Electric is getting smarter: BMW reveals new smart hybrid technology
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BMW’s plug-in hybrids are getting smarter, gaining the ability to automatically switch to electric power when entering designated eco-areas. LEZs – Low-Emission Zones – are becoming common in city centres across Europe.
The German car maker’s new eDrive Zones service already covers the defined Low-Emission Zones of 80 cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. BMW plans to expand eDrive Zones to include more cities and countries.
It works by adding GPS-based geo-fencing tech to the maps stored in the sat-nav systems of its plug-in hybrids. Normally, selecting the driving mode in a plug-in hybrid is done by the driver, but with eDrive Zones activated the switch to pure electric power is triggered when the sat-nav sees the car has entered a Low-Emission Zone.
The car’s display notifies the driver of the switch. While inside the zone the car will continue to drive electrically as long as its high-voltage battery has enough juice. Should it run out while the car remains inside the geo-fenced LEZ, the car will fire up its combustion engine and revert to the normal hybrid driving blend of internal combustion and electric power. Again the change will prompt a notification in the car’s display.
Initially eDrive Zones is available in the plug-in hybrid variants of the 3 Series sedan, X5 SUV and 7 Series limo. The 330e, X5 45e and 745e limo are all sold in Australia, a country so far without Low-Emission Zones. BMW plans to add the service to other plug-in hybrids in its line-up.
BMW believes eDrive Zones will increase the amount of time its plug-in hybrids spend in electric mode in urban areas, cutting both overall CO2 emissions and inner-city pollution.
Later this year the company plans to launch a loyalty program called BMW Points. Drivers of their plug-in hybrids will be able to accumulate points for every kilometre driven electrically, with double points for those driven in LEZs. Enough points will earn rewards, including free recharging.