Some parts of central London require drivers to pay a congestion fee and, if their vehicles are not efficient, an additional charge for emissions. Plug-in hybrids can beat the emissions tax thanks to their ability to drive on electricity alone, and now, BMW's making it even easier for its PHEVs to be efficient when it matters most.
BMW announced on Friday that it has launched BMW eDrive Zones in both London and Birmingham, England. Vehicles capable of this feature will use their onboard GPS to determine their location and, when the time is right, automatically engage electric-only propulsion in low-emission zones. The only kicker is that owners have to plug a destination into the navigation system for the eDrive Zone switching to be enabled.
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This isn't complicated technology to implement. On BMW's side, the automaker just needs to add a list of locations to the geofence that kicks the powertrain into EV mode. The eDrive Zones service comes standard on all BMW plug-in hybrids running the latest version of its infotainment software (7.0), which includes the 330e, 530e, 745e and X5 xDrive45e. Other new PHEVs will pick this up going forward, and compatible vehicles that have already been sold can receive this capability by a free over-the-air software update.
Considering BMW's plans, that means a whole bunch of cars could be running eDrive Zones in the future. Right now, BMW Group (including Mini) offers 14 different electrified vehicles, with that number set to grow to 25 by the end of 2023, a majority of which will be pure battery-electric models. Of course, eDrive Zones won't mean much when a car is running on electricity literally all the time, but for European plug-in hybrids, it'll be an important little piece of kit.
While the program is currently only running in these two locations, it will likely expand in the future. In fact, Birmingham's low-emission zone isn't even up and running yet, with an implementation due in 2021. Other European cities have looked at similar measures for reducing overall emissions in tightly packed areas, which will benefit not only the air quality, but the resulting health of those living in and commuting through these areas. As more zones get implemented, it's likely that BMW will continue to expand its eDrive Zones to match.