BMW says that its electrification strategy is all about giving consumers the choice of a pure EV or plug-in hybrid. That should put pressure on BMW to push the envelope on all-electric range and overall fuel-efficiency of its plug-in hybrids. But that’s not the case.
The just-released EPA figures on the 2021 BMW 330e, which goes on sale next month, show a modest gain in EV range but a downgrade to MPG. The 2021 330e starts at $45,545.
The new generation of BMW plug-in hybrids gets a bigger battery. It’s a jump from 7.6 kilowatt-hours in the outgoing models to a still modest 12.0 kWh. The gain in all-electric range is commensurate with a bump in the all-electric range from 14 to 23 miles – although the all-wheel-drive 330e xDrive only manages 20 miles on a single charge.
The increase is welcomed. But it’s far below industry-leading PHEVs like the larger Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid sedan granting 48 miles or the even bigger Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid at 32 miles.
Unless 330e drivers can get back to a plug every 23 or so miles, they will be reverting to 2.0-liter turbo-four engine. The gas efficiency, after the battery is depleted, for the 2021 BMW 330e is 28 mpg combined (25/33 mpg city/highway). The 330e xDrive gets 25 mpg combined (22/30 mpg city/highway).
The outgoing 330e got 30 miles per gallon.
Okay, that’s just a 2 mpg (or 6.6%) drop. But in 2020, should fuel efficiency be going in the wrong direction?
BMW made the classic old-school auto industry decision to emphasize performance over efficiency. A pure EV powertrain gives you both at the same time.
The BMW 330e offers a feature called XtraBoost, the release of an extra 40 horsepower when the driver stomps the accelerator into the kick-down position. That slices a fraction of a second off the rush to 60 miles per hour, reducing it to 5.6 seconds.
That slight reduction in reaching speed will also slightly reduce the real-world all-electric range, perhaps into the teens.
Maybe we could buy into BMW’s argument about choosing varying degrees of electrification. We understand the argument for using a single production line to make EVs, plug-in hybrids, and gas cars.
But whatever merit BMW’s electrification strategy had goes out the window if each successive generation of its plug-in hybrids gets only incremental gains in EV range and worse fuel economy when using gas.
It doesn’t help that BMW confirmed last month that it won’t bring the all-electric BMW iX3 to the US. Dealers said it didn’t offer enough range.
Expect more plug-in hybrids to arrive at US dealerships, while we wait for the all-electric i4 to arrive in late 2021.
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