Clever tech: Hybrid BMWs will be able to detect when they’re entering a low emission zone and turn off their combustion engines
Smart hybrid cars that automatically switch off their engines to run purely on electric power when they enter city clean-air zones have been launched in Britain by German car giant BMW.
In a world first, London and Birmingham are among the cities chosen to pioneer the new zero-emissions technology which is now being fitted to BMW’s most popular plug-in hybrid vehicles.
More cities across the UK and Ireland will be added in future, as well as those on the Continent.
Despite this technology, the clever ‘clean’ plug-in cars will still not be eligible to enter the low emission zones free of charge and are still inclusive of the Government’s controversial ban on all but pure electric vehicles within 15 years.
The new BMW system uses sophisticated sat-nav technology to create an electronic or virtual frontier around a defined area of a town or city – so that once the car crosses it, the vehicle’s electronic ‘brain’ knows to switch to pure electric power.
It calls this system ‘GPS geo-fencing’ after the satellite-based Global Positioning System.
When the driver enters his or her final destination on the sat-nav, the works out how much electric charge will be needed to get there using electric-only in the designated zone.
It can conserve charge by running on petrol outside the clean air zone, or warn the driver to charge-up before setting off.
In a world first, London and Birmingham are among the cities chosen to pioneer the new zero-emissions technology which is now being fitted to BMW’s most popular plug-in hybrid vehicles. London already has the ULEZ while Birmingham is set to launch a clean air zone
Despite this technology, the clever ‘clean’ plug-in cars will still not be eligible to enter the low emission zones free of charge and are still inclusive of the Government’s controversial ban on all but pure electric vehicles within 15 years
BMW says it supports the UK Government’s commitment to achieving ‘net zero’ emissions targets by 2050, but believes banning the sale of new plug-in hybrids alongside petrol and diesel cars ‘will confuse consumers’
BMW argues that the plug-in hybrids are an important way of getting motorists used to switch to electric cars, and believes their sale should be allowed beyond 2035 – the date when ministers say the sale of all petrol, diesel and even hybrid and plug-in cars will be banned.
And while it supports the UK Government’s commitment to achieving ‘net zero’ emissions targets by 2050, it believes banning the sale of new plug-in hybrids alongside petrol and diesel cars ‘will confuse consumers’.
Currently, ‘vehicles with a plug’ have only three per cent of UK market share, it notes.
For London the BMW ‘eDrive Zones’ system covers the same geographic area as the Transport for London (TFL) Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).
It currently costs £12.50 a day to enter the ULEZ in anything but a pure-electric car.
For Birmingham it covers the city’s planned Clean Air Zone, which is due to be implemented in 2021.
Glasgow is among the likely next UK cities to benefit from the BMW technology.
BMW noted: ‘The eDrive Zones in London and Birmingham are highlighted graphically on the vehicle’s central control display navigation screen, so drivers can see their location.’
The new BMW system uses sophisticated sat-nav technology to create an electronic or virtual frontier around a defined area of a town or city. When the car crosses the low-emission boundary, the vehicle’s electronic ‘brain’ knows to switch to pure electric power
BMW announced that the technology is being fitted to every new plug-in hybrid version of its top-selling BMW 3, 5 (pictured), 7 series saloons and estates, and its X5 SUV
BMW announced that the technology is being fitted to every new plug-in hybrid version of its top-selling BMW 3, 5, 7 series saloons and estates, and its X5 SUV.
The aim is to ensure zero-emissions in city centres while cutting costs for motorists,
The car-maker – which has an engine plant at Hams Hall near Birmingham, and also builds Minis in Oxford and Rolls-Royce models in Sussex – argues that the ability for its hybrid cars to automatically switch to electric power-only when entering dedicated zones is also an argument for continuing their exemption from levies like the the London congestion charge, and any others which may be brought in.
Currently, plug-in hybrids electric vehicles – or ‘PHEVS’ – capable of running for a minimum of 20 miles on pure electric power only, are exempt the congestion charge in the capital.
But that exemption ends from 25 October 2021, with the exemption for pure electric cars ending on December 25 2025. The Government has decreed that no new petrol or diesel cars may be sold from 2035, and possibly earlier.
BMW said: ‘With electric ranges of up to 54 miles, BMW plug-in hybrid models are built with cities in mind, as they can complete most commuting trips on pure-electric power. This new technology helps drivers do just that.’
The new tech switches automatically to electric-only power when a plug-in hybrid vehicle enters a defined low emissions area of a city: ‘The service, unique in the worldwide automotive industry, also automatically ensures that the electric power is conserved for use during the part of the journey within the low emission zone, if the journey destination is entered into the vehicle’s navigation system.’
BMW’s global sales director Pieter Nota, commenting on the UK launch of BMW eDrive Zones said: ‘This is the flexibility that customers want, as they make the transition to electromobility.
For London the BMW ‘eDrive Zones’ system covers the same geographic area as the Transport for London (TFL) Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ)
BMW said its 14 electrified vehicles will increase to 25 by the end of 2023, with more than half of those models fully electric
‘A plug-in hybrid vehicle combines the best of two worlds: emission-free city-driving as well as long-distance capabilities. We urge governments to prioritise plug-in hybrid vehicles in order to encourage consumers to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
‘Our BMW eDrive Zones technology supports customers to drive emission free in London and Birmingham. It improves air quality in cities fast and reduces running costs for drivers. It’s win-win for everyone.’
From today the BMW eDrive Zones service is available as standard on BMW 330e, BMW 530e, BMW 745e and BMW X5 xDrive45e, with additional compatible models launching in the future.
Software can be upgraded using free ‘over-the-air’ updates for compatible BMW plug-in hybrid vehicles. That means , existing customers using the latest Operating System 7 can also benefit from the technology.
The German car-maker said the ‘significant contribution’ plug-in hybrid vehicles can make to reducing exhaust emissions in cities was demonstrated in an early trial carried out in the Netherlands in 2018: ‘Results of this research project showed 90 per cent of all routes within the trial zone in Rotterdam were driven in electric-only mode’.
BMW factories in the UK are also contributing towards the company’s global goals for reducing pollution through greater take up of electric and hybrid technology, says the firm.
BMW’s Hams Hall plant near Birmingham builds around 400,000 three- and four-cylinder engines annually, including many used in the BMW and Mini plug-in hybrids.
By the end of this year around one in five engines built at Hams Hall will be destined for a plug-in hybrid vehicle, rising to around 25 per cent next year. It first began producing PHEV engines in 2015 for the BMW i8.
The Mini plant in Oxford is now producing its first fully electric car with 11,000 Mini Electric models built since production started earlier this year before the pandemic.
BMW said its 14 electrified vehicles will increase to 25 by the end of 2023, with more than half of those models fully electric.
Across Europe it expects that electrified vehicles will account for a quarter of sales by 2021, a third by 2025 and half by 2030.
It aims to have more than seven million electrified vehicles across all its brands on the road in ten years – with around two thirds powered by a fully-electric drivetrain.
Although it is also exploring hydrogen-powered fuel-cell technology, it said this was still a ‘potential future technology’ and that batteries were at the core of its expansion plans.
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