Saturday, May 19, 2012

Electric 1 vs. Gas 1: The smooth comfort of electric power

After having my Active E for around 2 weeks, my car told me it was time to be serviced.  Seemed a bit soon, but with such a unique car, I thought it best not to ignore the service light.  I took the car into BMW of Riverside and they were told by BMW to do a full service, which includes checking the ground-fault connections that run from the high-voltage batteries to the chasis.  Apparently, BMW is now setting the service schedule for every 3 months or 5,000 miles, whichever occurs first.

So I received an ICE loner car ("ICE" is an EV'ers term for a gas-powered car).  It was a 1 series, same as the Active E underneath, but gas-powered of course.  What a difference between the two cars.

First, for some ICE'y positives.  The ICE version of the 1 series came with a few amenities inside that I wish my Active E had.  Among them:

     1.  Armrest.  A simple feature that would dramatically increase comfort.  The E doesn't have one, but     the ICE version does.

     2.  Sunroof.  Wish the E had it.  I imagine it does not because of weight concerns, but it'd be nice.

     3.  Homelink.  I really can't figure out why the Active E has no homelink feature (which is just a series of three buttons on the bottom of the rearview mirror that you can program to open garage doors).  It does not seem as though it would add much weight.  Maybe it would interfere with the electronics of the car?

     4.  Power seats.  Another weight issue I would imagine, but I can live without out power seats.

Now for the ICE'y negatives (may I coin the term "black ICE"?).  It is so easy to quickly acclimate to the Active E's smooth driving style.  It accelerates immediately, and increases speed smoothly.  There is no transmission pauses and no winding-up of the RPM's that come with an ICE vehicle.

Transitioning from the E to the ICE, I suddenly felt as though I was on a herky-jerky ride.  The car constantly lunges forward and back as it shifts, pauses, accelerates, and then shifts again.  It felt downright unnatural.  Yet I had only been driving the E for a few days at that point.  

The difference is particularly noticeable on the freeway.  When driving the Active E, you can pull out to the next lane, hit the accelerator, and immediately speed up.  In fact, it can be a bit dangerous until you get used to it because the acceleration kicks in immediately so you have to be all the way in the next lane before accelerating.

In the ICE version of the 1 series (as with any gas-powered car), when you pull into the next lane and hit the gas pedal there is a pause and you lunge forward as the car downshifts, it then engages the lower gear and begins at the bottom of the power curve as the RPM's gear up.  In an ICE, the maximum horsepower output doesn't kick in until you reach the higher RPM levels, 4,000 to 5,000 RPM depending on the vehicle.  And it takes a number of seconds for the gas engine to move the car and achieve 4,000 RPMs.  So from the moment you hit the gas pedal, to the moment the car is accelerating forward, there is a number of seconds of lag (my guess would be 4 to 5 seconds for example).

In the Active E, none of that occurs.  There is no downshift, there is no power curve.  The electric motor has full horsepower immediately.  And while the E does have a transmission, it has only one gear and it never has to shift gears.  So when your foot hits the pedal, the car accelerates--it all happens in less than a second.  If you pull into the next lane and hit the pedal, but then suddenly change your mind about speeding up (is that a CHP up ahead?), you have time to back off the gas in an ICE, but you have no such luxury in the E.  It may sound like a subtle difference, but it is radically different in its feel when you are driving.

The bottom line: the Active E means business at all times.  But when it does its business of speeding up and slowing down, it does so in smooth, comfortable, linear lines.  No harsh herky-jerky movements.  And that alone sells me on the power and comfort of electric transportation.

No comments:

Post a Comment