BMW Group Australia is committed to electrifying its local product range despite the market’s apathy towards alternative-powertrain vehicles and will launch updated versions of its plug-in line-up over the next 12 months.
Speaking to journalists at the local launch of the new-gen 3 Series last week, BMW Group Australia CEO Vikram Pawah said accessibility and driving range are two factors that need to be first addressed in the local market.
“What can make this market more electric?” he said. “The first dimension is availability. There should be enough product for customers to choose from. You have enough mass to support it.
“The next stage is customer awareness and change management. We all have some responsibility to create that awareness. A lot of people won’t know that an average daily commute is 32 kilometres. A lot of people get shocked when you say that.
“A new generation of electrics that are coming. and were showcased at the Geneva motor show. All have a pure-electric range of 50 to 60 kilometres.
“A plug-in hybrid helps you get over that range anxiety because just in case you want to do that Sydney to Melbourne some time, you still have that.
“If we want to move to electric, that’s the stepping stone towards it.”
Shown at this month’s Geneva motor show and confirmed to launch in Australia later this year, BMW’s next iteration of the 330e plug-in petrol-electric hybrid now boasts double the emissions-free driving range, reaching up to 60km with one full charge.
Meanwhile, the X5 xDrive45e large SUV and 745e limousine score upgraded six-cylinder petrol engines paired to electric motors for a 290kW power output and an all-electric range up to 80km in the former and 58km in the latter – a three-fold and 30 per cent increase respectively.
Elsewhere, the 5 Series-based 530e gains a 12.0kWh battery, up from 9.2kWh, to increase range by 30 per cent to 64km, while an all-wheel-drive xDrive version with up to 57km of driving range will also hit global markets from mid-year.
The electrified 225xe Active Tourer also benefits from an increased 9.7kWh battery, but the model remains off the table for the Australian market.
Finally, BMW also uncovered a plug-in version of its best-selling X3 mid-size SUV at Geneva, sporting 50km of driving range.
Sold alongside ground-up electric models such as the i3 – which has recently been updated with a denser 120Ah and 260km of driving range – and the halo i8 sportscar, BMW’s electrified line-up falls under its iPerformance umbrella.
However, while BMW Group sold 142,617 units last year across its entire brand portfolio including Mini – which is a significant 38.4 per cent increase over 2017’s tally and nearly 50 per cent more volume than the high-performance M Division models – Australian uptake is yet to hit critical mass.
In 2018, just 15,680 electric and hybrid vehicles were sold locally, amounting to just 1.4 per cent of the overall new-car market.
Nonetheless, Mr Pawah reiterated the brand’s commitment to alternative powertrains in Australia.
“We’ve clearly made the statement that we are committed to the electric future, we are one of the few manufacturers that have displayed very clear sales (results),” he said.
“(With 12 electric models planned by 2025), we’ve raised our hand and said we will be interested. Whether we bring all of them or not will depend on each segment that we evaluate as we go along.
“We will be bringing the X5, the 7 Series, the 3 Series and the X3.”
Another hurdle to overcome with plug-in vehicles is the lack of charging infrastructure, a point BMW Group Australia is keen to address with the expected tie-up with the Chargefox network.
“We are looking at that but I don’t think it can be done alone by any manufacturer,” Mr Pawah said.
“Experience tells us that it’s a collaborative model between the government, energy providers and the manufacturers. Then it becomes a self-sustaining solution.”
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