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More electric vehicles coming from BMW

Beem me up: The electrification of BMW’s model range is set to expand from the 3 Series and X5, with at least two more models confirmed to arrive in Australia with plug-in hybrid or pure electric powertrains.

BMW’s hybridisation of its model range to continue beyond 3 Series and X5

7 Oct 2016

BMW Australia will add at least two more plug-in hybrids or pure electric vehicles (EV) to its model range, but is remaining tight lipped on which specific vehicles will be electrified next.

The German brand launched plug-in hybrid variants of its 3 Series sedan and X5 SUV earlier this year to complement its battery powered i3 hatchback and i8 hybrid sportscar and is on the cusp of releasing its plush 740e hybrid sedan.

Rumours have persisted since early 2015 that BMW will build an all-electric i5 sedan to slot between its i3 and i8 and bump gloves against Tesla’s popular emissions-free Model S, but BMW Australia “haven’t had anything confirmed”.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the new i3 94Ah, BMW Group Australia X and i-model product manager Brendan Michel said to “expect” more hybrid models incoming.

“I know of two more, but I’m not sure if I can talk about them at this stage,” he said. “We might have a surprise for you next year.

“Imagine what it’s going to be like in 10 years’ time, I mean we’ve got 50 per cent range over its [i3] predecessor now, it’s an exciting time. The auto industry is going to change so much, not only battery technology, but autonomous driving and everything else. Yes, it is coming, definitely.”

For now, the advances in the i3’s battery technology – increasing capacity from 60Ah to 94Ah without increasing physical size – will likely filter through BMW’s hybrid vehicles, resulting in increased driving range.

Overseas, BMW offers a plug-in version of its 2 Series Active Tourer called the 225xe – the only hybrid vehicle in its portfolio not currently available to Australians – but given the model’s low sales volume locally, the 225xe is unlikely to appear in showrooms here.

BMW Group Australia product communications manager Adam Davis said the existing 330e and X5 xDrive40e were logical choices to pair with a plug-in hybrid powertrain due to their popularity.

“You look locally, we have the 3 Series and X5, which are our best sellers, obviously as petrol variants, so we roll them out there first and we can continue to look going forward,” he said.

Following its two best sellers are the recently refreshed X1 crossover, the ageing X3 SUV and the entry level 1 Series.

Since launching in April this year, the X5 and 3 Series plug-in hybrids have accumulated 45 and 53 sales respectively, a small fraction of year-to-date sales for the SUV (3394) and sedan (3364).

Despite low sales volume, BMW Group Australia general manager of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher told GoAuto the hybrid variants were important to the brand.

“I think that the hybridisation – the first two vehicles that we introduced were the 330e and X5 xDrive40e – and just having that plug-in hybrid variant of our most popular vehicles, I think that’s been really key,” she said.

“They’ve only been on sale for four months, so they’re quite new. But I think the key to their success has been in the way we’ve been able to price those vehicles.

Ms Fletcher compared the rise of electrified models to the gradual acceptance of diesel power over previous years, where petrol had previously dominated.

“I also think that the awareness of that sort of technology is growing, but one of the key things that we looked at when we brought the plug-in hybrid vehicles in was to position them in a similar manner to the way diesel is positioned against petrol.

“So previously you would pay a small increment for a diesel engine and we’ve done the same with these vehicles. There is a small additional cost to have this technology, but you save that back in terms of fuel consumption and also in knowing you’re doing the right thing.

“We’ve got a 740e coming before the end of the year, and obviously there is the potential to see more plug-in hybrids across the range.”

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