E-discovery tour: we drove the new BMW 530e iPerformance, and tested the Shuffle recharging point of outdoor lighting specialist Schréder.

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E-power in synergy: The BMW 530e  iPerformance parked in front of the Schréder R&D centre in Liège.

E-mobility is set to conquer our (mega)cities, and car manufacturers are revamping their model range to prepare for the electric age. BMW is indeed also at the forefront of this development with it’s I-drive range, and also with the plug-in hybrid iPerformance models, which combine combustion engines with electric power. The latest 5-series comes now with a 530e iPerformance, and we were keen to drive it.

But that is not all. The dynamic PR people of BMW Belux Group decided to combine the presentation of the 530i Performance with a visit to the Belgian R & D Centre of Schréder in Liège, where we could see how the cars were charged by their clever 11 or 22kW electric vehicle (EV) charger, incorporated in the multi-functional Shuffle streetlight column, of which more here below.

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Your servant pulling out the socket at the Schréder “Shuffle” modular lighting/recharging pole… 

Got curious? Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Schréder “Shuffle”, an intelligent charger…

Indeed, the idea is simple: there is a plethora of electric light poles installed along roads and public places in many European countries, so why not use them too as EV charging points?

So the people of Schréder decided to equip their multi-functional “Shuffle” column with it. This column is essentially modular, and can contain several “modules”, besides (LED) light, namely security cameras, loudspeakers, WiFi and then the EV charger.

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For the EV charger, user access and billing of the energy consumed is managed by an authentication process that operates with a swipe card or a QR code reader. So car manufacturers can incorporate their customer tailored services with dedicated (swipe) cards for example.

To demonstrate the full potential of this multi-functional tool, Schréder has installed a series of Shuffle columns incorporating all of the different services that if offers, outside its R&D Centre in Liège, Belgium. Clever, as more than 500 customers from all over the world – including architects, engineers, real estate investors and local authorities – visit the centre every year. We did too, and your servant had a long and interesting conversation with Schréder Market Segment Manager Mischa Quinton, about all (charging) aspects of e-mobility and its further development into the future. We look forward to a further exchange of ideas and report you about it!

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BMW creates a masterful combination of e-mobility and performance

Indeed, BMW is at the forefront of electric propulsion, but never forgets its thoroughbred performance-oriented pedigree and ancestry. And just a few weeks after the latest generation of the BMW 5 Series was launched, a plug-in hybrid variant is now introduced.

Officially, this sporty sedan chalks up some stunning consumption figures, namely a fuel consumption of 1.9 l/100 km, which equates to CO2 emissions of just 44 g/km.To be honest, we clocked during our test drive some 4,5 liters/100 km, which is still very creditable indeed for such a powerful and sizeable plug-in hybrid sedan. It has to be admitted here that we selected during our first drive the different available eDrive modes (of which more later), which impairs of course the ideal consumption conditions.

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The massive power delivery truly impresses, and warrants indeed undiluted driving pleasure, or “Freude am Fahren.” The BMW eDrive system’s electric motor has an output of 83 kW/113 hp and places maximum torque of 250 Nm (184 lb-ft) on tap, while the state of the art four-cylinder combustion engine with its 2.0-litre displacement generates 135 kW/184 hp and 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque. The overall system output of 185 kW/252 hp and combined peak torque of 420 Nm (310 lb-ft) propel the BMW 530e iPerformance from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.2 seconds and enable it to reach a top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph).

The charm lies here in the supersmooth and effortless way this performance is achieved. Just put your foot down, and with whispering silence, this BMW sets to work.

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The electric motor and combustion engine direct their power to the sedan’s rear wheels via the standard eight-speed Steptronic transmission. Positioning the electric motor upstream from the transmission allows the transmission’s ratios to be used in all-electric mode too. This dispenses with the need for a torque converter, saving weight and further enhancing efficiency. It is all honed to such perfection that one has to drive this BMW to experience this and be amazed by it.

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Instrumentation is somewhat different, instead of the rev counter, the driver is informed about power status and selected eDrive mode

State of the art battery pack…

The high-voltage battery pack consisting of lithium-ion cells with a total capacity of 9.2 kWh has been placed in a space-saving location underneath the rear seat and includes efficient refrigerant cooling with a highly integrated low-temperature circuit. Thanks to the battery’s neat installation, the BMW 530e iPerformance offers 410 litres of boot capacity and a flat load compartment floor. The highvoltage battery of the BMW 530e iPerformance can be fully charged in under five hours from a standard domestic power socket and in under three hours if it is hooked up to a BMW i Wallbox (3.7 kW charging capacity).

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Few telltales to distinguish the e-version: Blue BMW emblems on the wheel hubs…

When connected to the Shuffle Column, with its higher power, charging times are even shorter.

Wireless charging in the future…

In addition, BMW Wireless Charging for the high-voltage battery will be made available as an option for the BMW 530e iPerformance from 2018. This technology allows energy transfer to take place without the use of cables. Presented by BMW in prototype form, the system consists of a base pad with integrated primary coil – which can be installed in a garage, for example, but also in the open – and a secondary coil integrated in the underside of the vehicle. An alternating magnetic field is generated between the two coils, through which electricity is transmitted without cables or contacts at a charge rate of up to 3.2 kW. This form of power supply to the high-voltage battery is extremely convenient for customers and involves a charging time of around three-and-ahalf hours.

Discreet on the outside…

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Blue kidney grille slats, blue wheel hub covers, the charging socket located between the front wheel arch and the A-pillar on the driver’s side, the “eDrive” emblems on the C-pillars and, of course, the “530e” badge on the boot lid are the most noticeable identifying features of the plug-in hybrid variant. When passengers open the doors, they see illuminated sill panels bearing “eDrive” lettering and an interior that mirrors the sporty elegance of the exterior design, just as it does on all variants of the business sedan.

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The BMW 530e iPerformance additionally comes with an eDrive button on the centre console, along with specially designed displays for both the instrument cluster in front of the driver and the central information screen. The dials and round instruments are well styled and clear to read, and breathe the unmistakable BMW design tradition. We liked them very much.

The wonders of BMW eDrive…

As well as the Driving Experience Control switch, with its SPORT, COMFORT and ECO PRO settings, drivers will also find an eDrive button at their disposal, which lets them tailor the BMW eDrive system’s operation even more precisely to the journey ahead through three driving modes: AUTO eDRIVE, MAX eDRIVE and BATTERY CONTROL.

AUTO eDRIVE ensures that the engine and electric motor interact to optimum effect in all driving situations and allows an all-electric top speed of 90 km/h (56 mph). This mode is automatically activated as the default setting every time the vehicle is started. In this mode, one is amazed to feel virtually nothing of this interaction, and one is very hard put to notice any difference or transition jolt when the car changes from e-power to engine power.

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When MAX eDRIVE mode is selected, the BMW 530e iPerformance drives on electric power alone. To do so, it uses the electric drive’s full power and can attain a maximum speed of 140 km/h (87 mph). However, if the accelerator is pressed through to kickdown the engine will cut in, which is handy should an extra boost of power be desired – when overtaking, for example. This mode is meant to be used at slower urban speeds, with faster city boulevards thrown in, as battery power reserves quickly deplete.

BATTERY CONTROL mode lets the driver set the charge level for the high voltage battery manually. The target value can be adjusted to between 30 and 100 per cent of maximum charge, allowing that proportion of the battery’s capacity to be reserved for all-electric driving at a later point in the journey.

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The test drive took us from Liège over both scenic roads and motorway stretches to Theux and back…

The intelligent battery management of the BMW 530e iPerformance either keeps the high-voltage battery’s charge constant at the selected level or increases it to the pre-set value, with the electric motor acting as a generator. In this way, BATTERY CONTROL mode makes it possible to conserve or even increase the reserves of electric power while travelling on the motorway, for example, in order to ensure that an upcoming section through an urban area can be covered with zero local emissions. Soo clever!

This 530i is now the sixth BMW model to carry the iPerformance badge, and formidable it is. A short test drive truly convinced us. We are of course keen to lay our hands on one for a longer test drive…keep posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel