German carmaker urges governments to 'prioritise' plug-in hybrid vehicles as it launches its urban emissions-saving software, as the UK gears up to include PHEVs in its ban on internal combustion engines by 2035
More than 10,000 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) manufactured by BMW will be able to automatically switch to battery power when they enter low emissions zones in London and Birmingham from today.
The German car giant announced that it has become the first manufacturer to launch global positioning satellite geo-fencing software, which allows drivers to immediately stop burning fossil fuels when cruising through a designated emissions zone.
"BMW eDrive Zones technology supports customers to drive emission free in London and Birmingham," said Pieter Nota, BMW AG board member for customer, brands, and sales. "It improves air quality in cities fast and reduces running costs for drivers. It's win-win for everyone."
BMW said that a 2018 trial of the 'geofencing' technology in Rotterdam generated "significant" reductions in tailpipe emissions from PHEVs, with 90 per cent of routes within the trial zone driven in electric-only mode.
The new feature will work when drivers enter London's Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) and the area in Birmingham earmarked to become a Clean Air Zone from next year.
PHEVs, which allow drivers to swap between petrol engines and battery-electric propulsion systems, remain contentious among environmentalists, who question the need for fossil-fuel powered engines at all given the sophistication, availability, and range of pure electric vehicles. Some studies have demonstrated that PHEVs are more polluting and fuel-intensive than lighter petrol vehicles when they are not regularly plugged in due to their heavy battery packs.
However, manufacturers maintain the technology can deliver net emissions savings, reduce air pollution, and provide a path for motorists to move towards embracing electric models without worrying about 'range anxiety'.
The UK government has included PHEVs in its plans to ban internal combustion engine cars by 2035 and this year scrapped the £3,500 plug-in car grant for hybrids, noting that some owners of the vehicles were "negating the environmental benefits" on offer and undermining the incentive scheme by not plugging their cars in.
But Nota stressed that PHEVs provided "flexibility" to customers as they made the transition towards electromobility. "A plug-in hybrid vehicle combines the best of two worlds: emissions-free city-driving as well as long-distance capabilities," he said.
He called on the government to take action to support PHEVs. "We urge governments to prioritise plug-in hybrid vehicles in order to encourage consumers to live a more sustainable lifestyle," he said.
The company stressed that one in five engines built at its engine manufacturing plant near Birmingham is destined for a PHEV, a figure set to rise to around 25 per cent next year.
BMW said that by 2030, it expects half its sales to be PHEVs and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), up from a quarter next year.
Global Briefing: Coronavirus crisis will have 'negligible' impact on emissions without green recovery, study warns
All the green business news from around the world this week
Deal to enable rollout of 100 EV charging hubs hailed as an example of 'private sector green recovery at its most promising'
The tech giant is looking to turn the Just Transition concept into a clean energy investment reality
Some of America's largest retailers have teamed up to help accelerate efforts to curb plastic bag waste