I recently read an article that some of the German government ministers in Berlin were unhappy with the plugin hybrids they are being chauffeured around in. This got me thinking about my own plug-in-hybrid, the BMW 225xe. I like the car a lot but after a year of driving it, I am clear that it is the only plug-in-hybrid I will ever buy, and in fact driving the 225xe has persuaded me that my next car will be an electric car.
Now don’t get me wrong, the BMW 225xe is an engineering masterpiece; BMW itself describing it as the most complex automobile they have ever built which is not a surprise given the massive amount of power electronics and software that go into effortlessly moving the car from electric power to the internal combustion engine and then back again. There are three different setting: Eco, Normal and Sport all of which are highly different in terms of driver experience. And the car is fun to drive. But I still will not buy another one or recommend someone else to buy one.
The major issue is that the 225xe has given me a taste for the future with its fast accelerating, clean, cost efficient and silent electrical engine. Sadly, in the best case I can only drive in full electric mode up to 41km. Thereafter, the internal combustion engine kicks in but given that the car has two engines, plus a fuel tank, a charger and a battery there has to be compromise in terms of space and the result is that there is a very small fuel tank, which when full gives me a range of 500km.
As I live in a rural area I constantly have to think about where I can fuel the car and to be honest it annoys me. But the good news is that it is preparing me for going fully electric and I do now look forward to not having to go to gasoline stations anymore and instead to charging the car at home! I am also clear that EVs will be much cheaper than plug-in-hybrids. In fact, they are already cheaper to fuel, depending on how much you are paying for the electricity.
So for instance, moving electric in a country like the Netherlands could save the average driver over €900 per year. The mathematics are pretty simple. The BMW 225xe in electricity mode uses circa 18kWh per 100k which would cost a Dutch person charging at home around €3.00. Driving that car with only petrol (over 6 litres per 100km) in the Netherlands would cost close to €10.00, and given that the average Dutch driver covers 13,000km per year, this means that going electric would save those drivers some over €900.
But it is not just running costs as going forward, the purchase cost of an EV will be lower than a plug-in hybrid. Putting two engines in a car, plus a complex array of software and power electronics is way more expensive than just putting in one drive train! And let’s not forget the cost of batteries as well as electric drives will continue to fall in the next years as we are in the early stages of the mass production of these technologies. In contrast, we have been mass producing internal combustion engines for over a 100 years so the room to reduce costs there is minimum.
I thus have no doubt that my next car is fully electric. They are more fun to drive, cheaper to run and better for the environment. And the goods news is that choice of electric vehicle will increase as there are lots of new models coming onto the market in the next years. As to the plug in hybrid it may be a bridging technology between the old world of combustion engines and electric powered cars but that bridge is going to be very short.