After BMW New Zealand’s announcement to rebrand its electric vehicle range under the iPerformance banner, it has just added its plug-in hybrid to the range.
The 330e will join the i3, i8 and soon the 7 Series and X5 plug-in hybrids in BMW’s iPerformance range.
Like the 7 Series and X5, the 330e is on sale in New Zealand dealerships now, but due to arrive from the factory in quarter three.
Priced from $89,900 (a $1900 increase over the 330i petrol 3 Series), the 330e combines a TwinPower turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine with an 80kW eDrive electric motor and a lithium-ion high-voltage battery.
Combined, the two engines produce 185kW of power and 420Nm of torque, compared with the 330i’s 185kW/350Nm.
The 330e has fuel consumption of just 2.1 litres/100km in pure electric mode with an electric range of up to 37 km. It can also drive at up to 120km/h on pure electric.
It takes approximately four hours to charge using a normal socket at home with a charger pack.
I was the first motoring writer in New Zealand to drive it – BMW lent it to me for just 44 hours as it was needed for training of technicians. Realistically the 330e has a 30km pure electric range. I averaged 25km and had fuel efficiency figures of 4. 5 litres as about half my drive was in hybrid mode.
On the first night I had the 330e, I attempted to charge it in the evening but a thunderstorm curtailed my efforts. The charge port is over the left front wheel, so I had to park the car next to my garage and loop the charging pack through my laundry window and plug it in.
Even with the charging pack earthed, when the thunderstorm came close to my house I unplugged the 330e as I didn’t want to risk a lightning bolt hitting the charging BMW.
Yeah, imagine that call to BMW NZ the next day.
I trialled the 330e as a work vehicle as this BMW is set to be popular with businesses.
I drove it the 9km one-way suburban commute from my home to work, before testing it on motorways. The average daily return commute for most Kiwis is 28km, so in an ideal work environment, you could drive to the office in pure electric mode, plug in and charge it up for your drive home.
In Europe, the 330e is set to be a fleet favourite. In the UK, not only do you get £2500 ($5400) off the list price, if you work in London you don’t have to pay the congestion charge plus you get discounts on taxes. That puts it into a similar price as a 330i.
Visually the 330e doesn’t look that different to the all-petrol version. There are a pair of badges on the rear wheel arches, a 330e badge on the back and the charge port near the front left wheel.
Inside there is a small eDrive button by the gear lever that differentiates it from a petrol or diesel 3 Series. But in the boot the difference is highlighted. Boot space is down 110 litres to 370 due to the lithium-ion high-voltage battery under the floor. That battery also adds up to 150kg to the weight of the sedan. There are a variety of modes: Hybrid is the default mode; Auto eDrive uses mainly battery with the petrol engine as a boost; Max eDrive is pure electric, and Save Battery does what it suggests: it can charge the battery via the petrol engine.
Like most 3 Series, you also have Sport, Sport Plus, Comfort and EcoPoro mode for your driving styles. Around town I kept it in Comfort and alternated between max eDrive and Hybrid; then on the motorway I moved into Sport mixed with Hybrid and Save Battery if I noticed I was running low on battery power.
It’s easy to forget that the 3 Series is an electric vehicle. Like most EVs, it’s quiet. When you push the starter button there is silence, and a few times I kept hitting the starter button as I thought it wasn’t turned on.
It’s also so quiet that driving it around urban streets and parking structures can be hazardous to pedestrians who can’t hear you.