eHot Rodding: Improving the electric BMW ActiveE

It may have seemed weird to some that a big BMW tuner and race team such as Turner Motorsport would obtain an electric 1-series known as the ActiveE. Despite it being fun to drive, the car as it stands is leased by BMW in limited numbers and in limited markets. Furthermore, the ActiveE is about as un-sport as a BMW can get; it’s relatively slow, lacks the sport suspension, sport seats, and a proper transmission. Why would Turner bother with it?

Research and development – to stay ahead of the competition, on the street and on the race track. The ActiveE is basically a test vehicle for BMW; a continuation of the MINI E project. ActiveE’s replacement will no doubt be the something from the BMW i camp and Turner Motorsport wants to be ready for it when it comes out. Furthermore, the use of KERS in Formula 1 along with various diesels and hybrids running around Circuit de la Sarthe this past weekend, prove that it’s only a matter of time before Turner’s own race cars will have over-sized batteries in their trunks.

Since I drove this car, the Turner ActiveE has gained an improvement in handling via Bilstein PSS10 coil-overs and bigger wheels with stickier tires from Will’s own 2012 335i Sportline. The look was further improved by the removal of the factory ActiveE stickers and an addition of Genuine BMW black grills. These subtle modifications did a lot for the appearance and performance of the car. But I am looking forward to see what Turner Motorsport will add next to this little car…


What could be next for the little ActiveE?

The short answer is that I don’t know, but I can speculate. I would be looking for an improvement in power, perhaps a different final drive gear? I am sure that more power can be gained by software magic, at the sacrifice of range. Otherwise the only thing I could think of is improvement in battery efficiency… how? I don’t know. I see how this could be a challenging project, Hot Rodding 101, electric style. 

While reading Jeff’s write up on the Volkswagen eGolf, I noticed something interesting:

A nifty trick we found was the use of the standard steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which served a different function here since there’s no DSG mounted under the skin. You can dial in the amount of brake-regen from the paddles, ranging from “none”, “some”, and “a lot”. If you need to eek out a bit more juice, head for a nice downhill section, tap the paddle to kick those brakes into action, and earn some more go-go energy to make it home.

Perhaps something like this could be installed into the ActiveE? Retro-fitting OEM paddle shifters would be easy enough and the rest is software magic. While it may not improve range or acceleration all on its own, it would provide some extra choices for the driver?


The reason why I keep writing about this car, and why I am so interested in this car specifically, is because I believe that these guys, Turner Motorsport, maybe writing the book on the new generation of automotive performance. They have the experience, the facility, and the know-how to start something completely new. The people who started the hot-rodding trend in the 1950s were, in a sense, pioneers. They made slow crappy cars faster and better… Turner is making a not-so-crappy but slow car which utilizes new technology… better, and hopefully faster.


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