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Finally, A Luxury City Car Share

BMW’s electric car sharing program powers into San Francisco

 Crusin' San Francisco in the fully-electric BMW Active E coupe (Photo courtesy of Lani Conway).

 

Historically, cars haven’t been among my favorite things. But that's just changed after test driving the BMW Active E, the electric version of the 1 Series luxury coupe, and the star of DriveNow’s new luxury car sharing program that just launched this month in San Francisco (the first of its kind outside of Germany).

The program lets you use your smart phone to rent one of these sleek white electric coupes, with GPS, leather upholstery, and top-notch speakers for blasting tunes as you cruise along the Embarcadero or across the Golden Gate Bridge for an evening in the Headlands. DriveNow currently provides 70 of them at eight tether stations, five of which are downtown, two are on the waterfront, and one is at the Oakland Airport, with more on the way (including SFO). You can find a map here. The cost is a one-time membership fee of $39, plus $12 for 30 minutes (prices vary for additional time) and you can return it to any of their stations. 

On our recent test drive with DriveNow CEO Rich Steinberg, we met Isabella (they named each car). As I futzed around with the gearshift, he quickly asking “So, you’ve never driven a BMW, have you?” He was on to me. I prayed that Isabella wouldn’t notice.

As we cruised away from the afternoon traffic in Japantown in the glorious sunshine, he pointed out the features to me. “Because it’s electric, there’s big torque at zero RPM. There’s no lag on the acceleration.” He was right—the car’s electric-powered engine rocketed up the hills faster than the gas equivalent would have. But, when I took my foot off of the accelerator, the regenerative breaking system instantly slowed the car without me pressing the break, meaning I didn’t have to brake when turning street corners.

The only drawback is the backseat, which is better suited for groceries or luggage than a group of friends heading to wine country. Parking is always tricky in SF, and this is certainly better than parking a pickup, though no different than a standard 2-door coupe.

“That’s a stop sign.” Rich said. I was too busy playing with the acceleration to notice it. I broke hard, skidded to a halt, and passed it off like I was testing the breaks.

Though I’m waiting for the SFO spot, which Rich assured me was in the works, I could easily be a believer in a car like this for trips to and from the airport or a weekend joy ride with an out of town friend down Lombard Street.

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