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BMW 3 Series plug-in all but confirmed

Charging in: BMW's petrol-electric 330e is likely to arrive on Australian turf mid next year, paving the way for more plug-ins.

Multiple plug-in hybrids coming to expanding Australian BMW line-up

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BMW logo9 Oct 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

BMW Australia has confirmed its local luxury car line-up will include more than one plug-in hybrid model, with the electrified 3 Series most likely to follow the already confirmed X5 xDrive40e.

Based on BMW's freshly updated 3 Series sedan, the 330e combines a four-cylinder petrol-electric powertrain with plug-in charging for a pure electric range of approximately 40km, and BMW has all but confirmed the next hybrid for Australia.

Speaking at the local launch of the updated 3 Series range, BMW Australia CEO Marc Werner told GoAuto the plug-in hybrid range would grow.

“There will definitely be a place for plug-in hybrids and I personally believe that with two or three in our technology line-up, embraced by the i-brand, it would be a perfect fit so that’s what we are currently working on,” he said.

“We will not limit our plug-in hybrid range to one model so you can expect more.”

Mr Werner explained that variety, including PHEV models, was part of the brand's underpinning philosophy and upheld the prestige reputation as well as offering customers more choice.

“From a premium car manufacturer point of view, choice is what the customer expects, if you just limit it to one car that’s nice to have and other manufacturers do it like that but that’s not BMW. We provide a lot of choice and then it’s up to the customer.”

BMW's venture into alternative energy officially kicked off with the quiet introduction of the 7 Series and 3 Series ActiveHybrid models, but Mr Werner said the range of PHEVs would have a more spiritual connection to the i3 city hatch and i8 sportscar.

“We made a very bold decision when we launched the BMW i-brand, and so far we can only say that it exceeds our expectations, not only from a sales point of view but in particular what these two cars do for the brand.

“Speaking of hybrid models, that would be the next logical step. We have made a big bang with the BMW i-brand. We have paved the way.”

With more conventional mild-hybrid systems and weighty price tags, the ActiveHybrid range sold in limited numbers, but BMW Group Australia head of product and market planning Shawn Ticehurst told GoAuto the 330e would “definitely” be more popular.

“Firstly you can do more in the electric range,” he said. “For a lot of people you can do your daily commute on electricity only.

“You plug in at home at night or at the office, do your commute on electricity and then on the weekend have a great sports sedan to get the benefits of an electric engine with a combustion engine.

“Secondly it will be a much lower price. The ActiveHybrid had a six-cylinder engine so it was a more expensive proposition, but this one is based on a four-cylinder engine so it's going to be a much sharper price.”

With the 3 Series update, the ActiveHybrid is no longer available, but was priced from $100,200 plus on-road costs, which would potentially place the 330e under the $100,000 mark and nearer the 2015 pricing that ranges from $54,900 to $89,900.

The 330e uses a smaller engine but a beefier electric drivetrain and battery, resulting in a zero to 100km/h acceleration sprint of 6.1 seconds, fuel consumption of just 2.1 litres per 100 kilometres and low emissions of less than 50g per km.

Mr Ticehurst explained that until the government encourages drivers to embrace alternative energy, the hybrid 3 Series was not expected to be a volume seller, but the plug-in range provided a stepping stone to full electric vehicles.

“Australians aren't going to benefit from government incentives but I think people are intrigued by the technology,” he said.

“It can be a big leap and we know range anxiety is a real thing but we are in such an early phase with the technology. This is a way for people to take that first step.

With more BMW PHEV choice on the way Mr Ticehurst said the popularity would grow gradually.

“It's due to launch in Europe in March next year. We are going to get it but it won't be sooner than March.

“We will see it rolling out across our range and there will be a lot of momentum with these cars.

“But I think here we can form a nice little niche initially and then we will see it grow. We want it and I am encouraged by the way the discussions are going so stay tuned – hopefully we will have some good news for you soon.”

Neither Mr Ticehurst or Mr Werner could offer a suggestion as to which hybrid model would follow the 3 Series, but with confirmation of the 740e and 225e for other markets, 2 Series Active Tourer and 7 Series-based variants are the safest bet.

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