Never before in the history of the automobile has there been such a wide choice of powertrains. Whether petrol, diesel, fully electric or plug-in hybrid – at the BMW Group, it’s entirely up to the customer. Depending on requirements and preferences, they get to choose exactly the powertrain they need. More often than not, the public debate has focused on combustion versus fully electric powertrains. But the still-new plug-in hybrid option is increasingly coming under the spotlight. Discussions are contentious, with arguments ranging from “the perfect combination of combustion-powered and electric drive” to “false promises on fuel consumption” and “misguided government subsidies”. Time to take a closer look at the concept of the plug-in hybrid.
A hybrid vehicle is powered by an internal combustion engine coupled with an electric drive. A distinction is made between two types: hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). In HEVs, the battery is charged by the engine power and brake energy. In PHEVS, it is charged primarily by plugging the vehicle in at a charging point. A PHEV can therefore cover quite long distances in electric mode.
Sustainable and flexible
PHEVs offer the best of both worlds: combustion power and all-electric. They are ideal for drivers who need the greatest possible variability, with an electric drive for sustainable day-to-day use when commuting to the office, for example, coupled with combustion power for maximum range and flexibility across long distances, such as weekend trips with the family.
PHEVs are particularly advantageous for the millions of commuters who drive the EU average of about 25 kilometres a day for their commute, provided the vehicle can be charged at home and/or at work. For many users, they already offer superior fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures, and are ideal for households that often drive short distances and only occasionally cover longer ones.
For maximum benefit, use it right!
For all these advantages one thing is clear: for a PHEV to work to its best possible advantage and unleash its full environmental potential, it needs to be used correctly. That means regular charging and maximum electric driving. Only then will its emissions-free powertrain make an active contribution to improving air quality and reducing traffic noise in cities. Moreover, as the public charging infrastructure is developed, and with charging prices that beat petrol or diesel, PHEVs are also becoming increasingly attractive for people who cannot charge their vehicles at home or at work.
Incentives for eco-friendly driving
The BMW Group helps its customers to use their PHEV in a way that is as environmentally friendly as possible – with the specially developed BMW eDrive Zones. A BMW Group PHEV* with BMW eDrive Zones activated immediately knows when it is entering an eco-zone or other geo-fenced inner-city eDrive area, and automatically switches to zero-emissions fully electric mode – without the driver having to do anything. On trips with active navigation, it even prepares the battery for the BMW eDrive Zone and recommends charging points en route if needed.
Another incentive that adds an element of fun to going driving in eDrive Zones is BMW Points. By keeping a tally of every kilometre driven in electric mode and rewarding drivers accordingly, the reward system helps get the most out of the electric drive. Points can also be earned for charging batteries. So as well as encouraging an eco-friendly mindset, BMW Points brings out the driver’s competitive spirit so they make maximum use of the electric drive. When they have earned sufficient points, drivers can exchange them for attractive prizes. The digital service is available from the BMW Connected Drive store from mid-2020 for BMW plug-in hybrids with eDrive Zones. In the not-too-distant future, it will also include convenient billing options, which are currently in development and will make it easy for drivers to use their company car for private trips.
Innovative plug-in hybrid technology is already the perfect solution for many customers today. When used correctly — primarily in electric mode — the PHEV really plays to its environmental strengths. So to condemn it without cause would be misguided.
* The BMW eDrive Zone service is available now in the BMW 745e, BMW 330e and BMW X5 45e plug-in hybrids.