Is Plug-in Hybrid Technology The Near Future Solution Or Just An Awkward Stepping Stone?

New BMW plug-in hybrids are coming in 2020

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BMW has unleashed a new range of plug-in hybrids.

The BMW 7 Series, X3 and X5 have all been recently redesigned, and with the new generations comes new plug-in hybrid models. Cars like the 2020 BMW 745e xDrive, X3 xDrive30e and X5 xDrive45e expand BMW’s electrified range beyond the previous generations and the brand’s “i” models including the i3 and i8. But is this technology really the future, or is it just a stepping stone to BMW’s upcoming all-electric models? BMW invited us to South Carolina, and TFL’s Tomas Mica takes a look at these three models in the video above.

2020 BMW 745e xDrive
2020 BMW 745e xDrive. [Photos: TFLcar]

BMW’s plug-in hybrids by the numbers

The 2020 BMW 745e xDrive offers a 3.0-liter straight-six engine coupled with an electric motor and 10.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, the engine and electric motor put out 389 horsepower, and should deliver a 56 MPGe combined rating, according to the EPA. However, there are a few drawbacks to the hybrid 7 Series. While it has improved on the old 2.0-liter turbo version, it still has a small relative range thanks to its 12.1 gallon fuel tank. The standard 740i xDrive has a 20 gallon fuel tank, allowing for much longer range. With just 16 miles on tap with a fully charged battery, its all-electric range isn’t entirely brilliant either, although it may be enough for shorter commutes.

On the other hand, the BMW X5 xDrive45e has a much larger battery pack than its sedan cousin. Here, we have a 24-kWh battery pack, which is a substantial upgrade on the old X5 plug-in hybrid model. Official EPA figures aren’t out just yet, but BMW says it should manage around 25 miles on a full charge. What’s more, its larger fuel tank allows for much more substantial range. This time around, you get 394 horsepower and over 400 lb-ft of torque, as well as more than 500 miles of total range on a full tank of fuel.

The X3 xDrive30e is set to go on sale in early 2020, and uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor, like its 330e sedan sibling. This one uses the smaller 12-kWh battery pack like the 7 Series, which should help a bit when it comes to fuel economy. No official EPA ratings are available for the plug-in hybrid yet, but we should have more on that in the coming weeks.

A stepping stone?

For those not ready to jump to full-electric cars, is the plug-in hybrid a good stepping stone? It does offer the zero-emissions driving opportunity without the range anxiety, and helps with fuel efficiency on the gasoline engine. On the other hand, it does not offer the same sort of range as an electric car, and still largely depends on the internal combustion engine to work.

Whatever you may think of the technology, BMW continues to expand its range with new electrified models. The brand is also working on all-electric models based around the iNext concept. We’ll see more on those in the coming months, so stay tuned!