BMW’s plug-in 225xe makes a clear case for an affordable, plugged-in Singapore motoring experience
Plug-in hybrids, the halfway house between full electric vehicles and gasoline-electric hybrids, are already in Singapore.
Until now, plug-ins were only available in the form of the relatively upper-crust BMW i8 and Porsche Panamera S E-hybrid, but BMW has changed the game with the debut of its iPerformance range of automobiles here in Singapore.
While the BMW 225xe Active Tourer shown here doesn’t have the seven-seats which made its brother, the 216d Gran Tourer so popular, it stands to reason that the 225xe makes the most sense for mainstream car buyers considering a plug-in.
That’s because at $174,800 with COE, it’s the least expensive model in the iPA range. Not exactly inexpensive, but not a terribly exhorbitant sum for the latest and greatest tech.
Consider that the next least-expensive iPA car is the 330e that costs $217,800 with COE. Compared to the regular 216i Gran Tourer, the 225xe is $16k dearer, but only $2,000 off the price of a 218i Gran Tourer.
Of course you’ll miss the extra two seats of the latter, but there’s also a strong case for a five-seat MPV too, and even more if the whole plug-in concept appeals to you.
The 1.5-litre turbo triple of the 216i has been paired with an 88hp electric motor as well as a 7.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which BMW says will get you 41km without having to use the engine, and recharges in two-and-a-quarter hours with the BMW charging wallbox included with the car.
On a side note, the charging plug used complies with the latest Type 2 standard, which is now the standard adopted in Europe. Older plug-ins and EVs, like the previous BMW i3 used Type 1 plugs.
It’s not a problem if you’re charging at home, but the charge network Greenlots has established Type 1 stations island-wide, and is now slowly moving towards Type 2 plugs – it currently only has three stations that are Type 2.
In other words, if you intend to charge outside home, your choices are limited for now. BMW’s official press release says that the LTA and EDB will roll out EV programmes ‘from 2017 to 2020’ including up to 2,000 charging points, with a fifth of those open to public use.
But even if there aren’t charging spots everywhere you go, it matters little. The value of a plug-in lies in its ability to cover the typical (short) commute entirely on battery power. Given the average Singaporean drives 48km a day – and I’m sure most of us do less – that’s theoretically the vast majority of a commute done on e-power alone.
There are three operating modes – Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery. The first mode lets the car do all the thinking. Sub-80km/h is done largely on battery power, when available, and reverts to ‘mild’ hybrid operation when not.
The second mode, Max eDrive, is pure EV, which works at speeds of up to 125km/h, while the last choice is self-explanatory, and will charge the battery up to 50 percent.
We set the car to Auto eDrive mode and covered more than 190km around Singapore. As expected the first 40km saw miniscule amounts of fuel used, only when we hit the highway, and averaged roughly 0.5L/100km or less.
Once battery power was depleted the 225xe behaved like a regular hybrid, with the engine kicking in occasionally. It’s notable that BMW’s got the power handover between the engine and electric drive sorted so that it’s uber-smooth now, not something you could always say about European hybrids of the past.
At the end of our drive we netted a score of 5.7L/100km – which isn’t all that green if you compare the mack-daddy of hybrids, the Toyota Prius, which can do an easy sub-5.0L/100km even in the hands of a tree-hating barbarian with a right foot of cast lead.
But we can’t go off half-cocked and accuse the 225xe of being an inefficient hybrid.
There are two big buts, and we cannot lie: Firstly, the Prius can’t do 0-100km/h in a rapid 6.7 seconds, while the 225xe has serious, instant low-end punch that’s perfect for urban slice-n-dice driving.
It’s impressive how the 225xe drives like a regular 2 Series MPV – more like the GT than the AT, actually, given the battery pack sits under the boot and emulates the weight of the third row of seats. It’s stiffly sprung, perhaps to compensate for that weight -a rather astounding 300kg more than the 218i AT, yet the handling and ride isn’t far off, being decently fun for an MPV, and a little busy but still comfortable.
The last big but is of course, the fact that the 225xe is a plug-in, whose the real value lies in having a wallbox charger for daily top-ups and to make a large percentage of your commute zero-emissions.
In fact, if you drive less than 30km daily, you could conceivably use almost no petrol at all, and at the same time be free of range-anxiety or drive to Malaysia without a worry.
When driven like a conventional, non-plug-in hybrid, it gives back punchy performance and normal-car fuel consumption. But it gives saintly short commutes with long-range capability for normal motoring too. A plug-in is surely not for everyone – or anyone staying in a HDB flat for one – but if you like saving the world, paying less for petrol and only filling up your car once every six weeks, then why not plug in now rather than later?
BMW 225xe iPerformance
Engine 1,499cc, 12v, inline 3, turbocharged
Power 136hp at 4400rpm
Torque 220Nm at 1250-4300rpm
Electric Motor 88hp, 122Nm
Battery Lithium ion, 7.6kWh
Electric Range 41km
System Power 224hp
Max Torque 340Nm at 1250rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 270km/h
0-100km/h 6.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 2.1L/100km
Price $176,088 without COE
Agent Performance Motors Limited
Verdict: Plug-in motoring still has caveats, but the 225xe is the first practical, mainstream plug-in hybrid without exotic costs.