Charged Up

When our fledgling company moved to different (larger, nicer) lab space last year, it changed my commute. I lost the freeway portion of the drive and have one that is 100% surface streets and stoplights. It takes less time, and the only downside seemed to be that I had less time for audiobook listening.

Well, there was that and the fact that I saw my gas mileage drop from all the starting and stopping. And with fuel in San Diego now permanently over $4/gal, The Beloved and I began discussing whether it might make sense to exchange one of our cars for something more efficient — some sort of hybrid or electric car – to be the around-the-town car, so to speak.

Then one day last fall, we received an email from BMW announcing a program in which people could volunteer to essentially beta-test their new all-electric concept car, The ActiveE.


The ActiveE is built on the 1-series frame (which I will admit that I’ve been eyeing for sometime now) and the company is running a field trial of about 700 vehicles in certain cities in the United States. One of those cities happened to be San Diego. We signed up for updates and learned that it was going to be a first-come first-serve enrollment program that was offered first to those that had field-tested the electric Mini-E, then BMW owners and the general public.

We signed up and a couple of weeks ago completed the application when it became available to us. A few days after that an electrician came out and scouted where the charging station would go in the garage (right next to where we lean our old push mower).

After that, I went over and turned some paperwork into the dealership and took one for a spin. I mean, I hate to diss my current car, but the ActiveE was remarkable. I really didn’t think that an electric car was going to be as good as the cars that we currently were driving and that there would be some compromise between performance for the energy savings. Surprise – it was better! Super crisp handling and great acceleration. Maybe the only odd thing is how utterly quiet it is, being all electric. It’s like a ninja-car.

Town Car

Of course, the downside to taking the test drive was that I started to get my hopes up that one would get allotted to us (I’d been trying to be very pragmatic about it). And that got a little worse when I took The Beloved by last weekend and she drove it and loved it as much, if not more, than I did. She preemptively named the car that we would get Buzz.


Well, the email came on Monday and we’re in! And today, the electricians came back and installed the charging station in the garage. Our allotted car should be arriving in the next couple of weeks.

100 Miles Around the Aerie

The range on the ActiveE is about 100 miles, and I can imagine that we’re going to be learning a lot about the location of other chargers around Southern California.  And one of our dogwalk conversations this week has been to figure out where the first excursion with Buzz ought to be!


29 thoughts on “Charged Up

  1. Wow. That’s awesome! My husband and I were just talking about an electric car this weekend and wondering what it would be like, how much the electricity costs, how hard it is to find a charging station, how long we can drive it without charging, how long it takes to charge, whether we could do road trips, etc. I’d loved to hear about your experience and hope you document the experience.

    • Bernadette — the estimates I’ve seen that for us a tank of gas gets 300-350 miles and costs about $60. The same mileage in the electric car will cost about $10-12 in electricity costs. I’m curious to learn how easy it is (or not) to find charging stations — I love the idea of going on a road trip with it — not so much getting stranded and out of juice.

  2. Here’s hoping for a good Buzz! Would you buy a silver model? I always liked a bit of color especially if it’s electric – gives them more personality. This is very exciting Steve, I hope it all works out for both of you. And I’m surprised you have a shorter commute going the back way. I prefer country roads (I’m sure it’s more busy where you are) and yes I love a good audiobook or NPR.

    Just don’t let your car shuffle across the carpet! :D

    • Amelie — all the cars are the same — white (with that circuit board decaling) so there’s no choice to be made. This will actually be my first car that wasn’t silver or charcoal grey.

    • Nope, it is the standard rear-wheel drive. We’re keeping the Beloved’s 3-series as it’s AWD and will use that for road trips that might encounter poor conditions.

  3. Oh my stars, Steve!! Congrats to you and your Beloved. How very super-dooperly cool!
    Man, that is the coolest thing ever. Being a ‘green’ car geek, I am completely jealous, and I know one or two others (that I’ll tell) who will also be jealous. You’ll share pictures, right? Please?
    Man. That is so cool! Congrats!!

    • LD — we will most certainly share pictures and adventures. I’m glad to try a “green” car, too. It’s been something we’ve been talking about for a while. Best of both worlds, it seems like to me!

  4. What an awesome vehicle! I confess I’ve never been big on the idea of an all-electric car because most of my driving is long distance and I need something that can climb mountains and pass 18-wheelers with elan. I was also thinking that my next car should be something that can carry a lot of stuff, like a hatchback, but your Beemer looks mighty tempting. You’ll have to report back in three months and let us know if your opinion is the same!

    • HG — I can 100% guarantee that this car will have little trouble dusting trucks (or anything else, for that matter). I’m really looking forward to the experiment and it fit our 2-car lifestyle pretty well. Maybe we’ll have to figure out if there are enough charging spots to get us to Sacramento and back…:)

  5. I’m really excited for you, this is so cool!

    My drive is a lot of starts and stops and it’s a killer — like the 60 miles isn’t bad enough but let’s make it red-lighted?

  6. that is very, very cool. our little truck is starting to die, and while my husband desperately wants a Camaro, this seems like a better option. maybe if they made a camaro that was all electric…

    • Budd — we need one car for longer trips — especially if we go east b/c there’s a lot of desert between here and Phoenix.

      We’ve got a lot of nuke power here.

    • Isn’t it though? I’m sure there will be many posts with Buzz. And I completely agree that I should be the BMW-blogger — though would I lose my journalistic cred by being a paid endorser!?!?!?

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