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BMW’s future plug-in hybrids will automatically shift to EV mode in certain areas

It'll be a standard feature on PHEVs as of 2020.

BMW now plans to launch 25 electrified models by 2023, two years sooner than originally planned.


People already have enough stuff swimming around in their heads. Knowing the right time to engage their plug-in hybrid's electric stores adds yet another piece of tedium to a brain likely filled with it already. But BMW has a solution -- two solutions, actually.

BMW announced on Tuesday that its future plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will be capable of operating in specific "eDrive Zones." These zones are geofenced areas that, upon a vehicle reaching the border, will automatically switch the car's propulsion from hybrid mode to pure electric. This eliminates the need for a driver to manually change vehicle settings while driving. This feature will be standard in BMW PHEVs starting in 2020.

While that might seem odd in the US, it won't in Europe. Many municipalities are trying to find a way to reduce urban air pollution, and banning or otherwise heavily taxing combustion engines in specific locations is a solution that's increasing in popularity. If these zones were connected to geofences, BMW's PHEVs would be able to run in electric mode in these special areas. It could also work in a more generalized way, perhaps kicking a car to EV mode when it enters any city, as electric motors are far more efficient in city driving than on the highway.

BMW also came up with a gamification strategy for this kind of environmentally-woke driving. It's created a service called BMW Points. Here's how it works: Drivers get a certain number of points based on the distance their cars travel under electricity, with the hope of maximizing EV-mode driving and, by extension, environmental benefit. Those points can be turned into rewards like free charges on the Charge Now network or other products in BMW's mobility sphere, like parking or car-sharing. This system, too, will be live on BMW PHEVs starting in 2020.

The automaker already tried both of these schemes out in a pilot program in Rotterdam. About 50 PHEV drivers were given an app that mimicked the eDrive Zone geofence and monitored to see whether or not that changed drivers' habits. Another chunk of drivers had the same app, but it included an early version of BMW Points. According to the results, the PHEV owners used electric power for 90 percent of all suggested routes, proving that BMW's ideas had some legs. Clearly, the results justified the inclusion of these systems on upcoming plug-in hybrids.

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