Pretoria - With petrol prices climbing at an alarming rate, having the ability to "save" on fuel with an electric driving mode becomes that much more appealing. Automakers are keen to cash-in on this trend with the launch of several hybrid vehicles the last few years. While electric cars are not fully supported (read: lack of infrastructure) in South Africa, hybrid cars seem like the ideal middle-ground for new mobility solutions.
BMW South Africa launched its electric i3 and hybrid supercar i8 in 2015 and a year later its new X5 xDrive40e (PHEV), or better known as an X5 with eDrive, expands its hybrid range locally.
More models on the way
BMW SA also hinted that there'll be a bigger onslaught of hybrid models across the stable, but were not at liberty to divulge any more information as to what comes next. 2017, though, will see the introduction of yet another luxury hybrid, with the new plug-in 7 Series, headed for our shores.
Image gallery: 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e
The launch of the hybrid X5 follows mere weeks after Volvo introduced its X5 eDrive rival - the new XC90 T8 Hybrid.
The xDrive40e is equipped with the same host of optional goodies available for the standard X5, including Design Pure Excellence, Pure Experience exterior and interior packages, and the M Sport package and options from BMW Individual.
Standard, 8-speed Sport Auto - R 1 097 500
Exterior Design Pure Excellence - R1 108 800
Exterior Design Pure Experience - R1 115 000
M Sport Model - R1 146 300
Going green is one of BMW's main focuses and the hybrid X5 is a huge step towards that goal.
The automaker also said that as of July 2016, its electric and hybrid cars will fall under the iPerformance banner. This will include all the PHEVs within the core BMW models such as BMW 3 Series PHEV, BMW 2 Series Active Tourer PHEV, BMW X5 PHEV and BMW 7 Series PHEV.
First hybrid SAV
BMW SA claims its first plug-in hybrid production car is its X5 xDrive40e SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle). The X5 is one of the automaker’s top-selling vehicles in SA and with the addition of the eDrive, it’s even better - at least according to BMW.
It sports permanent all-wheel drive and BMW's EfficientDynamics eDrive technology for emissions-free driving, provided you're using the electric mode.
It's powered by a four-cylinder petrol engine, with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, combined with a ‘synchronous’ electric motor for a total output of 230kW/450Nm. Fuel consumption is rated at only 3.4 – 3.3 litres/100km and a combined electricity consumption of 15.4 – 15.3kWh/100km. CO2 emissions tax is exempt to customers as its only rated at 78 – 77g/km. It's top speed is 210km/h.
It has a pure electric range (Max eDrive mode) of 31km and top speed in EV mode is 120km/h.
When hooked up to a conventional domestic power socket at home, or at work, the high-voltage battery can be fully recharged from flat in 3 hours 50 minutes. The BMW i-Wallbox can charge at a rate of 3.5kW (16 A/230 V). It takes 2 hours and 45min to fully recharge an empty battery pack with the i-Wallbox (available from the automaker for R25 000). BMW says to fast charge your vehicle (up to 80% capacity) takes about 28min via one of BMW's public fast-charging units found at specific dealers in Gauteng and Cape Town. This can't be done at home via a normal socket.
The reason it takes longer to fully charge at home or via these charging units, is to protect the Lithium-ion high-voltage battery with 96 cells and a capacity of 9.0kW/h.
What's even cooler is that you can check your charging progress via the BMW Remote app.
The battery charger is hidden below a cover in the boot - which has a 500 litre luggage space, or 1700 litres when the seats are down.
Three hybrid modes
The hybrid technology is borrowed from the sexy i8, and also shares interior design tweaks with its sibling.
The hybrid X5 is available with the same driving modes as the standard variant (Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro) though with additional hybrid options: Auto eDrive, Max eDrive, and Save Battery. These modes are activated by a simple touch to the eDrive button next to the gear lever.
Here's how they work:
What's it like to drive?
Driving the X5 hybrid you'll find yourself asking "Is this thing on?" because it's eerily silent on the road; you cant hear the car power up when you hit the start button to 'fire-up' the ignition, nor can you hear it idling.
The xDrive40e comes standard with model-specific chassis tuning, plus Dynamic Damper Control and self-levelling rear air-suspension so driving the hybrid X5 is pretty comfortable as it's able to handle most bends and undulations.
With the flick of the eDrive selector, it allows to choose its hybrid modes. These changes are seamless and you'll hardly even notice the subtle tweaks in driving dynamics, except for a slight power change in Max eDrive when power and speed is reduced.
BMW SA says: "In conjunction with the standard Navigation system Professional, intelligent energy management featuring an anticipatory powertrain strategy that takes the route profile, traffic situation and drive mode into account in order to make efficient use of the battery’s remaining capacity and maximise the distance driven purely on electric power with zero local emissions."
Despite it being able to emit really low emissions (and zero emissions depending on its mode) road-holding is excellent and it still has distinctive sporty performance courtesy of its permanent all-wheel drive.
- Lexus RX450h
- Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid
- Volvo XC90 T8
SA's first solar carport
One of the highlights at the launch was a visit to BMW SA's carpark to view the automaker's first solar carport. Pretty cool and it's all part of the automaker's green scheme.
These amazing structures will be available to customers from July 2016. BMW SA can not yet specify how much these fancy ports will cost, as negotiations with China are still taking place due to expensive materials needed for construction.
The automaker says the carports form part of the expansion of its "360° Electric" portfolio for BMW i-Home and Public Charging Services. The solar carport supplies an average of 3.6kW of solar power (at peak times on a clear sunny day), claims BMW, to a connected Wallbox. These devices in turn display a live readout of how much power is being generated by the sun to charge electric and plug-in hybrid models.
In the coming months, BMW South Africa says it will expand the installation of the solar carport in major city centres such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban for public charging.
Managing director of BMW SA, Tim Abbott, said: “We have always emphasised that in order for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to be successful, we need to firstly increase consumer confidence in the viability of electric vehicles and secondly make public charging easily accessible for customers who purchase these cars. The rollout of the solar carport is also an emphasis on this philosophy."
BMW SA claims it's already making electro-mobility a practical alternative for many people today with its 360 Electric portfolio with the likes of intelligent charging solutions at home with a wallbox, installation service and BMW i Green Energy.
According to the automaker, "the customer performs about 80% of charging processes either at home or at work". This Wallbox has been adapted to the new charging technology and offers a charging capacity of up to 22kW in three-phase operation.
BMW's X5 xDrive40e charging from a BMW i Wallbox unit. Fast-charging takes about 30min while a full charge would take about 4 hours. The unit is available for R25 000. Image: Janine Van der Post
These units are available in two versions: BMW i Wallbox Plus and BMW i Wallbox Connect. What's more, says the automaker, is that BMW i also offers its customers a personal installation service.
The fact that the solar carport charging system can be integrated with home energy management systems also makes it possible to achieve the best possible balance between household electricity consumption and power used for charging the electric vehicle, says the automaker, thereby helping customers to achieve further cost savings and to make even more efficient use of solar energy. Smart use of this power will provide BMW i customers with a fully self-sufficient charging solution for their vehicle.
The BMW i3 was launched in South Africa in March 2015 and since then a total of 128 vehicles have been delivered to local customers. The i8, on the other hand, has seen 150 units finding owners locally.