Electric BMWs: our guide to BMW EVs and hybrid PHEVs

Published: 21 August 2019

► Your guide to electric BMWs
► All the BMW EVs available 
► Current models and future ones 

BMW is one of the pioneers of electric cars and was the first premium brand to muscle into the battery-powered sector with its groundbreaking i3 and i8 plug-in cars back in 2013 (see above). It's used this experience to good effect, perfecting its electric vehicles (EVs) and broadening their appeal by electrifying more and more of the mainstream cars to give it one of the largest plug-in ranges on sale today.

In this handy guide, we talk you through all the different electric BMWs - explaining today's range and revealing which battery-powered models are waiting in the wings.

So which electric BMWs can I buy today?

The full range of electric and hybrid BMW cars

BMW sells a wide range of electrified cars today (see the 2019 range above), but only one of them is a full EV. That means fully battery-powered with not a combustion engine in sight - and it's the BMW i3. When that car was launched back in 2014, it was available as a plug-in hybrid range-extender with a small petrol engine to get you home if you ran out of charge, or as a pure EV. 

The range-extender was scrapped in 2017, as battery tech advanced to the point at which the range was deemed long enough not to need a get-you-home-in-an-emergency petrol engine. So all new i3s sold in 2019 are fully electric (although you might find a secondhand i3 REX, or range-extender, advertised in the classifieds).

All other BMW electric cars today are hybridised in some shape or other. If you want more choice of e-BMWs, you won't have long to wait - there are more battery-powered models in the pipeline and we detail them all below.

Full BMW EVs: the i3

BMW i3: the first all-electric BMW

The BMW i3 is a small but tall supermini that is incredibly advanced for a vehicle of this type. Its special 'i' badge denotes it's one of the advanced pioneering cars from Munich's Project i division. 

That's why it features a carbonfibre tub and composite body panels. The interior, too, is unlike any other BMW's in the range - with a cool, decluttered ambience and some lovely, eco-friendly materials. It should be pointed out that this is also why BMW i3 prices are so high, starting at around £35,000.

CAR magazine lives with a BMW i3 REX: don't miss our long-term test

The BMW i8 electric sports car

BMW i8 electric car: specs, prices and tech

The i3's cooler, sportier sibling is the i8 - but this is not a full electric car. The BMW i8 costs from around £115,000 and is therefore competing with top-end supercars and sports cars such as the hybridised Honda NSX. It's a complete techfest.

Dramatic styling is wrapped around a cutting-edge powertrain, which mixes a tiny, shrunken three-cylinder petrol engine and powerful electric motors. The i8's electronic brain is constantly juggling the power sources, leaving the driver free to enjoy driving this lightning quick, part-electric sports car. It's as much fun as you might expect. 

CAR magazine lives with a BMW i8

Other electric BMWs

The i3 and i8 are the poster children of the battery BMW line-up, but the tech from these two pioneers has stretched across much of the range. Many model line-ups now include an electric option, but all the mainstream models are hybridised, not fully electric.

Think of them as stepping-stone products. BMW itself, its customers and the wider world are simply not yet ready for full electrification at scale - gradually electrifying its range is how Munich, and many other car makers, will slowly shift its buyers into cleaner, quieter cars.

Read on for our guide to the best electrified mainstream BMWs.

Electric BMW SUV

BMW electric SUV: the X5 xDrive45e is a plug-in hybrid capable of driving 54 miles on battery power

The range of BMW SUVs are sold under the X banner - and not every model range has an electrified option. But you can buy a BMW X5 plug-in hybrid: the X5 xDrive45e mixes a 282bhp petrol engine with a 112bhp electric drivetrain. Result? A silent electric range of up to 54 miles and CO2 emissions on the WLTP standard as low as 39g/km. That's not bad for a whopping great big premium SUV.

Electric BMW 1-series

No electric 1-series variants have been launched in the very latest model range, but we know there will be battery-powered Ones coming soon. Sharing its front-wheel drive componentry with the 2-series (which already has a plug-in hybrid variant) means a PHEV 1-series is a dead cert. We'll update this page when it's official.

Electric BMW 2-series

The latest 2-series range has plug-in models available the mini-MPV Active Tourer family. The 225xe plug-in hybrid (PHEV) allows silent running around town, but there's a back-up petrol engine to keep you going on longer runs. It uses the same three-cylinder engine as the 218i, but cuts CO2 emissions by a third thanks to the electric boost, while the 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in just 6.7sec (two-and-a-half seconds quicker), displaying the benefit of having a PHEV.

BMW 225xe review

Electric BMW 3-series

The Three is the biggest-selling BMW range, so it's no surprise that the latest 3-series range has a plug-in hero: the 330e. We've driven the new 2019 model and tested its claimed 50% longer electric range from the 2.0-litre petrol engine/electric motor combo neatly integrated into the eight-speed Steptronic transmission. Performance is impressive, squirting past slower traffic in overtakes on a country road or pootling around silently around town. BMW claims 0-62mph in just 5.9sec and it feels just as fast.

BMW 330e review

Electric BMW 4-series

There is no electric 4-series yet - but the new Four is due in winter 2019, so watch this space for a likely 430e plug-in variant.

Electric BMW 5-series

BMW 5-series plug-in hybrid

Check out the 530e plug-in hybrid 5-series (above), if you want an executive saloon capable of running on whisper-quiet e-power around town. It take the 520i's 2.0-litre petrol turbo four-cylinder, developing 182bhp and augmented by a 9.2kWh battery pack. As with all plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), BMW claims quite outlandish economy figures (128mpg) which you'll struggle to match in real-world driving. But make sure you plug in overnight and you should be able to do 29 miles on electric range.

BMW 530e review

Electric BMW 7-series

Even the biggest BMWs come with an electric option: the 745e mixes a combined 389bhp power output with a 29-31-mile electric range and CO2 emissions as low as 48g/km. Like all plug-in BMWs, it's devastatingly attractive to company car buyers and should chop a good chunk off your tax bills. But performance is strong, too - with a 282bhp petrol six-cylinder engine and 111bhp electric motor working in tandem.

Electric BMW 8-series

There is no electrified Eight available yet, but it can only be a matter of time...

Read our BMW 8-series long-term test here

Electric BMW motorcycle

Munich specialises in two-wheeled bikes just as much as four-wheeled cars, so it should come as no surprise that the C Evolution family of electric scooters are available today and quite a common site in some parts of London. High prices can put people off, with costs starting at £14,035 for a brand new one.

Future electric BMWs

BMW iNext: a concept car look at the future electric SUV

With quite a spread of hybridised and electric BMWs already on sale, it's only a matter of time before more pure EVs are unveiled in Munich. The bespoke i brand will expand and we've already been reporting on the new i4 coupe (think 4-series sized) and all-electric SUV that's waiting in the wings, badged iX5.

As you can see, the pace of change is hotting up at Munich. The future's bright, they say. The future's electric...

Further electric reading

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