EVIOM took one of BMW's PHEVs for a spin recently (that's Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle to you). This is one of the first of many Plug-in versions of BMWs range that you will see. This 2-series shares the same drivetrain concept as the i8 supercar except with a 1.5 litre three cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet and the electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack at the rear. The 134bhp ICE combines with the 87bhp (65KW, the same as a Renault Zoe) combine for a total of 221bhp and 285lb ft.

The 5.7KWh battery was low when I collect the car so on my first proper drive the battery was almost totally depleted, although it had enough to pull away and crawl through traffic without the engine running. When driving in pure EV mode and the engine does kick in for more acceleration or to help with a steep incline it's hardly noticeable. It's very smooth indeed. If you put your foot down the engine does kick in smoothly and build to a roar unfamiliar to someone who has been driving an EV for some time. One thing I did notice, as with any automatic petrol engined car, when you pull away there is a little bit of a delay or lag as you wait for the revs to build, which you don't have in an EV or with the Active Tourer in pure EV mode. One odd sensation is when you pull up the a junction and stop you feel the engine cut out (earlier than a ICE with stop/start) but you can still pull away on motor only.

Given that the motor in this car was only 65KW, the same as my Zoe, I thought in EV mode it would be somewhat sluggish due to the extra weight over the French hatchback. I was pleasantly surprised, however, how "nippy" the BMW felt away from the lights and around town. Something I put down to torque of the electric motor. In EV mode the car can be driven to over 70MPH with a real world range of 21 miles.

After driving around Douglas to get used to the car I headed over the mountain road to Ramsey. By this point the battery was very low again so the car needed the petrol engine to pull me up Brae Hill at 27MPH. I wanted to see how much charge I would get from the engine running up hill and the re-gen down to Royal Ramsey. I found that there were some spots where I was using a very light or neutral throttle but if I was driving an EV the car would be regenerating power. I didn't feel I was getting as much back into the battery as I would expect, the car needed the longer and steeper downhills to make best use of the kinetic energy. This meant I didn't get as much power back as I would had hoped and felt I was burning fuel just to keep the car at a constant speed on the level.

There are three drive modes of Sport, comfort, Eco Pro. In sport mode you get the full combined mode of the electric motor and petrol engine, Eco mode it limits the power and prefers battery power. Comfort mode gives the best balance between the two. I found Eco mode a bit sluggish and I'm never convinced how much more economical these modes are. I believe you can get just as good economy or even better by having a disciplined right foot.

I tried the next day to do my normal commute of around 13 miles in "Max eDrive" mode, EV mode. I was almost successful but the petrol engine did kick in to pull me up a hill above 50mph. Once the car has fired up it's engine it switches out of Max eDrive but once your are done with the engine it it shuts of. The car doesn't, however, turn back into an EV which would have been nice. Instead I had to manually select the mode again from the button juts obscured by the gear lever. I managed to gain 3% of the battery capacity on the longish downhill stretch but I would expect to get 3% of a much larger EV battery back. I would be nice to be able to turn the re-gen up a notch like you can in many EVs for steep hills. This commute registered 5.3m/KWh and 99.99mpg (above what it registers) 8 miles and 40% left in the battery after starting with 21 miles EV range.

Not that this isn't a good looking car but is design leans more towards the practical than the beautiful. For many people this would be a very practical car, the large boot hatch opens to reveal a gigantic aperture to load your  shopping, dogs, etc into. With no boot sill it's easy for the little mutts to jump in or for you to sit down and change those muddy boots under the cover of the boot lid. At the touch of a button the boot lowers and closes firmly. Its height also helps to load passengers. The look of the car is of a large SUV but it's by no means over sized externally while being roomy inside. There's no squeezing either an adult or a baby into a car seat.

As lover of pure EVs I wasn't totally ready to like this car. I have to admit, though, that it won me over. It does the EV thing very well (if only for a short distance) and the hybrid drive is almost seamless. I can see this car suiting those people who aren't ready to commit to a pure EV or the compromise that currently means. Until there are more EVs of this size, performance and range on the market the BMW 225xe Active Tourer is a good stepping stone while you wait to the car industry to catch up (with the likes of the Tesla Model X) and you get used to plugging your car in.

Thanks to Buchanan BMW for the loan of the BMW 225xe Active Tourer. For more information contact 01624 616161 or visit http://www.buchananbmw.co.uk/.

1

You may or may not be aware that Tesla Motors visited the Isle of Man recently to meet potential customers and offer test drives in a Model S P90D they brought with them. EVIOM managed to wangle a go.

Lets get the numbers out of the way first. Or rather the numbers and letters. The model we tested was the P90D, that's 'P' for Performance as this model has the more powerful motor in the rear. '90' denotes a battery capacity of 90KWh, it's the 85KWh model with an optional upgrade giving the car an increase in range of 6%. The 'D" means all-wheel drive, one motor in the front and one in the rear with no heavy drive-shaft between the two axles, this means the floor of the cabin is flat and there are no restriction of leg room.

Screenshot 2016-02-03 21.07.09The Model S comes in a range of versions from the rear-wheel drive 70 starting at £51,900 all the way to the P90D at £84,500. Both prices are before incentives such at the UK plug-in car grant if you are able to register the car in the UK rather than the Isle of Man. There are a range of additional options available such as Smart Air Suspension which automatically adjusts itself to the road surface and is location aware so can learn where your steep driveway is and raise the suspension for you. There is also the famous Autopilot feature which allows the Model S to automatically steer within its own lane, it has traffic-aware cruise control and will park for you as well. Our Model S had the acceleration choices of Sport and Insane mode allowing the car to accelerate from 0-60MPH in in just 3.1 seconds, the optional Ludicrous mode decreases this to 2.8 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 10.9 seconds. Not bad for a 7 seater luxury car. Range is the Tesla's other impressive number with NEDC claimed figures between 275 and 320 depending on the battery chosen. Take a look at the Tesla Motors website and build your own model S to the spec you want.

The numbers are all very impressive, whether they be prefixed with pound signs or suffixed with the letters M, P and H. But what Tesla Motors have built here is a high quality luxury car with superb ride quality, more technology that the space shuttle (maybe not a SpaceX rocket) and negligible running costs. One potential owner said he wouldn't be buying a Model S after all because of the price of electricity on the Isle of Man. This seems to be the most misinformed reason for not buying a Tesla, assuming you could afford the asking price, so I got out my calculator. If you charged the P90D at the peak rate electricity price of 16.25p per unit it would cost you £14.62 (plus VAT at 5%) to charge from totally flat to full and on that you could reasonably drive around 300 miles. If you can't afford that then you can't afford any car let alone a Tesla!

The car drives so smoothly whether you're in traffic, pootling around country lanes or exploring all that Insane mode has to offer. No matter how you are driving it there are no extra vibrations or noise, something that EV drivers are already accustomed to. The Tesla just turns this up to 11, or down from 11, erm... Throttle response is instant as there's no waiting for revs to build or for an automatic gearbox to decide what gear you should be in. I recently drove a Mercedes C class (hybrid) and was so annoyed by the throttle lag and noise from the engine when it finally decided to do what I told it to do. EVs have spoiled me on this front but this is the 21st century after all. Although all modern EVs have this instant torque and response you can use the Model S as you like without worrying about range due to the size of the battery.

The battery itself is an impressive piece of technology. You can charge the car from a  domestic 10 amp 3-pin socket, giving you a measly 7 miles per hour on charge, right up to the Tesla Supercharger which has a whacking great 120KW DC Screenshot 2016-02-03 21.21.10kick and will give you 170 miles range per half hour charge. The Tesla isn't picky when it comes to charging, the car has a type-2 7-pin socket with a range of standard and optional adaptors allowing you to take advantage of almost any kind of power socket such as an industrial 3-phase supply or a CHAdeMO DC rapid charger such as those found at UK motorway service stations and supplied by Ecotricity. Both the Tesla Superchargers and Ecotricty rapid chargers are free to use.

The interior of the car has everything you'd expect on a high-end luxury car, there's too much for me to list here. The most striking feature of the interior is the 17" touch screen which makes up the centre console.

From here you control most of the car's functions from media, navigation, phone, lights, ride height, regenerative braking and even check you calendar. It's quite an imposing console and I must admit that at first sight it gave the impression of a 60 inch TV in a bed sit. Once you realise that there are no other buttons or controls on the centre console it starts to look OK, much like that 60 inch TV over time. For the iPad generation its intuitive and responsive to use.

The Model S is far from being an everyman car, but this is precisely what it isn't trying to be. Tesla took a top down approach when building cars for the first time with the Roadster then the Model S and soon the Model X. If you were in the market for a high performance yet practical luxury car it would be ludicrous (no pun intended) not to go for the Model S. Just because you have the finances for a car like this doesn't mean you want to throw money away on services and fuel costs. Plus there's the superior feel and response of the electric drive train, once you've driven electric you won't want to go back to 19th century technology. I don't want to get into the debate on whether EVs are "green" but they are responsible for fewer harmful emissions in our towns and cities so that has to be a consideration too and that also means that the Model S is exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

I like what Tesla and their CEO Elon Musk have tried to do. They've aspired to create a new car company that doesn't follow the same tired road that the rest do and have forced the established car manufacturers into a position where they are playing catchup. Tesla have made their patents freely available to anyone to try to encourage others to start building credible EVs, it's amazing more haven't as yet. The Tesla model S isn't a car I can't afford to own myself but it's certainly one I aspire to own, that's got to be the mark of a great piece of design, engineering and not to mention marketing.

EVIOM would like to thank Tesla Motors for allowing us the test drive. Especially Jean-Luc and Wendy from Tesla Motors, Manchester South.