BMW 330e long term-test: Electric company
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I was parked up and ready to get plugged in at a mall’s charging station on a busy Sunday afternoon when a couple walked past my BMW 330e and the man did a double-take, then scowled at me.
It wasn’t because of my bad parking: he thought I was dishonestly using a space only a few metres from the door of the heaving mall and jam-packed car park.
Unlike Nissan Leafs or Teslas, the BMW 330e looks like a standard 3 Series, identified as being part of the plug-in crowd only by badging at the rear.
So as the man stopped and glared at me, I exited the BMW’s plug-in hybrid, popped open the charging port and attached the charging station’s “plug”.
Still determined to be a sourpuss, the man said to his wife, “I bet it doesn’t even need charging up, the battery is probably full”.
Smiling at him, I said, “I’ve actually used half the battery’s 24km capacity to drive here in pure EV mode, so I need a top-up”.
The top-up also meant I spent no money on my return trip home, (but made up for that with a clothes-shopping spree with my son at Sylvia Park where there are two charging spots).
Kudos to Sylvia Park and Lynn Mall in West Auckland for having the initiative to provide charging spots — and Vector gets bonus points for the positioning of its charging stations, although they are often busy, especially around lunchtime.
Vector also gets praise for is website, where a search for charging stations comes up requesting your location then pinpointing it via Google maps.
BMW New Zealand offered us the 330e iPerformance plug-in hybrid as a long-term loan. It is based on the 3 Series sedan with the combination of a 2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine producing 185kW of power and 420Nm of torque combined with a 64kW electric motor.
The high-voltage battery lives underneath the boot so as not to impinge on its functionality or its 370 litres of storage. Priced from $91,600, my model had optional extras including the M Sport Package (19in alloys) and heads-up display for a total of $99,400.
The combination of the electric motor with twin turbo petrol engine not only gives you excellent torque, but also fuel efficient everyday driving.
I used the 330e for city driving. The 24km pure electric drive was fine for my weekday commute, with a 9.3km drive to work on suburban roads at a maximum of 50km/h, and then a return trip via the motorway — again a 9.3km trip but at speeds up to 80km/h. Manufacturer’s figures are 3.5 to 4.
5litres per 100 litres but I averaged 4.4 litres during my city commute.
Though initially struggling with charging at home at night, I had it down pat within a week but decided to use public charging stations as often as possible.
Despite my suggestion to install an EV charger when we moved into our new building, our flash work digs still doesn’t have one, so I was left to scour the streets of Auckland to top up during work hours.
Vector has upgraded its EV chargers in accordance with new government guidelines, so the CCS Type 1 DC charges are being replaced with CCS Type 2 to suit European cars.
The Vector substation on Hobson St appears to be an all-day parking spot for Mitsubishi Outlander and Leaf owners, with the vehicles charged up but ownerless.
So I moved to Newmarket where I pulled in the 330e, set it to “charge now” and went for a walk around the block. On my return, the BMW had 10km added to the battery. Result.
The Vector station at Greenlane McDonalds is also a popular spot, this time with a Green Party EV advocate parked up in a spot in her non-EV or plug-in hybrid.
When I suggested she move so I could top up, she wanted to slap a Green Party bumper sticker on the 330e.
I sped off instead!
Part One: BMW 330e: Living with a plug-in hybrid
Engine: 2-litre,four-cylinder petrol engine, 64kW electric motor
Pro: Cheap everyday drive
Con: Charging stations used as car parks