Choosing a car can be a bit of a minefield. You have to navigate cost, practicality, insurance… and that’s even before you start wondering what colour you want, or what style of wheels or trim. You’re constantly trying to balance what you want, versus what you actually need.Just as you start to get your head around all of terms, along come electrified vehicles, with new acronyms and terms which sound like words that wouldn’t be allowed in Scrabble. But we are here to clear the air and help you make the right choice for you and the way you drive. So we’ll start on how do you choose between a PHEV and a BEV. These are two different ways of powering a car, with varying levels of electricness. Handily for us, BMW makes a car which is offered with both types, allowing us to neatly show the differences. That is X3 – it can be had as a PHEV or a BEV.
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Would you like your BMW X3 as a full electric or plug-in hybrid?
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle
A PHEV - or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle - has a battery which can be plugged into the grid to charge and an electric motor in addition to a petrol engine. The car will use a combination of both the engine and motor according to the conditions or the driver’s preference. This is different to non-plug in hybrid cars which have far smaller batteries and can only harness energy created when the car is slowing and braking rather than taking anything from the mains electricity.In addition to this ‘recycling’ of power which is usually wasted, a PHEV can run for a meaningful distance using the electric motor only. As you’re substituting some of the miles you’d usually be burning petrol with electric running instead, it cheaper to run as electricity costs less than fuel. In the case of the X3 XDrive30e it means you can run for 32 miles on pure electric after a full charge, according to the official test figures. Most of us drive less than 20 miles a day, so that means you could do the bulk of your journeys in EV mode. And if you’re doing a longer trip then the car automatically switches to its petrol engine. But you have to plug them in to make the best use of the technology.
Plug in regularly and you'll be able to do most journeys in electric mode
Battery Electric Vehicle
BEV isn’t just that nice lady in accounts who brings in cakes every Friday. It stands for battery electric vehicle, which means there is no traditional engine at all. Instead it has a big battery pack and electric motor, so you never have to fill up with fuel again. Instead, you plug it into a charging point at home or use a public charger. It produces no emissions while driving, is almost silent and is cheap as chips to run. The new BMW iX3 Premier Edition will do about 22 miles on a Pound’s worth of electricity. That’s about a quarter of the cost of running a petrol or diesel.
The iX3 will never need filling up with fuel
Which suits you?
There are pros and cons for each. The one which is best for you will depend on the type of journeys you do most often and if you have access to charge easily. You will also need to check if you can get incentives to go electric, such as company car tax benefits, access to restricted zones in cities and free parking.
A PHEV can run for much greater distances on electric-only power compared to a non-plug in hybrid. If you’re a business user, a PHEV can attract some serious Benefit-in-kind advantages too. It’s also convenient because if you can’t charge or are doing longer journeys, it just uses the engine. In a lot of ways, it’s the best of both worlds.
A pure electric car is quiet, calm, and quick. If you are on a long journey the charging takes longer than visiting a petrol station, but if you have home charging, you wake up every morning to a full “tank”. Bear this in mind if you think a pure-electric car won’t work for you because you do a long trip a few times a year – the inconvenience of needing to stop for 30 minutes to rapid charge the battery is actually outweighed by the convenience of never having to visit a fuel station for the rest of the year. And pure electric gets ALL of the tax incentives. You don’t pay congestion charges, there’s no road tax, and a grant against the initial cost. And company car drivers will pay almost nothing in tax, which could save thousands every year.
A BMW with a plug brings serious tax savings for company car users
What about the cost?
One of the biggest issues with pure electric vehicles is that batteries are expensive, so pure electric cars and even the PHEV will be more costly to buy outright than their more traditional equivalents. But you may be able to claw a lot of that back with the lower running costs.
The PHEV is a good compromise, combining the convenience of a traditional car with some of the capability of a pure electric. If you plug one in regularly, you can seriously improve your efficiency without compromising convenience.
But as charging gets both faster and more convenient - and charging stations are popping up everywhere now - a pure EV is nicer to drive and better for the environment as a whole. Which means it is ultimately up to you. There is no definitive conclusion on which is best, so do the sums, analyse the driving you do and decide.
Whichever is best for for you, an electrified BMW opens the door to lower costs and driving pleasure