BMW’s eDrive Zones are geo-fencing for good

Published: 07 August 2020

► Uses geo-fencing tech and hybrid power
► Launches in London, Birmingham
► Standard in hybrids running 7.0 OS  

BMW has revealed a new geo-fencing tech for its hybrid cars, and it’s launching in the UK in London and Birmingham. Designed to reduce the carbon footprint of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in city centres, the new technology automatically switches compatible hybrids to electric-only power as the car enters an urban centre.

For London, that area covers the Transport for London (TFL) congestion charge and ULEZ zone, while in Birmingham hybrid BMWs will go electric-only in the forthcoming Clean Air Zone. The technology will be available to all PHEVs running BMW’s latest 7.0 OS, and displays the area on map and navigation screens. 

Right now, that means eDrive Zone tech is available as standard in the following cars: 

  • BMW 330e
  • BMW 530e
  • BMW 745e
  • BMW X5 xDrive45e

It’s coming to other cities in the UK and Ireland later.

BMW electric: the PHEVs and EVs explained

‘BMW eDrive Zones improve air quality in cities fast and reduce running costs for drivers,’ said Pieter Nota, BMW’s board member for customer, brands and sales. ‘It’s a win-win for everyone.’

It’s important to note that BMW is not actually technically first with this innovation. The Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid van already has the system, which automatically flicks to EV power when it apporaches low-emissions zones – and charges the battery in advance if it predicts more charge will be needed.

Does it work?

We’ve not tested BMW’s green geo-fencing tech yet, but Munich says the technology is already proving useful: an early trial in the Netherlands showed 90% of drivers completed inner-city journeys on EV-only power.  

But why?

eDrive Zones have an obvious social benefit, and a possible economic benefit if you somehow forget to switch over to Eco or EV-only mode whenever you enter town.

However, there’s no word on TFL or any other authorities acknowledging the benefit in the form of a congestion charge discount.

If and when that happens, eDrive Zones will be a killer app.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes.