The May launch of the ActiveHybrid 5 provides just the first glimmer of BMW South Africa’s (SA’s) green ambitions, it seems.
Group automotive communications manager Edward Makwana says the luxury car maker’s first hybrid model will be followed by the launch of the 7 Series hybrid, in September, as well as a smaller sibling, a 3 Series hybrid, towards the end of this year.
This 3 Series hybrid will, however, not be manufactured in South Africa, as is the case with the other 3 Series models on sale locally, but will be imported from Munich.
Following this, current planning is for the BMW i3 to make its debut in South Africa in April 2014. With its zero-emission electric drive and a range of around 150 km, the BMW i3 has been developed for use in an urban environment.
The BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car is to follow in July 2014, notes Makwana.
The Mini E, an electric Mini, has just arrived in South Africa for testing, but there is no launch date available for this vehicle yet, adds Makwana."
For now, green BMW fans will have to be satisfied with the ActiveHybrid 5.
The vehicle brings together a BMW TwinPower turbo six-cylinder in-line petrol engine – the same as the one used in the BMW 535i – an electric drive system and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The electric motor develops 40 kW and is supplied with energy by a lithium-ion battery integrated into the luggage area. Power from the two drive systems is transferred to the rear wheels by the eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The drive system generates combined output of 250 kW and allows the car to be driven on electric power alone at speeds of up to 60 km/h, with a range of four kilometres.
Makwana says the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 boasts not just sporty performance, but also a double-digit percentage improvement in fuel economy over the BMW 535i.
There are various ways in which this is achieved.
For example, charging of the battery primarily takes place during coasting or braking, with the electric motor performing the role of a generator feeding energy into the high-voltage battery. (By contrast, under acceleration the electric motor takes on a boost function. Here, it assists the petrol engine by generating a burst of power.)
While coasting at speeds of up to 160 km/h in environmental-friendly Eco Pro mode – a selection the driver can make with the flick of a button – the combustion engine can be switched off and fully decoupled. This coasting mode then combines comfortable driving with optimum use of the kinetic energy already generated.
When compared with the “standard” BMW 535i – comparisons are inevitable – the hybrid, which still behaves like a German sports sedan, does deliver benefits a more environmentally conscious petrol car driver would seek.
The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds, similar to the 535i petrol model, despite being 75 kg heavier. Fuel consumption is rated as 7 l/100 km, with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at 163 g/km, this according to an European Union test cycle.
In contrast to this, the 535i uses 7.9 l/100 km of fuel at 183 g/ km CO2.
However, green has its price and the hybrid costs R760 976.50 including CO2 tax, with the 535i priced at R684 386.50.
The standard diesel model still outperforms both petrol models, though.
The 535d model has a fuel consumption of 5.6 l/100 km, with CO2 emissions at 148 g/km, but is priced higher, at R780 394. It also sprints to a 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds.