BMW has launched the biggest range of plug-in hybrid vehicles in Singapore, with an intriguing pricing strategy
SINGAPORE — Ready or not, here i comes. BMW’s iPerformance-labelled plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have finally gone on sale here.
The iPerformance cars are based on BMW’s regular models, but borrow technology from the BMW i range of electric (or electrified) cars. They’re part of BMW’s aims to electrify its product range and sell 100,000 electrified vehicles around the worlds this year.
Last year the Munich-based carmaker sold 32,984 such cars, about as many as its arch-rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz managed to combined.
Things have picked up since then, with BMW selling nearly 50,711 cars by the end of July this year.
In comparison, California-based Tesla Motors put 47,100 cars on the road from January to June this year. Its brand may be fast achieving synonymity with electric drive, but it’s clear that BMW is fast closing in, and well on track to achieve its target of putting 100,000 electrified BMWs on the road this year.
“That shows that we probably doing something right,” says Alexander Kotouc, the head of product management for BMW i. “But of course for the future we want to see a much higher market share, and we seriously believe that if we expand the range that this is going to happen.”
That explains the PHEV blitz here, and if BMW fails to replicate its global success with electrified cars Singapore it won’t be for lack of trying.
The brand has added these iPerformance versions of its cars to price list here:
A plug-in version of the X5 Sports Utility Vehicle will join the lineup, and together with the urban-focused i3 and sporty i8, that would put seven seven electrified vehicles in showroom here, far more than any other manufacturer.
The BMW 225xe costs $176,800 with COE. It accelerates to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds, but its claim to fame is the ability to run without petrol for roughly 30km
The iPerformance cars come with both electric and petrol powerplants. On pure electric power they travel more than 30km (depending on model, driving conditions and so on) and reach a maximum speed of 120km/h. The cars have batteries that can be charged either at home with a BMW i Wallbox, or at public charging stations.
For long-distance driving or maximum acceleration, petrol power joins in automatically. Having two engines to drive the car boosts performance; even though it can be driven without petrol much of the time, and in spite of the fact that its electric hardware adds 230kg to the weight of the car, the plug-in BMW 530e can also accelerate to 100km/h in only 6.2 seconds — the same time as the conventional 530i.
The sweetener for customers is that there isn’t a steep premium to pay for the iPerformance technology, thanks to tax rebates under the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme.
The plug-in 530e costs exactly the same as the 530i, for example.
Two powerplants, a battery for daily use, no extra cost… that’ll be the 530e, then
There are no direct petrol-only counterparts to the other iPerformance models here, except for the 740Le xDrive, which is $24,000 dearer than a 740Li.
Nevertheless, the pricing strategy is designed to nudge customers into PHEVs. Asked what typically gets drivers to switch to electric power, Dr Kotouc says it isn’t always the urge to be an early tech adopter, or even the desire to save the Earth. “They have to be convinced that it’s the right thing for them to do. You can never force a customer to make a choice,” he says. “Early adopters are your stereotype customers. They want to have the latest Apple devices and so on. Those do exist, but they’re not the majority. The majority is people like you and me.”
Well, you and me if we happen to live on private property, that is. Although BMW i cars have access to around 60 public charging stations here through the brand’s ChargeNow network, and 24 condominiums have charging outlets, getting the most from a BMW iPerformance car entails having somewhere convenient to charge it every day.
People might still buy them anyway because they can still run on petrol like regular cars, but that would do little for air pollution. “Singapore is comparatively small,” says Dr Kotouc, who lived here for two months a decade ago. “If you completely cut out emissions there would be a much better quality of life for everybody.”
READ MORE > Driving BMW’s 530e
Running an iPerformance car without using the electric system would mean missing out on the silence and refinement of motor drive, too. It’s one reason 95 percent of electric car owners choose another electric vehicle for their next car.
Still, Dr Kotouc estimates it won’t be until 2030 that full electric vehicles overtake combustion-engined cars in sales. But until that happens, BMW is hoping that drivers will think of its iPerformance cars as the next best thing.