BMW banks on plug-ins

BMW banks on plug-ins

This story first appeared in the August issue of EVTalk – CLICK HERE to download the magazine FREE

Before meeting with BMW New Zealand managing director Florian Renndorfer to discuss the company’s electric vehicle plans, I had the chance to test out the firm’s likely volume plug-in model, the 330e iPerformance.

 As I entered his office, he asked what I thought of the car. And for the want of a better word, I answered, “Unremarkable.”

“That’s exactly where that vehicle needs to be,” Renndorfer said. “It needs to be something people can pick up and go, ‘This is just a normal car.’”

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 4.39.10 PMIt is hard to argue BMW has been at the front of the NZ new market, particularly with its i3 model which took out last year’s AA NZ Motoring Writers Guild New Zealand Car of the Year.

The i3 also gathered attention for winning the prominent EV fleet business of Air New Zealand, totalling 34 units so far.

It has since expanded its range with a battery only version, and now has the biggest plug-in lineup in New Zealand, rolling out plug-in versions of the 2-series, 3-Series, 5-Series and X5. More are on their way, and an i5 battery SUV is rumoured.

“We were one of the first movers and made a clear statement on electric cars worldwide, especially if you look at the i3, which is a car that was built from scratch as an EV,” he says.

“The next step in the strategy is to go in the director of the plug-in hybrid elective vehicle,” he explains. “We will offer in New Zealand the widest range of PHEV possible.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 4.39.19 PMRather than pricing the vehicles well out of step with the rest of their line-up, additional costs are marginal – just $1900 more in the case of the 330e.

“We have a price difference here, but it’s a very similar price setting in the market. Why? Because we heavily believe in the new technology, and we also see that there is a market out there if the price difference between the combustion engine and hybrid is reasonable.”

EVtalk pressed Renndorfer on how such a price difference was achievable, questioning if the company was making a loss on the vehicles to build the market.

“There is a clear policy at BMW that we don’t lose money on the price,” he asserted, implying there had been some very strong negotiating with the factory.

Who are the buyers that will opt for a plug over the standard model?

“They are [eople who are interested in technology, and also those who have an environmental interest. These cars are really strong from an environmental point of view, but also from a cost of ownership angle.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 4.39.27 PM

What are his sales expectations? He says it is too hard to tell at this point.

“What we do see is that the demand and interest from the dealers are huge.”

The company will be gauging customer acceptance through a series of iPerformance customer days, getting backsides in seats.

“With these cars, you have to drive them; you have to experience them. You said, and I would like to quote, it is an unremarkable difference. I am convinced the customer has to drive the car and experience it for themselves.”

Government support

Renndorfer is positive about the government’s EV strategy and support package.

“I think it’s very positive. We are very happy that the government has announced it and is therefore now supporting awareness. I’m also happy to hear there is a fund for promoting electrical vehicles.”

‘Unremarkable’

EVtalk had the chance to take a 30-minute drive in the new 330e and came away thinking it would be illogical for anyone to buy the non-plug-in 330i.

Just $1900 more than the standard model at $89,900, the 330e can do 37km on battery, at speeds up to 120km/h. Combined consumption is just 2.1-litres per 100km.

Where are the pitfalls? There is a slight loss of boot space, it feels a smidge heavier, and when you are out of battery-charge on the open road, it can be very slightly thirstier.

Outside of that, it is the usual 330 experience, class leading steering and chassis feel, and a gutsy response from the 180kW, 420Nm drive train.

The electric motor is sandwiched between the engine and transmission and produces 80kW on its own. In electric-only it is surprisingly brisk, but call for full power and it will wake the 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder.

Unlike most electrics, the 330e puts electric drive through the 8-speed automatic transmission, which increases how seamless the electric mode and input feel.
It can be set to run electric-only, automatically choose between power sources, or to maintain battery charge.

Charging is via a type-1 plug in a port behind the passenger-side wheel. The 330e is not fast-charge capable.

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