The Tesla Model 3 electric car, which will supposedly launch in late 2017 with over 200 miles of driving range and an affordable $35,000 price tag, has been quite the sensation. Even without seeing its final design and specifications, over 300,000 people have already pre-ordered one.
Tesla insists that the model 3 will ship in 2017, but we have our doubts and wonder if waiting for one is prudent.
First, the Tesla Model 3 will be an entirely new car, and who knows what issues may occur when it hits the market. Also, even if you are on the waiting list, you may not get your car until 2018 or even 2019. If this causes you to pause and think, we have a very real alternative to the Model 3 that is available right now: the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid.
The 2016 BMW 330e is the plug-in hybrid version of the company’s best-selling product, the renowned 3-Series sport sedan. In the United States, the EPA rates it at 14 miles of electric range, with a total driving range of over 300 miles when running in gas-electric mode. The company says it obtains 31 mpg combined when operating as a conventional hybrid after the battery depletes, and a fine 72 MPGe when running on electricity alone. MPGe, or Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, is a measure of how far an electric vehicle can travel on the same amount of energy as is contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.
The best part about the 330e is that it is a hybrid and not a pure electric vehicle (EV) like the Tesla. It combines the best of both worlds, not to mention it’s affordable and fast. In fact, according to the car enthusiasts at Patrick BMW of Schaumburg, a local BMW dealer in Schaumburg, IL, the 330e is faster than the 328i gas-powered car.
Faster than the gasoline version, you ask? That’s because of the hybrid drivetrain. Some Hybrids are “electric powered automobiles with a small gasoline engine for backup.” Full hybrids can thus be run on electric power or on the gasoline power when necessary. The BMW 330e, however, has a large gasoline engine and both the gas and electric engines can power the vehicle at the same time. BMW’s standard 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 tuned to 180 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque is under the hood. The gas engine receives help from an electric motor that makes 87 hp, which raises the total output to 248 hp and 310 lb-ft combined. That’s the same horsepower rating as the 330i but significantly more torque, and much of it is available instantaneously!
As with other BMW hybrid models, the 330e comes with a number of fuel-saving features such as brake-energy recovery and automatic stop/start functions. The engineers at BMW have also designed certain components that operate only when conditions demand, such as the engine water pump.
Another fuel-saving feature is the Hybrid Coasting function that sets the gasoline engine back to idle when you back off the throttle and lightly touch the brakes.
So whats it like to drive a 330e? As soon as you start to move, it seems like a regular car but it is very, very quiet. If you proceed under modest throttle, the 330e will power itself for 14 miles purely under electric power. Soon thereafter, the 4 cylinder gas engine fires up and the car sounds a little more like a standard automobile. The fun part, however, is when you punch the accelerator and you are propelled by a combination of gasoline and electric power. Hold on!