Meanwhile, according to my calculations, this month we will pass the 200,000 mark for the number of plug-in cars on U.S. roads. There are nearly 20 plug-in models on the market. We will be up to one million plug-ins in about three years. Here’s the silver lining in the ActiveE story: The crushing of a few test electric vehicles, while sad, won’t have any effect on the inevitable transition from petro-based to electrified transportation.


· · 3 years ago

Contrary to what Brad says, there's no need to pay homage to us. Just go out and drive your plugin like you would any other gas car. That's what we were aiming for you to be able to do by protesting.

· · 3 years ago

The real problem I have is two-fold: each and every one of these cars could have been used to end if life instead of ending it early over some technicality that they could not be sold as-is or whatever the made up excuse is. 2) the BMW i3 is not nearly what these cars were, but a compliance car.

I'm so tired of the big automakers holding back on true pure EV cars.

· · 3 years ago

@benji wrote: the BMW i3 is not nearly what these cars were, but a compliance car.

No offense intended benji, but are you high? Do you have any idea what "compliance car" means?

We have so many folks refusing the label "compliance car" for cars that most definitely are just that (e.g., Spark, Fiat 500e, Fit, RAV4) that it is downright weird to see someone affixing to the label to the i3, which is being offered for sale to all comers across the U.S. Love it, hate it, or in between, the fact is this car is NOT being offered solely for compliance with CARB ZEV requirements. The i3 is just as much a "true pure EV" car as the LEAF, especially since the (marginally) more Volt-like REx versions are still languishing on the docks waiting for their Monroney stickers.

The i3's not really my cup of tea, but sheesh, BMW's doing the right thing here EV-wise, especially compared to jerks like Toyota. Cut 'em some slack.

· · 3 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver,

In a way, just driving an EV as my every day car IS paying homage to you. So thank you for being part the early EV1 crowd. And thank you for fighting back when the cars were taken away. I would have been there with you but I was too young (didn't even have a license yet) and too far away (lived in NYS). Even I was with you in spirit...


Perhaps benji is referring to some of the compromises made by BMW? It is pretty obvious that the severely hampered the REx version to comply with CARB's BEVx rules (smaller tank, no hold mode). But overall it is in an entirely different category than those you listed already (Spark, 500e, FitEV, RAV4 EV).

In a way, though, even the i3 and the Leaf are "compliance cars". In "Revenge of the electric car", Ghosn pretty much admits as much. He was asked whether he believes in global warming, and replies that it doesn't matter. What matters are that his customers and (more importantly) market regulators do. Rules will get stricter and stricter in every market, not just California. The average corporate fuel economy requirement is going through the roof - EVs are a solid strategy to meet it. Many large European cities are banning ICEVs in city centers - again EVs are fine. I haven't been keeping up as much with Asian regulations, but I'm sure that India and China will start coming down on pollution.

· · 3 years ago

I'm not paying homage to the EV1 protesters - hating GM is not helpful to the cause. It's way past time to let go of the false romanticism behind branding them the Enemy who tried to Kill the Electric Car when in reality they are up front and pushing things forward. EREV is a brilliant concept that fits the needs of virtually anybody who drives. I will never go back to ICEs - too primitive - driving electric is superior in so many ways but I do need long range capability often enough to where I couldn't and wouldn't have gone pure BEV.

80+% of my driving in my Volt is on battery power alone, and that's in a car that can go anywhere a gas-only car can go.

· · 3 years ago

@Tra2S: Sure, a Volt can go anywhere a gas-only car can go. You just can't bring much with you.

I'm shopping to replace our 10-year-old Prius "road trip car" right now, and it is amazing how pathetic the alternatives are; I think we're just going to wait for the next-gen Prius (yeah, ho-hum, but I'm not going to compromise our requirements just for variety's sake). The C-Max comes closest, but MPG claims have proven questionable, trouble reports have not been good, and I find MyFordTouch intolerable. The Accord Hybrid looked promising until we opened the trunk and found room for a couple of carry-ons, with no way to fold down the rear seats - kinda useless for long drives or even trips to the airport. The Volt is better and worse - you can at least fold down the seats if you're willing to accept that it's a two-seater for interstate travel purposes, but if not the trunk's worse than the Accord H's (or my i-MiEV's for that matter - seriously). What's worse, cargo capacity aside, the battery-divided back seat buckets are uncomfortably tight for most adult passengers.

Given that, in exactly what way is GM "up front and pushing things forward" in the EV arena, and with what? Their "eco-halo" car, the range-extended but capacity-limited Volt? A Spark EV they've withheld from all but CARB-compliance markets and all but promised to kill as soon as they've met their ZEV quota? The MPV5 concept they teased but never delivered? Their struggle to strangle CHAdeMO deployments in the crib while delivering SAE/Combo only as an option only on a compliance sled? (I've never seen numbers for DCQC-equipped Sparks, but I wouldn't be shocked if the numbers were in the dozens). Their continuing assault on CARB BEV requirements, especially by employing a painfully disingenuous H2 fuel cell scam?

I'm glad you like your Volt, but it's a niche product. While EREV may indeed fit the needs of many, the Volt itself misses the mark for many more, if for no other reason than its space-constrained packaging. The shiny Tesla-priced bauble that is the ELR is obviously even more useless. I'm willing to let of the false romanticism that GM is the Enemy - but I'm certainly not willing to embrace the equally false narrative that it's an EV advocate.

· · 3 years ago


You are not letting go of your GM hatred. Just what is your take on what makes an EV advocate? Not GM? A company that has invested a lot of money, brainpower and risk in electrification?

The Volt was a moonshot that hit the mark and made history. That it does not fit your needs does not reduce its brilliance and importance. Its well established presence in the market and consistently high owner satisfaction certainly have much to do with the promotion of electrified transportation.

Maybe you should look in a mirror the next time you get the urge to dismiss GM's EV credentials, and ask yourself if that person you see is truly the EV advocate he claims to be.

What we can agree upon is the lack of broad choices in the EV world, but that's going to change. And I'm counting on GM to be somewhere up front doing some important things to help push the momentum forward.

· · 3 years ago

@Tra2S: I have no idea what you're talking about. And it's pretty clear you have no idea what I'm talking about.

I don't hate GM - I just don't buy the idea that they're serious electrification advocates. GM's efforts are half-hearted relative to their corporate resources. The Volt is IT. The ELR is a rich boy toy, the Spark EV a fake, and H2FC "technology" an elaborate fraud being perpetrated in the hopes of derailing (or at least significantly delaying) approaching ZEV requirements. None of this is controversial if you're paying even the slightest attention to reality.

And the Volt itself is no "moon shot" - it's a perfectly respectable set of engineering compromises like every other electrification attempt (or every other car, for that matter). Again, I'm glad that particular mix of compromises hit the mark for you, but it misses for me by a wide margin, and that's likely the case for most people. Its failure to meet my needs, which include such exotic requirements as transporting four adults to dinner or carrying a road trip's worth of luggage in the trunk, very definitely reduces its importance. As to its "brilliance", I'll leave assessment of such praise to the fanbois.

Regarding your personal insults, I bought a BEV, so yeah, I've proportionately put a lot more skin in the game than GM ever has. You have exactly zero standing to question my interests in this area - look in the mirror yourself. Come to think of it, that's where you can carry on this conversation if you like - I'm done with the fanboi baiting.

· · 3 years ago

This is heresy. I think we need people protesting at the BMW headquarters, and at all the BMW dealerships. There should also be a "Who Killed the Electric Car II" movie, with this carnage in the trailer.

Don't give me the "common practice" stuff. We didn't stand by when GM was crushing EVs. Every EV must be saved.

· · 3 years ago

Today's goal seems to be not to kill electric vehicles but to keep EVs expensive and impractical. California Assembly members Nestande & Medina Introduced Measure AB 225 to make Medium Speed Electric Vehicles legal in California and the Assembly voted on AB 225 (May 16, 2013) and it passed with no one voting against it. Then when it got to the Senate they completely amended the measure and removed any thing that mentioned electric vehicles and changed the measure to a Mobile homes measure. Medium Speed Vehicles would fill a nitch for local driving at speeds under 45 mph and could sell for under 10 grand.

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