The second member of BMW's petrol-electric family to make its appearance locally, the ActiveHybrid 3, will be released in South Africa in November 2012.
Using the same 225kW, three-litre TwinPower turbosix as its 5 Series sibling, combined with specially developed electronics, an eight-speed automatic hybrid transmission and intelligent energy management, it promises a combined total of 250kW for a sparkling 0-100km/h spring time of 5.3 seconds (top speed, as always, is electronically limited to 250km/h) at a cost of 5.9 litres per 100km and 139g/km of CO2.
BMW also says it will operate in battery-only mode at up to 75km/h, for up to four kilometres - although not both at the same time!
Visually, the Electric Three is distinguished by “ActiveHybrid 3” lettering on the C pillars, door sill strips and boot lid, an aluminium plate on the gearshift lever knob with the same logo, a special engine cover, matte-chromed exhaust tailpipes, satin-finish window surrounds, high-gloss shadow features in the side graphics.
Special 18” Streamline light-alloy rims are available as an extra-cost option.
The familiar straight-six engine (it's been Engine of the Year twice already) is rated in this application for 225kW at 5800 revs and 400Nm from 1200-5000rpm.
The 40kW synchronous electric motor is built into the housing of the eight-speed auto transmission, roughly taking the place of a conventional torque converter, and is connected to the transmission by a clutch. Its operating temperature is controlled by the cooling system of the petrol engine.
Like all electric motors, it produces maximum torque - 210Nm - at zero revs. It can either power the ActiveHybrid 3 silently around town or provide a performance-boosting function for more powerful acceleration.
A 96-cell, high-voltage, 675Wh lithium-ion battery developed specifically for the ActiveHybrid 3, encased in a special high-strength housing and cooled by the car's air-conditioning system, is mounted under the floor of the boot, between the rear wheel-arches, reducing the volume of the boot from the 480 litres of the standard 3 Series to 380.
In addition to its conventional 14V electrical system, the ActiveHybrid 3 also has a 317V high voltage system. The two systems are linked by a transformer to ensure that there's always power available for the car's systems - except for the electric motor and the aircon, which are powered solely by the big high-voltage battery so that they can be used when the petrol engine is stopped, i.e. when the car is operating in battery mode, coasting or standing in traffic.
Standard kit includes a dual-zone climate control system with stationary air conditioning (that means you can switch it on remotely to cool the car before you get in), a wide range of driver assistance systems and BMW ConnectedDrive mobility services, as well as virtually all the other optional extras available for the conventional 3 Series sedan.
Pricing will be confirmed shortly before the ActiveHybrid 3 goes on sale in November.