Wednesday 28 September 2016

How you can plug-in to 148mpg with these two BMWs

FIRST DRIVE: BMW 225xe, 330e

Published 29/01/2016 | 09:30

BMW 225xe
BMW 225xe
BMW330
BMW330

NOW your BMW 3-series can be part-electric and part-petrol and use under two litres of fuel to cover 100km.

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That is the equivalent of almost 150mpg.

The compact executive beloved of families and petrol-heads alike has joined the expanding ranks of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) from the German marque.

It will be accompanied by the 2-series Active Tourer people carrier – which also gets all-wheel-drive. Both get to Ireland in early March.

Prices for these two cars include a €2,500 VRT refund and €5,000 SEAI grant – as well as benefitting from lower VRT rates due to extremely low emissions.

The 330e SE starts at €41,030 OTR for the 330e SE. By comparison a 320d SE is €46,377 OTR and a 330i Luxury is €51,976. There’s enough of a gap there to make you think about a plug-in, I think.

BMW330
BMW330

The 2-series Active Tourer people carrier 225xe Sport will cost from €42,790 OTR after grants – and remember it is all-wheel-drive. Again current model comparisons serve to remind the plug-in has a price as well as running-cost advantage. For example a 220d xDrive Sport auto is €46,390 OTR and there is also a 225i xDrive at €50,120 OTR.

Are we, dare I ask, seeing the slow reeling in of the diesel especially for urban dwellers? It will be interesting to see how people react to these. After driving both I think the 225xe is the greater beneficiary. Not only does it get all-wheel-drive by virtue of its rear axle being driven by an electric motor, it is now an excellent handling and driving car with that extra traction and lower centre of gravity due to the battery bank being stored low down making a big difference. You could make a good case for this if you’re doing the short school runs and errands – the 30km electric drive would cover a fair bit of it.

And BMW is planning many more plug-in models – they already have the X5PHEV and i8 and the 7-series will be out by summer.

The core benefit of plug-ins is how you can cover around 30km or so (in real driving conditions) on pure electric battery power and cover hundreds of kilometres with the hybrid combination of petrol and electric power. You can charge the batteries at home (3hrs 15 mins) or with a special BMW i Wallbox (2hrs 15 mins). You can also charge them (to a minimum 50pc) when the petrol engine is running and through the energy tapped from braking.

It means that with a bit of planning you could do your urban commute without dipping into the petrol tank.

We drove through and around Munich for 25km on pure electric drive in the 330e. Our fuel consumption was minimal at that stage – 0.1l/100km would you believe? But as we drove on and we picked up on the autobahn and some country roads the figure rose and we ended on 4.5litres.

BMW 225xe
BMW 225xe

In purely ideal conditions and by combining the engine and the battery power, BMW claim – it is a claim I stress – you could get as much as 148mpg. I’d love to see it.

Fuel prices won’t always be so low but the other big consideration from miniscule MPG and emissions (both cars are under 50g/km) is reduced VRT and road tax of just €170.

No, I think our real-world driving of 4.5 litres/100km in both the 330e and 225xe is closer to the mark and realistically impressive. I wish someone would break the mould on mpg claims and do something to restore faith in those fairy figures.

To drive, the 3-series was nice, taut and fairly smooth as you would expect but the boot is a bit smaller (because of the battery bank). And it was a little bit less smooth on the road (tyres may have played a big role in that). Still a really good drive and with the combination of petrol and electric power it sure could move. More anon.

The 225xe is powered by the 1.5-litre 3cyl petrol engine (from the MINI and other Beemers), it generates 136bhp with the electric motor adding 88hp for 224hp in total (torque is a big 385 Nm).

Fuel consumption of 2.1/2/0l/100km (134.5mpg/141.2mpg) is claimed with emissions from 46/49g/km depending on tyres.

It does 0-to-100kmh in 6.7 seconds, has a 202kmh top speed (125kmh on pure electric) and a 41km electric range (I reckon 25/30km).

BMW330
BMW330

The lithium-ion battery is under the rear bench (which is raised 30mm); the electric drive system is under the luggage floor. They claim little loss of space (400 litres).

The Active Tourer is the first Beemer with front-wheel-drive (in this case with a 6spd Steptronic transmission) but as the 88hp electric motor drives the rear wheels it has all-wheel-drive. We got far better traction as a result. It’s tangible. They are calling it ‘electrified xDrive’.

There are the usual SPORT, COMFORT and ECO PRO settings as well as the eDrive button with self-explanatory AUTO eDRIVE (makes sure engine and battery work together), MAX eDRIVE (pure electric) and SAVE BATTERY (to whatever percentage you wish).

And even if the battery charge isn’t good enough on its own, the starter-generator can release an extra push of energy to improve acceleration by using the electric rear axle motor. This also means the engine doesn’t have to work as hard in ordinary situations as well.

Most of what I’ve just outlined applies to the 3-series too (but not the AWD bit).

In the saloon, the 2-litre 4cyl engine teams up with the electric motor to produce 252hp (184 + 88). Fuel consumption is a claimed (can’t stress that enough) 2.1/1.9litres/100km (134.5/148.7mpg); CO2 emissions run from 44–49g/km depending on tyres.

Some more facts: 0–100 kmh takes 6.1 seconds, top speed is 225 kmh (pure electric 120kmh) and an electric range of 40km.

The batteries take 3hrs to charge at home, 2hrs 12 mins with the BMW I Wallbox.

The electric motor, interestingly, is in front of the 8spd Steptronic transmission. That is so its ratios can be used when the car is driven in all-electric mode.

The lithium-ion battery is underneath (370 litres of usable boot space) while the full through-loading facility remains despite the electric drive system.

Ultimately there are several factors at play with these cars. First, there is price and, as I hope I’ve shown, the plug-ins appear to do well there.

Then there is the greater combined power of both. They really zipped when I put the foot down. It’s a consideration.

But then there is the commitment of plugging in regularly so you benefit from the electric technology. Are you going to charge up every night/every day at work? That’s the tough question.

Plug-ins are helping to wean us off exclusive reliance on fossil fuels. But the technology can only do so much. As an owner they require a bit of commitment too.

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