BMW PHEV Report: Big Money For Short Range

The battle over whether a plug-in hybrid is really an “electric car” continues and BMW is doing nothing to tamp down the controversy. The latest EPA figures show the BMW 530e and 530e xDrive both have a minuscule all-electric range of just 16 miles or less. Hardly the “compelling electric car” Elon Musk has been begging legacy manufacturers to build for several years.

MINI Countryman PHEV

But wait. It gets worse. The newly announced and highly anticipated plug-in hybrid version of the MINI Countryman is rated at an absolutely dismal 12 miles of range. Things are so bad for the Countryman PHEV that the EPA estimates the car will cost more to operate over 5 years than its gasoline-powered cousins. That’s a bummer.

These cars are not cheap. The 530e starts at $51,400 plus a transportation charge. The all-wheel-drive xDrive version begins at $53,700 plus transportation. Each has a 9.4 kWh battery pack. Both cars also earn only middle of the road fuel economy numbers. The 530e’s miles per gallon is rated 27 city, 31 highway, and 29 combined. The xDrive’s combined rating is 1 mpg less at 28.

Making matters worse, the EPA says both cars can call upon their gasoline engines at any time, much like a typical hybrid. That, of course, effectively reduces all-electric range to zero under some circumstances, since the gas engine kicking in cannot be directly controlled by the driver.

From a strictly dollars and cents perspective, the 530e and 530e xDrive are priced just slightly more than their conventionally powered cousins. Take off the $4,668 federal tax credit and you can talk yourself into believing the PHEV versions are actually a bargain.

Not so the MINI Countryman PHEV, which is priced at $36,800. Rated at just 12 miles of pure electric range from its 7.6 kWh battery, the EPA says its average fuel economy with its 3 cylinder turbocharged engine is just a tick or two better than the conventional Countryman models. In fact, the government ratings driving the MINI Countryman PHEV will cost the average owner $250 more than a typical car.

What’s the takeaway? BMW says it has stopped working on an i5 model to slot in between the i3 and the i8 to focus on better developing batteries and electric motors. Based on the results of that strategy so far, what the Bavarian company is offering customers is pretty weak tea compared to what the Chevy Volt and Kia Niro offer. If this is evidence of BMW’s plans, the company could be in deep, deep trouble.

Source: Inside EVs | Graphic credit: EPA


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.