MW 530e still plugged in to rebates
Ontario is one of three provinces that encourage Canadians to buy electrified vehicles, with Ontario being the most liberal (excuse the pun) in terms of dollar amount.
And it's working. This is the first year in which Ontario surpassed Quebec for the largest number of electrified vehicles sold, despite the facts that Quebec has lower utility rates and more hydro-produced power than it needs.
Which brings me to this week’s tester, the 2018 BMW 530e xDrive sedan.
BMW is a world leader in electrification and last year sold more than 100,000 plug-in vehicles globally. This year the target is 140,000.
The current, seventh generation 5 Series remains at the mid point for the BMW hierarchy that runs from the 1 Series all the way up to the newly returning 8 Series.
But BMW is also expanding its new iPerformance eDrive stable of electric vehicles, the 530e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) being one of the first.
The BMW 530e xDrive is powered by a 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder (180 hp, 255 lb/ft); AC synchronous electric motor (111 hp, 184 lb/ft); combined power (248 hp, 310 lb/ft). - Jim Robinson/Metroland
It is considered a “mild” hybrid, combining a 2.0-litre TwinPower single turbo four-cylinder gasoline-powered muscle (180 hp, 255 lb/ft) with the electric assist of an AC synchronous electric motor (111 hp, 184 lb/ft), a combined effort that averages out to an overall 248 hp, 310 lb/ft rating.
This power is routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels, thanks to the standard xDrive all-wheel-drive system, one of the best on the market.
The large 9.2 kWh battery pack sits under the back seat and also intrudes into the cargo area, which is reduced to 410 litres instead of the 530 litres in the standard sedan.
The battery can be charged via a standard 110-volt household plug (seven hours) or through a 240-volt outlet (three hours). It is shipped with a wall socket charging cable.
As with the BMW 330e I drove earlier this year, I wanted to see just how much range I could get from the battery and fuel efficiency from the engine.
The best way was to drive normally, but use coasting and regenerative braking to add to the battery.
Starting out with a full tank of gasoline, the power gauge on the right of the main instrument cluster, where the tach normally is, showed I had an initial electric range of 22 km on the battery and 443 km on fuel (454 km with full tank).
The dashboard layout is classic BMW with the main and secondary controls logically placed. - Jim Robinson/Metroland
Centre console buttons allow the driver to select performance settings between Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro. The driver can also manipulate an eDrive button to choose from three EV driving modes — a default AUTO eDrive setting, MAX e-DRIVE to select EV-only propulsion or a BATTERY CONTROL setting that lets the driver determine EV use timing and charge levels.
Obviously it was Eco Pro all the way in “standard” mode with normal acceleration pressure on the pedal.
Despite the added weight of the battery, the 530e is surprisingly quick, especially off the line, with the extra torque from the battery enough to throw you into the back of the seat. It accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds.
On a six-lane highway, the 530e would come up to the speed limit and then I’d coast whenever possible and watch the power gauge show the battery getting a trickle back.
There is little to indicate this 5 Series BMW is a plug-in hybrid except for discreet badging and an Ontario licence plate with green lettering. - Jim Robinson/Metroland
Switching to a wonderful country road I know with lots of hills, the trick was to coast downhill and brake near the bottom to charge the battery, but carry enough speed to make it up the next incline with as little battery/engine power as needed.
I got about 37 km on the battery initially this way before the engine cut in, but I could still pick up one or two km with coasting/regen.
But after 161 km I had lowered my average fuel consumption from 8.7L/100 km when I picked it up to 8.0L/100 km when it was returned — and using less than a quarter tank of fuel.
On the cash outlay side, the 530e is definitely not the cheapest PHEV you can buy. But with a starting price of $67,500 you can factor in the Ontario rebate of $7,000 (there are also other provincial incentives) and it becomes more reasonable.
There is no doubt automotive electrification is growing worldwide and manufacturers are investing billions.
And with enlightened governments, cars such as the 2018 BMW 530e xDrive are paving the way to a greener day.