BMW introduces ‘eDrive’ zero-emission zones in Ireland

Dublin and Limerick get the first zero-emissions zones for BMW PHEVs


BMW Ireland is rolling out its geofencing “eDrive Zones” technology for its fleet of plugin-hybrid cars, starting with areas of Dublin and Limerick.

The idea behind eDrive Zones is to counter the criticism of plugin-hybrids – that they are bought for their tax efficiency but then rarely, if ever in some cases, actually charged up and driven in electric mode. The problem then is that, thanks to their extra weight, plugin-hybrids are often less efficient overall than a simpler cheaper petrol or diesel car.

So BMW wants to encourage its customers to make full use of its car’s part-electric power. As long as the car in question is part of the BMW PHEV range, and is using the BMW Operating System 7 software, it will automatically switch to all-electric power when it enters an eDrive Zone.

That assumes, of course, that there is sufficient charge in the battery to do so, but the software can help manage that too. Enter a destination into the car’s sat-nav, and if the route includes an eDrive Zone the hybrid system will automatically save sufficient battery charge to make sure you can enter and cross the zone under zero-emissions power.

Such eDrive Zones have already been in use across Europe, and now they have come to Ireland. eDrive Zones in Dublin and Limerick are already active. Cork and Galway are next on BMW’s list.

“This is the type of flexibility that customers want as they make the transition to electromobility” said Kevin Davidson, managing director of BMW Group Ireland, commenting on the launch of BMW eDrive Zones.

“A plug-in hybrid vehicle combines the best of two worlds: emission-free city-driving as well as long-distance capabilities. We urge the Irish Government to prioritise plug-in hybrid vehicles in order to achieve the shared objective of reducing CO2 emissions. This technology will help improve air quality in cities around Ireland and also reduces running costs for drivers. It’s win-win for everyone.”

Will that be enough to deflect criticism away from PHEV models?

One environmental organisation, the Transport & Environment think-tank (T&E), describes them as “fake electric cars”.

Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles manager at T&E, told The Irish Times: “Europe’s CO2 limits for cars could be a breakthrough for e-mobility, but regulators still have a lot of work to do. National governments should limit incentives to zero-emission and long-range plug-in hybrid cars only. Otherwise carmakers may go down the road of least resistance and comply with fake ‘electric’ cars that never get charged and spew out as much CO2 as big SUVs.”

As long as the car is part of the BMW PHEV range and is using the BMW Operating System 7 software it will automatically switch to all-electric power when it enters an eDrive Zone
As long as the car is part of the BMW PHEV range and is using the BMW Operating System 7 software it will automatically switch to all-electric power when it enters an eDrive Zone

BMW points out that some of its PHEV models have one-charge electric ranges of as much as 88km, and that “plug-in hybrid models are perfectly suited to urban and city driving by completing most commutes with pure-electric power ”.

“The significant contribution plug-in hybrid vehicles can make to reducing tailpipe emissions in cities was demonstrated in an early trial of this technology, carried out in the Netherlands in 2018. Results of this research project showed 90 per cent of all routes within the trial zone in Rotterdam were driven in electric-only mode.”

Part of the problem is that the electric use of a PHEV is entirely in the hands of the owner. A fully-electric car has to be charged up, or it’s simply not going to move, but if a PHEV owner is feeling a bit lazy they might choose to just fire up the petrol engine and drive around on that. The automation of electric power as a car crossed into an eDrive Zone might help, but BMW has some other incentives on offer.

Those incentives take the shape of BMW Points, a loyalty programme where drivers are rewarded for covering more kilometres under electric power. The scheme has already been launched in the UK and is coming to Ireland soon.

BMW will offer drivers two points for every 1.6km driven on electric power (or per mile, if you’re being old-school about it) and four points for every 1.6km driven on electric power in an eDrive Zone.

Once you’ve collected 3,200 points you get a voucher which will pay for some public charging. More vouchers are on offer when you hit 7,500 points, and again at 14,000 points.

Charge your car on a charger compatible with the BMW Charging network – there are more than 500,000 around the world – and you’ll get 20 bonus points for a 15-minute charge, and 500 points for 20 such charge-ups in a month. The car will automatically record your electric-only driving and score your points for you once you’ve opted into the service.

The eDrive Zone software is fitted to the BMW 330e, BMW 530e, BMW 545e, BMW 745e, BMW X3 30e (produced from August 2021) and BMW X5 45e.