BMW hybrids will now automatically switch to EV mode in low-emissions zones

BMW plug-in hybrids are now able to automatically switch to electric-only drive when they enter certain low-emissions zones.

In a world first, the firm’s PHEV models use GPS geofencing to detect when they have entered an LEZ or ULEZ and can deactivate the combustion engine to allow zero-emissions travel in city centres.

The eDrive system can also conserve battery power for use in the LEZ portion of a journey if the route is programmed into the sat nav, ensuring it has enough to complete the route in EV mode.

In the UK, the system will initially work with London’s ULEZ and Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, due to start operation in 2021. The eDrive zones cover the same geographical area as the TfL and Birmingham City Council designated areas and are highlighted on the in-car sat nav screen. BMW says it will roll out the eDrive service to more cities in the UK and Ireland in the future. The system is already in operation in nearly 80 cities and regions in Europe.

The system shows the LEZ area on the sat nav and can automatically adjust the car's drive mode accordingly (Photo: BMW)

“This is the flexibility that customers want, as they make the transition to electromobility” said Pieter Nota, BMW AG board member for customer, brands and sales.

“A plug-in hybrid vehicle combines the best of two worlds: emission-free city-driving as well as long-distance capabilities. We urge governments to prioritise plug-in hybrid vehicles in order to encourage consumers to live a more sustainable lifestyle. BMW eDrive Zones technology supports customers to drive emission free in London and Birmingham. It improves air quality in cities fast and reduces running costs for drivers. It’s win-win for everyone.”

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The eDrive system is standard on BMW plug-in hybrid models running the latest BMW Operating System 7.0 and comes as standard on all new BMW 330e, BMW 530e, BMW 745e and BMW X5 xDrive45e. Over-the-air updates also allow existing owners of compatible vehicles to install and use the system.

Running in zero-emissions mode currently has no impact on whether a car is exempt from low-emissions zone charges, but BMW’s aim is to reduce the levels of urban air pollution by allowing its cars to run in electric-only mode. In a trial in Rotterdam in 2018, it found that 90 per cent of all routes within the trial zone were driven in electric-only mode.

BMW and its Mini sub-brand currently offer 14 electrified vehicles between them. This will be increased to a total of 25 electrified models on the road by the end of 2023, with more than half of those models fully electric. In Europe, the BMW Group expects that electrified vehicles will account for 25 per cent of sales by 2021, a third by 2025 and half by 2030.