Hybrid cars are attracting great attention as diesel is in the doldrums. Sales this year have already almost doubled to 4,635 cars, up from 2,726 in 2016, as the hybrid drives become more acceptable. Michael MoroneY reports on his recent experience with BMW’s 330e, a car that offers new levels of value.
It seems that we are migrating to a hybrid world as diesel engines try to shake off their bad image as the major pollution culprits of our time.
The trend is happening almost by stealth, fuelled by the type of instant publicity that can create a movement for change that all too often isn’t exactly based on science or logic.
There’s no mistaking that diesel engines have their issues around emissions, but modern diesels are not near as polluting as their older counterparts.
Enter the hybrid option, the good cop in the emissions world, for the time being at least.
BMW must have predicted the turn away from diesel. They were ahead of their German counterparts in doing a deal with the world hybrid leader Toyota, well ahead of the emission scandal that was fuelled by the bad behaviour at the Volkswagen Group.
That planning has resulted in a great hybrid range from the Munich-based brand. That now includes hybrid versions of the 2 Series Active Tourer, 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series and the X5, the latter being one of my dream cars to own.
What BMW has done is offer hybrid drive systems for commuters in cars that don’t have to look different.
I think that their strategy is the right one; hybrids don’t have to be different, just better. BMW has hinted that difference in special door finishes and blue lighting to indicate that it’s more efficient.
I took the 330e hybrid for a recent test drive and I’m sure that passengers and other road users were unaware of the car’s hybrid credentials.
And they don’t need to be. The car retains all of the style and status of the 3 Series with a shade more environmental credibility.
With the BMW hybrid option there is simply no downside. The car’s acceleration is the envy of its diesel counterparts giving a 0 to 100km/hr performance of 6.1 seconds. Once the car combines the turbo-petrol power with that of the hybrid drive, the acceleration feeling is so impressive.
So too is the fuel consumption figure. The hybrid drive cuts the fuel usage in half relative to the diesel option, down from 4.2 l/100km (23.8km/litre) to 2.1 l/100km (47km/litre). Over a 500km test drive programme I found that my performance was somewhere in the middle closer to 36km/litre.
If you are driving on a short commute, less that 40km per day or each way between charges, then the costs will be even lower as you can run almost exclusively on electric power.
The charging costs are more difficult to establish, but significantly we are talking in terms of low euro numbers for an overnight charge.
The hybrid system is based around BMW’s automatic gearbox which also uses the eDrive button to allow you to move from the standard default eDrive to Max eDrive or to the Save Battery format.
The latter allows you to run on petrol only and retain your battery power until you face traffic gridlock and that’s when electric drive shows its true merits.
And there’s no compromise on performance under electric power as BMW claim that the 330e can run at speeds up to 120km/hr on pure electric power in the right conditions.
Entry prices are high for the BMW hybrid options, while Government low emission support incentives make the deal more attractive.
Add to that the latest new BMW Lower Emissions Allowance scheme that offers €2,000 off all BMW vehicles with emissions of 130g/km or less and that brings the price down to €37,960.
That price point now makes the BMW hybrid choice more cost effective. Running costs can be less than diesel, depending on your driving style and commute. And you’ll still drive a car that looks well and can perform with the best.