The Mini-E's True Believer Gets the Keys to the First BMW ActiveE

By · January 12, 2012

Tom Moloughney with Cars

Tom Moloughney, between the new ActiveE and the much-loved Mini-E. (Photo courtesy of Tom Moloughney)

Can you imagine a more bittersweet moment? For two and a half years, Tom Moloughney has been driving his all-electric BMW Mini-E, telling anyone who would listen about its attributes, regaling customers at his Italian restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey, and even writing about it on his blog and Now that’s all over, because on Friday afternoon Moloughney will hand the keys back to the leased vehicle in a ceremony at BMW headquarters, which is also in New Jersey.

But never fear, it’s bittersweet because one of the Mini-E’s most loyal customers will be given a new set of keys—this time to the Mini-E’s successor, the ActiveE, based on the 1-Series BMW Coupe. He will still have 80 to 100 miles of range, can still plug in at home and work, but will now also have a back seat.

The First ActiveE Customer

According to Dave Buchko, who heads technology communications at BMW, Moloughney is the nation’s first ActiveE driver, and he will get the keys from Ludwig Willisch, the new president of BMW North America.

“This guy was chosen because at this stage he’s logged more miles, over 70,000, than anyone else in the Mini-E program,” Buchko said. “Maybe more miles than anybody else in an electric vehicle, period. He went in as someone interested in technology, and he emerged a major advocate, blogging about the car and even installing solar panels on his home so he could charge emission-free. His experience was life-changing, and it puts to bed the question of whether someone can live day-to-day with an electric vehicle.”

Tom Moloughney's Cars

The Mini-E was rough and ready, obviously a conversion. The ActiveE is more refined. (Photo courtesy of Tom Moloughney)

You bet Moloughney has logged more than 70,000 miles. He’s precise about these things, and by Thursday he’d logged 72,500. “I’d be more upset if they were just taking the car back and telling me to go back to gas, as General Motors did with the EV1,” Moloughney said. “But I’ll be driving home with the ActiveE, a much more polished vehicle.”

A Drive in Germany

Even before getting the car, Moloughney was familiar with the ActiveE because he drove one around the streets of Berlin during a first-drive event in Germany. “It’s definitely a smoother drive than the Mini-E, which I love but it still feels more like the conversion it is [from AC Propulsion] than a production-series electric vehicle. The ActiveE really comes across as a car that was engineered in-house by a major manufacturer.” The electric Mini is legendary for its torque steer, but Moloughney says you get used to it—and it’s not as extreme as the Honda CRX he souped up with nitrous oxide.

Driving differences? Moloughney says the Mini-E “just takes off when you stomp on it, but it’s very close to the ground and you feel every bump and pavement wrinkle. The ActiveE has approximately the same acceleration, maybe slightly less, but it’s more what you’d expect from BMW.”

The Mini-E has routinely delivered 100-mile range in Moloughney’s hands, but cold weather dealt a blow—and produced 70-mile limits. A lot has to do with battery temperature, and Moloughney started using a ceramic heater to warm up the garage before his morning drives. It helped, especially on very cold days when temperatures reached single digits. The ActiveE has thermal management, which should help when the thermometer dips.

No Real Range Issues

But range wasn’t much of an issue for Moloughney. As part of the Mini-E deal, he had a Clipper Creek EVSE installed in his garage, and when BMW offered he put a second one at his restaurant—which is 31 miles from his house. “That really helped in liberating me on range,” he said. “I drove to work and in an hour I was topped off again.” The ActiveE came with an AeroVironment charger, so now there are two 240-volt EVSEs in this big EV booster’s garage. That’s got to be unique.

The family also has a Chevrolet Equinox for longer trips, but Moloughney said they’re looking to replace it with something greener that can take advantage of the his and hers charging stations. “We like the look of the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid,” he said. “With that kind of crossover we can haul quite a lot of stuff.”


· · 2 years ago

Congrats Tom! Can't wait to hear all about it!

· · 2 years ago

Congrats Tom!

· RedmondChad (not verified) · 2 years ago

Tom's a great guy, and very deserving of the first ActiveE. It sounds like a really nice car.

Two minor corrections though (I know one is a quote, and not you Jim): MANY people have put more than 70k on electric vehicles--mostly RAV4s and Rangers; and I know several people with two EVSEs at home. (I could have three; but I just plug our PHEV into a 110V outlet).

· · 2 years ago

Thanks guys. I officially get the keys tomorrow afternoon, it should be a fun afternoon at BMW HQ.
As for the mileage quote from Dave Buchko, obviously there are a lot of people that have driven more EV miles than I have, and some post here regularly. Driving a lot of miles isn't an accomplishment, but the reason I think it's brought up a lot in regards tome is that I have driven a lot of miles in a short period (72,500 in 31 months). With the range of most EV's up to today other than the roadster, it's not expected that someone would drive one that many miles. A lot of people think they are only good for short trips, keeping close to where you live and then I say "well, I drove my EV 30,000 miles last year" and they look at me as if to say "how is that possible?" I think it helps to show people that the household EV can be the primary vehicle and is capable of driving a lot of miles provided you can charge at a decent rate.
Dave Buchko knows others have driven more EV miles for sure, I think he meant to say "Maybe more miles than anyone else in an EV in the past two and a half years."

I'll do an in depth report on the ActiveE and post it here after I've had it for a few weeks.

· · 2 years ago

Congrats Tom! Keep spreading the good news - EVs are here, today, and not as a "secondary" commuter car.

· Chris C. (not verified) · 2 years ago

Congratulations Tom! BMW just scored big points in my book for recognizing the efforts of one of their earliest adopters. I'll keep that in mind when the lease runs out on my Volt in Dec 2012 and I'm back in the market for an EV upgrade!

· · 2 years ago

@Tom "the reason I think it's brought up a lot in regards tome is that I have driven a lot of miles in a short period (72,500 in 31 months). "

Congrats Tom !

There is a guy who has put in 22,000 miles in under 7 months on Leaf.

· EvDriver (not verified) · 2 years ago

Any idea what they are doing with the Mini? as far as 70,000 miles in an EV being a lot, I thought that owners of the Rav4-ev's have seen well over 100,000 miles without issues, but of course Tom's 70,000 miles was in a very short time span.

· · 2 years ago

"There is a guy who has put in 22,000 miles in under 7 months on Leaf."

WOW. He must have CHAdeMO charging at home and at work!

The first year I drove it the most. On the 365th day I turned 33,001 miles.

· · 2 years ago

LOL. He charges at work on L2 - and commutes some 70 miles one way. The gas savings alone pays for the car ;)

· · 2 years ago

70k miles. Wow, that's pretty impressive. I'm guessing the car must work if it can go that far. hehe.

Tom: Did you notice any decrease in range from when you started? Basically, we the batteries not holding as much charge near the end?

I'm pretty jealous, I've only driven an EV 3 laps around a test course. Well, in fairness that's not counting the number of times I've played back the video of it. hehe

· SVL (not verified) · 2 years ago

I look forward to reading all about Tom's experiences with his Active E!

· · 2 years ago

tterbo: The range is still pretty much the same as when I first got it, although I haven't really crunched the numbers(I kept records of every trip I made in it). At some time I will really dive into my data and see exactly how the car performed at the end compared to the beginning. It's not as easy as just looking at the range I was getting because there are lots of factors to consider. I need to compare the temperature and my driving style(I definitely drove it more aggressively the longer I had it) for sure so it's not as easy as it seems. However if there was any range degredation it was minimal, say 5% or so.

I just entered my 1,383rd entry in my log, and it will be my last so I've charged it that many times in the 31 months. I'm a bit sad giving it back later today, the car had been a real blast and opened many doors for me, but it's time to move on and the ActiveE really is a much more complete EV.

· goldenfooler (not verified) · 2 years ago

Tom when we get any hybrid plug in here at Volvo I will give you call. I shouldn't be that far away.

· · 2 years ago

Congrats Tom!

I'm sure you will enjoy the ActiveE even more. It may also change your life to have a back seat and a trunk!

· · 2 years ago

I think the greatest thing that Tom did was not the mileage but spreading a sense of what it was like to drive an EV every day to so many people who have not had that opportunity.

Tom made EVs seem like a real option to a lot of people. And that really makes a difference.

Enjoy your new toy, Tom!

· · 2 years ago

I think a major contribution of Tom's Mini-E experience was showing that EVs can work in places with real winters and snow, not just mild climate areas. I loved that picture he had awhile back showing the car in deep snow, refuting those who say EVs are just for fair weather.

· Jim McL (not verified) · 2 years ago


We have been wondering when you were getting the new car. Now it is safe to come visit New Jersey again. You did convert the plug on your EVSE already?

By the way, I have three charging stations in my garage, but you probable do also if you count the 120 volt little one.

Jim McL

· · 2 years ago


Do you have a record of the kWh's for each charge and/or a total for the 71K miles? I'm curious what the overall Wh/mile the Mini E is returning.

Congrats on the new wheels!


· Steve Casner (not verified) · 2 years ago

We've had two 240V EVSEs in our garage for three years! Inductive small paddle for the RAV4-EV, plus conductive for the Tesla. Those two are in active use; we also have another inductive EVSE with a cord attached for road trips with the RAV, plus the old large-paddle inductive from the EV1 that is "garage art".

· · 2 years ago

Neil, no, I don't sorry. I didn't separately meter the EVSE and the MINI-E only had display for amp hours used for every 100miles driven. Under favorable driving conditions it used 50-60amp hours/100mi. Under the worst conditions(aggressive driving, very cold battery, heater on high) it was up between 80 & 90.

· EvDriver (not verified) · 2 years ago

Any idea what is going to happen to the Mini-E?

· · 2 years ago

"Any idea what is going to happen to the Mini-E?"

BMW loaned 50 to 100 of them to the London Olympic organizers and is giving them about 100 ActiveE's to use until the summer games are over.
They are also going to begin a small field trial in South Africa of around 50 cars. They are also going to keep a bunch of them in Munich for their employees to use around the city for a while, but they will all gradually be taken out of service. All of the battery packs are going to be reused and BMW already has contracts in place for their second life use. You may have seen a recent news story that showed a used MINI-E's battery powering a small home in Germany, so think along those lines. The cars will be dismantled and recycled. BMW has made it clear that they won't simply be crushed and that some of the parts will be recycled and some even reused perhaps sold as used replacement parts for ICE MINI coopers since they share many of the same parts.

By the way I just posted a quick review of my initial impressions of the car on my blog if anyone is interested:

· · 2 years ago

I just saw my first ActiveE in the wild today right near my house. It was my friend who had had a MiniE.
That's a great looking car. The car initially caught my eye, then I saw the ActiveE logo and then my friend sitting in it.
I quickly called him and found out he just got it on Sunday and has barely been able to try it out yet.
A few minutes later, I followed a Volt down the freeway and then, later had to share our J1772 charging station at work with another Leaf (the company president's).
These EVs are really rolling out!

· · 2 years ago

This is GREAT! All the best to you and the new ride, Tom!

(In my town the latest car rolling through is a couple of iMIEVs that just showed up. I heard one pull up behind me at an intersection (what?! You can hear EVs??) and I had to turn and look since I couldn't determine the make by the sound like I usually can!)

· · 2 years ago

I'm having too much fun driving it to take the time to write about it ;)
It's really a blast to drive and is so much more comfortable than the MINI-E where I felt every pavement wrinkle. Inside the cabin it's silent and smooth and the regen is nearly as strong as the MINI-E but not initially. It doesn't grab as strongly initially, but quickly increases giving it a very smooth regen as opposed to the MINI-E parachute-like feeling.

I love the preconditioning and thermal management and the Eco Pro mode seems to increase the range by 10-15%. The car is surprisingly peppy in Eco Pro mode and I don't mind driving with it activated at all, however it drastically reduces the power to the cabin heating and the heated seats really don't work well in Eco Pro mode. I've been getting in the car and driving in regular mode while the seats heat up and then switching to Eco Pro mode to extend the range. So far the range without pre conditioning and driving in regular mode is about equal to the MINI-E, if not slightly less, but in Eco Pro mode and using pre conditioning it's better than the MINI was in this cold weather (20-30 degrees)

· · 2 years ago

And by now you probably have more miles on it than I have on the Rav4EV. ;)

· Dan Frederiksen (not verified) · 2 years ago

Tom, so exactly the same fate as the EV1s?
obviously the cars have much greater values intact as EVs. they are destroying them to keep the EV down. as always.
don't be a collaborator

GM specifically said the EV1s wouldn't just be crushed. they lied

· · 2 years ago

@ Dan Frederiksen - It sounds like they won't crush the Mini-E's. They will just dismantle them and spread their parts far and wide. Which is a bit sad, compared to what they could do.

The only way we will really know that BMW is onboard with EVs is when they start mass producing EVs and selling them in numbers that match the demand. They are doing good work with the i3, so there is hope that they will deliver in the end.

· · 2 years ago

I have to wonder, if BMW was really interested in how these vehicles held up over time, why wouldn't they give them time? There are plenty of people who would be willing to take on the risk to continue to lease or buy these cars. It feels to me that BMW is actually afraid to learn what happens after a couple of years on the road. Maybe for fear of tarnishing their reputation?

· · 2 years ago

Dan F is a notorious BMW basher. I think they stole his first born or something, just do a Google search of his name.

Many of the MINI-E's will continue to stay in service for a while. BMW employees use them in Munich, 50 of them are being used by the London Olympic committee until the games are over, they are starting an trial lease program in South Africa soon and they have other uses for others. They will however begin to decommission some of them. They served their purpose. All of the battery packs are being removed and sold for 2nd life uses and the cars are being dismantled as noted above and the many parts will be used in the secondary used parts market.

Truth is, the MINI-E is a conversion test car that from the beginning was scheduled for a short life. This is nothing like the EV-1 program where GM never told people they would take their cars back to crush them. From the start BMW told all of us we could only lease them for 12 months(then extended it twice) and that they would then take them out of service because it was only a test car. The entire powertrain was made by AC Proplusion. It's a great powertrain, but BMW never had any intention of continuing to service it longer than a couple years. They made the decision to jump into the EV arena sometime early 2008. They realized it would take them 5-6 years to bring a purpose designed and built EV to market (5-7 years in their normal gestation period for an entirely new vehicle)

They came up with the three step plan back then:
Step 1: Put a converted MINI in the hands of small groups of people in 8 countries around the globe to assess public acceptance, likes and dislikes, begin to understand infrastructure issues, open a dialog with the different ulilities, etc. Oh yeah, get those needed CARB credits while there at it. AC Propulsion had a powertrain ready to go and they could have cars rolling off the line in under a year by using them to supply the powertrain so they went with them. BMW knew it would take them a couple years to design and build a powertrain in house and once they did they would (Step 2)put it in a current platform, a 1 series, and run it for a year to two and work out all the potential bugs before step 3 of selling an EV, the 2013 i3 which is designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle

The i3 will use the entire powertrain that the ActiveE has. The new battery cells developed jointly with SB LiMotive, the charger, the power electronics and the motor in the ActiveE will all be in the i3.
BMW's approach is to purpose build their EV's, they won't ever sell a converted ICE vehicle with an electric drive because they feel they have to make too many compromises.
I've had the opportunity to see a completely dissembled ActiveE and was shown the incredible amount of reinforcement they had to do to make the car safe and accommodate the electric powertrain. They had to add over 600lbs of steel reinforcement. I have lots of pictures and plan to do a post in the future on this.

So really it comes down to them needing 5 years to bring an EV to market. They can't go back in time and decide to start this in 2005 or 2006, criticize them for waiting if you want, even though not too many others out there even started in 2008. People are anxious and want to see more and more companies selling EV's and I wholly get that but they decided in 2008 and they simply can't put out the car before next year, it won't be ready.

Brian: There's really nothing to see "how it holds up" from the MINI-E. Nothing in that car is being used in the i3. They were all off the shelf, 3rd party supplies parts that they won't use in a BMW product that they sell.
The ActiveE on the other hand does have all the newly engineered BMW components, but the i3 will be offered for sale well before the two year ActiveE program ends so I'm not sure they need to extend the use of them beyond that. they certainly could if they wanted to, but I don't think it's necessary.

· · 2 years ago


Thanks for the insightful post. I know you have had many conversations with BMW, so I will have to trust what you say. This falls in line with my gut telling me that they don't necessarily want to learn what happens to the Mini-E after a few years. The reason, as you elegantly put it, is that 1) it is not their design and 2) it is not the powertrain that will go into the upcoming i3 anyway. I can understand why a company like BMW would not want to rest its well-earned reputation on a third-party powertrain.

I am definitely guilty of "chomping at the bit" when it comes to bringing EVs to market. Nissan seems to have brought the Leaf to market incredibly quickly, but the truth is, they were probably working on it for years. The difference is, they didn't advertise like many other companies are doing now. They didn't have to because there was no competition at the time.

· · 2 years ago

Of course Nissan was working it for a while and they did an awesome job of keeping it secret. You don't engineer a totally new car in two years. I was actually surprised when I was told that the gestation period for a totally new model at BMW was 5-7 years. They are actually fast tracking the i3 to have it for sale in 2013 which is only a little over 5 years from getting the green light.

The ActiveE I'm driving now is really more important to then the the MINI-E was because it's going to refine all of the hardware and software that the i3 will use. We've already come across a few minor software glitches that I've reported to BMW engineers.

BTW, if anyone living in my area wants to come and drive the my ActiveE, let me know and we can arrange it. I let dozens of people drive my MINI-E and give them a chance to experience electric drive and will continue to do so with the ActiveE. No print or other form of advertising media can beat letting someone actually drive an EV.

· · 2 years ago


I am often in your neck of the woods (my father lives in Bridgewater). I would love to drive the ActiveE (or even just go for a ride!). What is the best way to contact you? I tried viewing your profile, but I got an "access denied" warning. I promise I wasn't trying to view personal information or anything - just some form of contact (if I'm using this site wrong, can someone please correct me?)

· Dan Frederiksen (not verified) · 2 years ago

I am not limited to bashing BMW. I'm an equal opportunity basher. I bash all the super douches, BMW is but one among many.

but you are an apologist. a yes man. blindly loyal.
so quick to push the BS official story. that they intended to kill the cars from day one doesn't make it right of course. and you have no idea how many will remain in operation.

try to get your beloved BMW to tell you where they are. a full list of every single one.
what will be done with the many AC drivetrains. what crated dusty warehouse they will be put in. or if they will just destroy them out of sight while the collaborators like you push the company line.

· · 2 years ago

@ Dan Frederiksen - I am not thrilled with them eventually disassembling any EVs, trial or not, but if you want to be judgemental about BMW and their committment to EVs (or lack thereof) you have to look at the whole picture.

When it comes to putting money into making car bodies that are optimum for EV use, BMW is doing more than any other major manufacturer. Go look on the web at what they are doing with carbon fiber reinfoced plastic on aluminum chassis for the i3 and i8. This represents a major step forward for the competitiveness of EVs that BMW is paying for.

And by the end of 2013 we will see if they really live up to mass producing this in the i3.

· · 2 years ago

Dan, I don't have to ask I know what is happening with the MINI-E. There's no use telling you because you don't really care, you just want to bash.
Why do you care what BMW does with their used parts? It's not like they bought up the only ACP PEU's and now nobody can have them. You want one? Call ACP and they'll send you one.

When GM took away the EV-1, they simply took them away and offered no EV option. BMW offered us all an electric car if we wanted one, and it's much more refined and complete than the MINI-E, and it's LESS expense!

Many of the MINI-E's will continue to be used by BMW employees, the London Olympic committee, the new South African trial lease program and yet-unannounced use in California. The cars that are taken out of service with have the batteries removed and some will be used for a program in Germany that supplies back up power for small homes(there was a news article on this recently) and the other parts like your prized ACP power electronics will be removed and sold to the secondary market. Whatever cannot be used will be recycled.
None of this is a surprise. Ever since the program was announced back in 2008 BMW said the cars would be taken out of service when the program was finished, what's the issue? Every single MINI-E driver that has an ActiveE now is reporting how much better of an EV this ActiveE is and that while they loved the MINI-E, they wouldn't go back. That's nothing like what happened back with the EV-1. The old EV-1 drivers still wish they had their cars back they were so great. After driving the ActiveE for a bit nobody seems to be asking for the keys to their old MINI-E back. It's time to move on

· · 2 years ago

Brian: My email address is Email me and we'll set it up

· Dan Frederiksen (not verified) · 2 years ago

alt-e, even if BMW was doing the most it would still be as pathetic as I say. it's no excuse that the others are even worse. and of course they aren't even the ones doing the most.
Nissan is of course way ahead. so is GM. so is Ford. I believe Mercedes even have a few thousand EVs made by Tesla.
and I would give them great credit for using carbon fiber if it weren't for the fact that the resulting cars are entirely conventionally heavy. it's so pathetic it's disgusting.

the tiny i8 weighs 1500kg. the i3 will be something similar.
the aluminium Audi A2 weighed 900kg

they are idiots and super douches. a wonderful mix.

· · 2 years ago

@ Dan F - By complementing BMW on what they are doing with carbon fiber I am not taking anything away from Nissan, etc. Nissan, of course, is the real hero amoung the car companies right now. They are really jumping in with both feet not only in the design of their car but in puttiong the factories in place fast.

But we should encourage all of the car companies to jump in as well. And we should criticize them when they don't. BMW, for instance, could have done something with their old EVs that could have helped EV poliferation in some way. That they decided not too, at least after the Olympics, is not a mark in their favor.

On the other hand, they are investing a great deal of money into their EV program. It took some cash to do the MINI test program. It took more cash for them to internally design their own powertrain for the ActiveE test program. And they are spending far more cash than that in their partnership with SGL in order to get into less expensive production of injection molded plastic that is carbon reinforced.

This aluminum/carbon fiber system I am sure is greatly reducing the weight of the i8 and i3 and has the potential to go even further to reducing weight for EVs once they get more comfortable with the technology.

This step combinded with a very aerodynamic car design could very significantly reduce required battery size and/or increase range. Whether or not they achieve this potential in the i3 is yet to be seen. But even if they don't, this is why they are investing the money they are in this direction. Because sooner or later that is where it will lead.

When a car company spends that much money to really get at the underpinnings of the economics of EVs there is hope that they are in this for the long haul. But the only way we will know for sure is in 2013 or 2014 if they really start cranking out i3s in high quantity and charge a reasonable price for them (for a BMW anyway).

· Eric Johnson (not verified) · 2 years ago

I have two EVSEs in my garage as well; a Blink and one that works.

· · 2 years ago

>> I have two EVSEs in my garage as well; a Blink and one that works. <<

OK, that was funny. ;)

· Dan Frederiksen (not verified) · 2 years ago

alt-e, you are sure it is greatly reducing the weight of the i8? which part of 1500kg did you not understand.

· · 2 years ago

@ Dan F - The i8 is a plug-in hybrid with a powerful engine/transmission as well as a battery pack and electric motor. It is a very high performance sports car with plenty of power. So it weighing 3300 pounds is hardly surprising, even with carbon fiber and aluminum. If it had been a steel body with a steel chassis it would have weighed more.

The thing that interests me about these types of structures is how they can make ordinary cars more optimized as EVs. Especially with some of the things that BMW is doing to bring the production costs down with these technologies.

But as often the case, the first instance of doing a new technology step like this is more expensive then its later high volume counterpart and so a higher value car is looked for to put it in. In this case BMW has choosen to put the technology into the i8 and i3.

The i8 is a very high performance sports car and will likely be pricey. The i3, on the other hand, is more of a normal car (although it is still a BMW) and so should be more reasonably priced. It is really the i3 that BMW should recieve praise for as they have gone out on a limb and have put this new tech into a lower priced car (lower priced for BMW). I think the i3 will also be of more reasonable weight then the i8, although keep in mind that the i3 will have a full 100 mile battery pack. But it will weigh a lot less then it otherwise would due to the carbon fiber and aluminum. And therefore will take less battery to do 100 miles if it is aerodymically designed. Which will help pay for the carbon fiber and aluminum in the near term. But in the long term, as we get into higher volume production, the premium costs of the carbon fiber and aluminum will go down and the net result will be more cost effective vehicles. Because less battery can be used. BMW has had the vision to do something that may hurt them a little in the short term but will help them in the long run. And will help EVs more in the long run then most people realize. Tesla realizes this and that is why they have gone aluminum. Of course Tesla is starting from scratch anyway and so they can more readily go to car design that is EV optimized then the majors can.

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