THE profound effect the EU has on the lives of all those within its’ member states has been the subject of much discussion recently — not least because of the whole Brexit fiasco.
Latterly, of course, we have been transfixed by the European Commission ruling which effectively determined that Apple’s tax arrangements in this country effectively amounted to illegal state aid.
Without getting into the rights and wrongs of whether or not Apple now owes Ireland Inc some €13bn in unpaid taxes, this unsavoury and unedifying affair — whether it is simply high politics or not — underlines just how big a role the EU plays in so many different aspects of our daily lives and how its’ rules and regulations actually impact on us.
Look at the automotive industry, for example. Not alone does the EU decide on Europe-wide emission levels from our cars — which some companies, sorry, one in particular, have been less than compliant with — but it is now also forcing companies to adopt fleet average emission levels, meaning that any given car maker can only emit a given amount across its’ entire fleet of products.
This, effectively in my view, is backing the manufacturers into a corner right now and forcing them to use technologies to reduce their cumulative emission levels which are no longer really relevant for the long-term job at hand. These are what I term “stage coach” technologies because they are about as germane and future-proof as said form of wild west transport.
Car companies are thus reverting to all sorts of tricks to reduce their snowballing emission levels for, after all, the more cars that are manufactured, the greater the problem.
This means that knacks such as space-saver spare tyres (or no spare whatsoever), start-stop technologies and all sorts of other smoke and mirror tactics are being adopted in the quest for lower overall noxious discharges — none of which provide any sort of realistic or sustainable answer to the problem.
The automotive collective is also now being forced to develop more and more plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and, quite frankly, these are not the long-term answer to the industry’s emission issues either, but this fact seems to be irrelevant in the face of EU demands. The union, it would appear, does not care how the car manufacturing sector achieves reductions in this area — just as long as it does.
What the public is left with, then, are cars which will not and cannot ultimately do anything long-term to help address issues such as global warming and the destruction of the Earth’s atmosphere. Massive investment is being forced on companies to engineer solutions which have no sustainability.
Regular readers will know that hybrid technology is something which we at Examiner Motoring are not at all enamoured with, providing as it does largely anodyne motoring for dreamers who think that by buying one they are going to save the planet. The mere fact that there is an electric element involved essentially means that somewhere along the line carbon fossil fuels have been used to make that electricity and therefore defeats the purpose of the whole endeavour.
In my view, this makes it a redundant technology, but it is one that motor companies are being forced to adopt even though everyone knows it to be a crock of shite.
Which brings us smartly on to this week’s tester, the new BMW 330e — the first of a raft of PHEVs from the Munich concern which we will see fitted to many of the company’s products in due course — from the 2 Series Active Tourer to the 7 Series. Indeed, the ‘eDrive’ designation which BMW has selected for this car is something we are going to see a lot of in the near future.
As with the 3 Series which we know and love, the 330e has a lot going for it. One of the outstanding compact executive cars down the years, the 3 Series has been a massively important part of the BMW success story and one of its’ most consistent best sellers. The introduction of the eDrive version is designed to bolster its existing appeal.
Headline figures such as the 44 g/km emission level, a potential consumption rate of just 1.88 l/100 km (that’s 148.7 mpg!) certainly catch the eye as the 182 bhp two litre petrol engine and the 87 bhp electric motor provide a combined output of 249 bhp. The electric motor, which is housed in the eight speed gearbox housing, will wheeze you around town silently as long as you have it engaged and will actually propel you to a top speed of nearly 75km/h if you wish.
The batteries which power it — they are situated under the boot floor and do restrict load capacity a little — will give you a range of 25km or thereabouts, which would suit the needs of urban residents.
Anything outside of that, however, and you’re going to need a recharging point — or, more simply, access to a plug socket. Using the latter, though, will require over three hours to recharge the system.
There are three settings for using the electric-only system and these include Auto, Max eDrive, and Battery Save. The former is probably the one most people will use most, allowing the car to make the decisions about which power source is necessary for any given circumstance.
FOR those who prefer a more hirsute drive, put the car in Sport or Sport+ mode and you get the full benefit of all those 250 or so horses. If you are fearing a performance fall-off here, worry not — this thing will still give you a 6.1 second 0-100 kph time and a top speed of 230 kph.
Other stuff worth noting is that the ride and handling are as you would expect from a 3 Series — ie, brilliant — and that is despite the fact there is considerably more weight as a result of all the extra hybrid stuff. In fact BMW has done really well to balance the weight distribution (49% : 51% / front : rear) in the circumstances.
The décor too is top drawer and it probably doesn’t need saying that the living quarters on offer here are as close to the top of the pile as it gets, with, of course, the usual caveat that once you start exploring the options list, your wallet will empty exponentially.
So, what we have here is a very nice green car indeed and one which, if required, will still fulfil a need for driving pleasure and that is not something every hybrid will do. And, of course, there are incentives for buying one — in this case amounting to €7,500 when you add the SEAI grant with the VRT refund — which will certainly ease the purchase price pain.
The fact remains, however, that the auto makers probably never wanted to build cars like this, but have been forced to do so by a regulatory system which does not encourage much ingenuity or smarts. BMW has already revolutionised the ‘electric’ car segment thanks to such as the i3 and the i8, but there is little revolutionary here — even if they have made a very persuasive job of it.
From €48,999 — €57,111 as tested. Take away the €7,500 in SEAI grants and VRT refund and the tester would set you back €49,611.
Two-litre twin turbo petrol and synchronised electric motor.
Very good, although a dip into the options list will immolate your wallet.
The Overall Verdict:
A convincing hybrid — not something we see too often.
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