The future of mobility has come along way this year. It seems like forever and a day that manufacturers have been talking about electric-powered vehicles - especially in South Africa. This year though, we’re seeing more and more electric vehicles released into our market. Personally up until this launch, I’d never been behind the wheel of a full electric or EV vehicle. I was excited to see what the possible future of mobility looked like. I say “possible” and I’ll touch on that later in the article.
The New BMW IX3
The BMW X3 has been a staple in the BMW range for many years, and was among the first of it’s SUV vehicles. It represent’s a compact family SUV with boatloads of practically and comfort. It makes sense then that BMW introduce the EV powertrain into this model. Unlike other EV vehicles such as the flagship IX or Audi e-tron for example, the IX3 is very normal. To expand, BMW’s flagship IX is just shy of looking and feeling like a spaceship, the design is bold and futuristic. Whereas the new BMW IX3 looks pretty much identical to a combustion engine variant, both inside and out. This Is a good thing because it gives people familiarity. If you head to a BMW Dealership today, you’ll be able to jump inside a X3 20d, 30d, or IX3 and realise they’re the same vehicle, albeit with just different powertrains. At the end of the day, that’s all it is - just another option of powertrains. It’s nice to experience a normal EV vehicle and not something which is hugely futuristic and expensive.
How does BMW IX3 Drive?
It didn’t take much time behind the wheel of the IX3 to realise the benefits of driving an EV vehicle. We’re so overwhelmingly consumed with the negatives of electric range and infrastructure that sometimes we fail to see the positives. It’s effortlessly quiet snd somewhat peaceful. It feels like your slighty removed from the highly sensory experience of a combustion engine which produces so many different sounds and general noise. Even on Johannesberg highways, it was a rather relaxing drive. Who knows, maybe this will reduce road rage. Another major difference and the biggest technical differentiator between a combustion engine and an electric motor is the torque output. While an EV vehicle may not necessary output more torque, the torque it does produce is fairly instant. If you’ve never driven an EV, think of a golf buggy how quickly it gets going, it’s very similar experience in an EV just with more power and a much bigger vehicle. This results in a very “nippy” driving experience, a word usually reversed for small hatches and not a family SUV. I thoroughly enjoyed this because in a normal day to day commute, it makes the vehicle much easier to drive. With the instantaneous get up and go feeling of an EV, it’s much easier to get that gap in traffic, or to quickly overtake a vehicle - and I’m not referring to dangerous driving but rather “positive“ driving.
The IX3 provides the space, practically & technology of a normal X3, with the calming nature and quick of its feet electric powertrain, but will it suit your lifestyle? This moves me on to my next point, range.
BMW IX3 Range
But Sam, what about the range? How far can I go? What if I can’t find a charging point?
With the IX3 you’ll get an estimated 460km of range, and if you don’t drive like a tart, you’ll probably get close or even reach this. I think we forget at times, but 460km is a lot of driving. If you drive 100km per day you won’t have to charge for 4 days - but that’s not even the point. Unlike a combustion powered vehicle where you will fill your tank when it’s pretty much close to empty, with an EV, you’ll top it up as you go throughout the week. In the beginning, you might charge your EV every evening when you arrive home, which mean’s you’ll wake up with a full battery everyday. In the future, you might charge it while your at work, or at the shopping mall for a few hours. The idea is that your consistently topping up the battery as you go about your day-to-day life as they’re not designed to be run flat all the time.
Obviously, when it comes to long-distance driving you’ll need to stop and charge. This isn’t too problematic on a trip from say JHB - DBN, as you’ll charge halfway in Harrismith for a short period. A 150 Kw charger will provide 100km for every 10 minutes of charge. This infrastructure isn’t readily available yet but it is in the works. Under this premise, you’ll stop for 20 minutes and have topped up enough to comfortably make it to Durban in a IX3. A trip to Cape Town is another story which will be little more challenging right now. The BMW IX3 can support up to 200 KW of charging which will decrease charge times in the future.
BMW IX3 Pricing in South Africa.
The BMW IX3 starts at R1,290.000. In comparison, BMW’S X3 30D starts at R1,202.500. However it's worth noting that the IX3 comes standard with the M Sport package, which is roughly a R40k option on a X3 30D. So the difference between the two isn't staggering.
Should you buy a BMW IX3?
The answer to this question is majorly defined by your lifestyle. If you don’t do long distance driving and are using the vehicle for the day to day running around, the electric drivetrain will suit you down to the ground - and you’ll save a boatload in fuel. BMW offers free charging at all its dealers.
However if you’re frequently heading out on the open road and racking up the km’s, a combustion drivetrain might be the better bet. I mean, just imagine the nightmare that could be the N1 during December with everyone trying to charge their electric cars! This won’t be a problem in the near future, atleast...
Perhaps if you're a two car family, you may opt for one electric and one combustion powertrain. Then you'll have more flexibility if you do decide to head on the open road and rack up some considerable km's.
Is the future really electric?
On the surface you’d think the future is electric, but after some meaningful discussions with the BMW SA leadership seam, this night not be so true. You see, BMW are keeping their options open in terms of powertrains for the future and this shows through the currently available range. There are no plans to remove combustion engines in the BMW X3 range, for example and it seems BMW are rather giving the customer options and allowing them to choose which way they'd like to go. In Europe combustion engines are set to be phased about by 2035, this won’t fly in Africa though as you can probably imagine as we’re pretty delayed with most things, which gives brands here a little more flexibility.
Not only that, but would you invest everything you have into a future which isn't yet so certain? Hydrogen fuel cells are currently being tested, along with synthetic fuels as well. So while most brands are going electric for now, it may not be the preferred route in 5-10 years.
Even still, right now electric vehicles such as the IX3 offer a lot to the consumer in driving comfort and ease, fuel saving costs and doing your bit for the environment. If I was in the market for a BMW X3, I'd really consider going the electric route.