FU­TURE HAS AR­RIVED The plug-in hy­brid rev­o­lu­tion is about to hit top gear


En­ergy de­bates are rag­ing around the coun­try.

Coal-fired power sta­tions are shut­ting down, con­sumers are fac­ing sky­rock­et­ing bills and many re­gions are fac­ing wide­spread out­ages all while talk abut re­new­ables, nu­clear, gas and nu­mer­ous other tech­nolo­gies goes in cir­cles.

Mean­while Tesla’s Elon Musk says he’s halfway to build­ing the world’s most pow­er­ful lithium ion bat­tery to help power South Aus­tralia.

Which brings us to the elec­tri­cal rev­o­lu­tion. The big push is com­ing, and fast.

This week Holden re­vealed a small car that can travel al­most 400km be­tween charges — but isn’t ex­pected here un­til 2022.

BMW is among those at the fore­front of the build­ing plug-in mo­men­tum.

Where elec­tric cars like the Nis­san Leaf, Mit­subishi i-MiEV failed in Aus­tralia, ve­hi­cles like the BMW i3 have be­come rel­e­vant with a range of more than 200km and driv­ers more will­ing to part with big coin for a pres­tige brand com­bined with a new con­sumer will­ing­ness to em­brace the fu­ture.

Six elec­tri­fied ve­hi­cles sit in the BMW show­room since the 530e ar­rived. Priced from $110,500, that sounds ex­pen­sive. But you pay no more for this de­riv­a­tive than you would the pure petrol-pow­ered equiv­a­lent. VALUE Typ­i­cally lav­ish, you would be hard pressed to iden­tify its elec­tric cre­den­tials with the 10.25-inch colour screen, 19-inch al­loys, au­to­matic boot opener, 16-speaker Har­man Kar­don sur­round-sound sys­tem, M Sport aero pack, sat nav and leather trimmed cabin.

About the only iden­ti­fier is the small eDrive but­ton on the con­sole and the sec­ond plug-in flap near the left front wheel.

Ser­vic­ing is $1640 over five years or 80,000km, in­ter­vals are two years or 30,000km, which is not bad when com­par­ing on the pre­mium scale.

A six-year war­ranty/100,000km ap­plies to the lithion-ion bat­tery.

Charg­ing the bat­tery takes about five hours when us­ing a stan­dard power point. The BMW wall box can be in­stalled for about $2000 (de­pend­ing on your home set-up), which halves the time.

Next year BMW hopes to also of­fer a wire­less charg­ing pad when you just park the ve­hi­cle on top of a mat to re­fuel. DRIV­ING Elo­quent and smooth, the 5 Se­ries has al­ways been some­thing spe­cial. The elec­tric power just makes it bet­ter and, best of all, it per­forms like any other car.

With bat­tery charge it’s a silent take-off and rapid power de­liv­ery.

One of the key dif­fer­ences once you get be­hind the wheel is found within the driver’s in­stru­ment clus­ter in hy­brid mode, where you get a power me­ter rather than a tacho.

You can dic­tate pure bat­tery power which re­stricts the ac­cel­er­a­tion de­ploy­ment to about 60% of the per­for­mance ca­pac­ity. With 250Nm of torque at the ready from stand­still, rarely do you need more mumbo.

The ad­di­tional elec­tri­cal magic be­neath the skin does add weight (230kg com­pared to the 530i), although the 530e re­mains quiet, re­laxed and a con­sum­mate ex­ec­u­tive cruiser.

Us­ing a nor­mal house­hold plug when at work, each day the bat­tery was good for about 40km. In real world terms our test achieved in the high 30s...although we man­aged the daily du­ties with­out a sip of petrol.

There are op­tions where you can switch to the petrol en­gine to save bat­tery power for slower speeds, as the elec­tric source does its best work in traf­fic con­ges­tion. SAFETY Equipped with some im­pres­sive au­ton­o­mous kit, the Beemer sedan can steer it­self and main­tain safe dis­tances from ve­hi­cles ahead in high­way sit­u­a­tions.

All the ex­pected kit is there, like anti-lock brakes along with sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, but you also have a park­ing as­sis­tant which can par­al­lel and 90-de­gree park it­self, cam­eras which piece to­gether an all-round and top view of the car, cross traf­fic alert and func­tion­al­ity which mon­i­tors speed limit signs and ad­vises the driver with a small icon.


The boot space is limited, and it’s small for a large sedan.

You could save some se­ri­ous coin if you reg­u­larly travel short dis­tances (like the ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralians).


Tech­nol­ogy is great fun, but not ev­ery­one is ready to em­brace hy­brid func­tion­al­ity. There are limited recharg­ing points, although some ma­jor shop­ping cen­tres in south­ern metropoli­tan ar­eas have re­cently had them in­stalled, but a greater rate of change is re­quired.


Lexus GS 450h ($108,080 plus on-roads)

Not a plug-in, but the Lexus hy­brid sys­tem re­mains ef­fec­tive and fru­gal. Doesn’t have the same driv­ing dy­nam­ics, but high lev­els of lux­ury. Mercedes-Benz E350e ($131,600 plus on-roads)

The start of many more from Benz, equally im­pres­sive tech­nol­ogy and the phi­los­o­phy is sim­i­lar. Tesla Model S 70 ($111,400 plus on-roads) Full elec­tric model, plenty of per­for­mance but no petrol back-up.

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