By on January 21, 2012

Do you live in the Boston, Hartford, New York, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, or San Francisco MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area)? Do you see yourself as an adventurer and explorer? In that case, BMW wants to talk to you. BMW has pegged adventurers and explorers as “front-runners of innovation and advocates for sustainability.” These are the people BMW wants to “recruit” for a “field trial” of its  Active E electric vehicles.

It will be a transformative experience. You will be turned into a green lab rat.

If you are amongst the 700 “Electronauts” chosen by BMW , the Munich-based company will allow you to lease its BMW ActiveE for $499 per month for 24 months with a down payment of $2,250. You can start the recruitment process at

But that’s not all. According to a BMW press release, you also must agree to provide “car- and driver-generated data and anecdotal feedback” which “will be collected by BMW to deepen its knowledge about the everyday use of EVs and to provide actionable insights into electric mobility in urban environments.”

Don’t do anything embarrassing in the Active E car, because “once the field trial commences, information collected from the Electronauts will be made available for all EV enthusiasts and media at”

As a test specimen, you can be proud that

the learnings from the field trial will provide direct insight into electric mobility in advance of series production of BMW’s first purpose-built, mass-produced electric vehicles, the BMW i3 in 2013 and the i8 in 2014. Concepts of the i3 and i8, the first two vehicles from the new BMW i brand, made their official North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 16 and 17, 2011.

Don’t think that BMW gives their car just to any adventurer and explorer. BMW says that

prospective lessees will complete a charging station consultation with BMW partner AeroVironment. The purpose of the consultation is to ensure that prospective Electronaut’s homes are capable of supporting an AeroVironment charging station and participants fully understand all aspects of maintaining and charging an electric vehicle before signing a lease.  Once the consultation is completed, the prospect’s information will be forwarded to their selected BMW ActiveE center to finish the lease process.”

Scary, no? Driving an EV with the charge indicator on empty is a high stress environment. BMW must be sure that you have the right stuff. You’ll understand.

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21 Comments on “New Trends In EV Marketing: BMW Recruits “Adventurers And Explorers” As Core EV Customers; Will Convert Them Into Green Lab Rats...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Bertel is so sarcastic I can’t honestly tell what he thinks the future of the automobile is.

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto that, Dan. I know the default attitude here is snarky, and attack quotes are the reflex. But I can imagine how someone might be excited to participate in this trial, if they: 1) had that kind of money to spend on a lease; 2) were an early-adopter type; 3) could tolerate BMW’s overblown styling and corporate-raider image, and 4) weren’t dead-set against electric propulsion.

      That’s not me. I don’t even have a garage, so there’s no place to install a charger. And I’m quite happy with my TDI. So I’ll let someone else lead this charge, and get out of the way. maybe that’s a good motto for life in general–“Good idea, but you go first.”

      • 0 avatar

        I’m green. I’ve been an enviro since I was 9, and learned that the environment needed to be protected. Years ago I wrote a very favorable cover story about AeroVironment’s founder, Paul MacCReady. But I’m down with Bertel’s snarcasm. “Adventurers and explorers?” C’MON! Pay BMW $500/month for a range and charging-time limited electric Bimmer that is not exactly suited for adventure and exploration? I do’nt think so. But I’d be happy to do it if they’d pay me. Or at least let me use the thing free of charge. I mean, they’re asking a lot, and they would get better feedback from someone who didn’t look at their EVs through green-covered glasses.

        I’m also down with the concept of EVs; I just don’t think they’re ready for prime time.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree! I guess I will have to stick to the EV sites read reports from a non EV hater perspective.

    • 0 avatar

      “Bertel is so sarcastic I can’t honestly tell what he thinks the future of the automobile is.”

      You get used to that sort of thing if you read the Economist regularily.

    • 0 avatar

      This is push marketing not pull marketing. If the company pays you, then its market research. If you pay for the privilege, then it’s sales.

      Except for the fact that full electric vehicles are an environmental shell game, there is something romantic about turning he young and the hip into the automotive equivalent of urban gentrification.

      Unless you live in an area with nuclear power or an oversupply of hydroelectric, EV’s are polluters. That includes us here in BC… with all of the hydroelectric infrastructure that we have, we’re still net importers of power.

      • 0 avatar
        healthy skeptic

        >> Unless you live in an area with nuclear power or an oversupply of hydroelectric, EV’s are polluters.

        But not as bad as ICEs. Yes, even if the electricity comes from coal.

  • avatar
    Car Spy Tweets

    More dumb marketing stunts presumably designed to get Gen Y’s attention. Where’s Derek when you need him?

  • avatar

    Hartford? So that’s where the adventurous explorers are.

    • 0 avatar

      You got something against Hahtfid? The insurance capital?

      Hmmm. oops, I guess you’re right. That’s not where you find adventurers and explorers

    • 0 avatar

      I live in the hartford area the reason is simple lots of young pre exec types work at those insurance companies. My guess is BMW would be more accurate if the said active lifestyle then adventurers. I’m sure the wealthy suburbs of hartford would prove to be amoung the top sail yacht and ski house owners in the world.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    And you have to pay them to run their test?

    Not just adventurers and explorers, they have to be morons as well?

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    If the parking garage at work where I parked had just a 110 or (better yet) a modern 220 hookup I could use all day (there is an old-school charger, but its limited to 3 hours parking and isn’t the current standard, and I’m about 10 miles further from work than this car could reliably handle), I’d actually jump at this, because its amazingly good for an early adopter deal.

    Its really just a hair over $100/month over a stripper vanilla 1-series lease or a 3 year lease on a (20 mile less range) Leaf, and I’m spending >$200/month for gas on my commute (with a commuter which gets 28 MPG on the commute). Having already put in the solar system at home, this would end up being CHEAPER to operate than a vanilla 128i lease.

    Add in carpool lane access (save 5-10 minutes/day on my commute, or what works out to about an hour and a half a month), combined with the INCREDIBLE nerd-snob factor of having a Frakkin Electric BMW, and if there was infrastructure where I park, I’d be jumping all over this.

  • avatar
    400 N

    My employer has about 20 spaces out of 200 with electric plugs, currently used to plug in vehicles in Canadian winters, usually diesel work trucks. But some enterprising types rig up heaters to keep the cabin warm, especially on night shift.

    I can’t wait to see what will happen when electric vehicles become available. The scramble for plugin spots could cause some serious bitchin’ and moanin’, probably will end up having them all taken away. Otherwise I could be filling up for free…

    • 0 avatar

      You would need a nominal cost to keep the freeloaders off, lets say about a couple of bucks (a $60 a month decal).. fully charging a Leaf (73 miles range) is about $2.30 at average electric cost in the US. Best thing is to put the chargers at inconvenient places so that ICE vehicles (or Volts)dont hog them. Start with a couple of chargers and increase it if the demand increases.. I suspect most people will charge at home if they have to pay. A 120V socket will charge about 35 miles worth in 8 hours.

      The usual block heater is about 300-400w (35 US cents per day), so limiting the 120v sockets to that would prevent abuses..

  • avatar

    Except for diesels, the block heater is approaching obsolescence. The use of synthetic oil makes it totally unnecessary, unless you are in Yellowknife or farther north. Speaking of the diesels, I have come across those in the north who simply leave them idling all day while they work (doors locked) where a power plug is unavailable. BTW both of my cars have block heaters – never used.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in the early ’70s my parents had one car with a block heater (in the Boston area) and they got an electric dipstick for the other. I used to help them (enthusiastically) in the late ’60s by going out on cold days and warming up the cars. It took a lot of skill to start the Peugeot and keep it going until it was sufficiently warm to idle by itself. I was an expert.

    • 0 avatar

      The block heater is not approaching obsolescence. A vehicle starts much easier and warms up much more quickly after being plugged in. It’s easier on the battery as well during long stretches of cold weather short trip driving where it doesn’t warm up enough to fully charge. Sure, better oils and fuel injection systems mean that you can get away with not plugging in a lot better than you could in the past, but that doesn’t mean that a block heater provides no advantages. I’m nowhere near as far north as Yellowknife, and my car sounded very sad and took a long time to warm up and defrost when I had to cold start it on a -42C morning after some moron decided late at night that my 15A outlet would also be able to handle powering his diesel truck’s block heater, oil heater, and battery blankets in addition to my own block heater. I was happy to see the truck in the same position with its hood open and battery chargers hooked up from a different outlet when I returned from work late in the afternoon. 0W-20 M1 oil was in use at the time. But it doesn’t need to be that cold for a block heater. Even at -20C, or -10C, the starts are much more labored and you’re not going to want to start driving it immediately after start-up without a block heater, as it wants to high idle for a couple of minutes and is incapable of keeping the windshield clear for a few more.

  • avatar

    The Active E is worth about $62k, the lease for two years is configured for a residual value of 84%.. that seems a bit optimistic.. is that normal for all BMWs?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    And the customer has to actually pay them for the “privilege”? Really?

  • avatar

    I saw one yesterday at the dealer. It looks like a 1 series with a different interior and tires. Popping the hood reveals a motor. The sticker said 62k, and the salesman said 100 mile range.

    At those numbers, you’d bet your bottom dollar that BMW will cherry pick the customers to make this a success. Think of what GM did with their electric…they got the book of real world data they needed, and off to the crusher with the cars. BMW needs this data set, so they want to make sure you have a place to charge, and, I am sure, at least one other gas car. I would bet that “only car” would be enough to for them to say “no” to the lease.

    GM found a lot of early adopters who’d pay to drive electric….BMW, with better brand cachet, and the best targeted marketing in the business (owning an old 3, bought new, and due for replacement, gets me invited to EVERY “come drive” event in the area-even the M Power Tour….Wooo HOOO !) will be able to find fanbois who will happily give 250 words per day in driving reports AND never be late on the lease payments.

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