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 PluginCars.com. 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.”

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