I needed a family car, wanted an EV and had nowhere to charge, so…
If you have read my text about the quest to get my first electric car, you’ll remember the road was bumpy. My first options did not fit my needs and requirements. The ones that did tried to mislead me. Finally, my limited budget was king. This sums up why I ended up buying a BMW 225xe. Some months later, I cannot say I regret the decision – on the contrary.
The funny thing about it is that I never gave this car a thought. To be pretty honest, I always considered it as the least “BMWish” of all cars the German company ever sold. It originally is a front-wheel-drive vehicle. If that was not enough, it is a minivan. If I were to buy a family car from BMW, it would have been the 3 Series Touring. Yet, here I am.
I always liked the BMW i3, especially because it was conceived to be an electric car, but its trunk just couldn’t (can’t) carry all the stuff my family needs when traveling. That is also what killed any chances the Opel Ampera had in my list, as much as the lack of battery pack warranty.
Instead of searching for a specific EV, I gave car classified ad websites the chance to present me with new options. As long as they cost what I could pay and had a reasonable EV range, why not?
That was how the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer introduced itself as the best option. While I was trying to negotiate the Ioniq PHEV with three different Hyundai dealerships, I sent an email to one from BMW that was selling a white 225xe slightly above my financial limit.
Apart from the gorgeous landscapes and peaceful environment Portugal offers, it also has an intriguing characteristic I learned pretty quickly: the country works mostly by phone. It is very rare to have anyone replying to email messages immediately. If you get answers on the next day, consider yourself lucky. If you ever get any, it will be most likely after a week – or more.
The BMW dealer I contacted got in touch one day after I asked them about the car, which was in a nearby city called Aveiro. The salesman responsible for it told me the minivan had a price reduction that put it right within my reach, and the car would be sold under the Premium Selection warranty program.
BMW says the vehicles have to go through an extensive checking of many items to be part of that program. In other words, and although it was made in 2017, the 225xe was revised and under warranty until 2022. That was tempting: time to check its technical specifications.
The luggage compartment was large enough for everything I could have to carry, at 400 liters (14.1 cubic feet). The “x” means it is an AWD vehicle, with the electric motor powering the rear wheels – the right ones for a BMW.
The 2 Series Active Tourer went pretty well in the Euro NCAP and received five stars in safety – a top priority for me. The only issue was with the electric range: 41 km (25 miles), according to BMW press releases.
The German manufacturer improved the range to up top 53 km (33 miles) in August 2019. The problem is that newer BMW 225xe units are much more expensive – at least 50 percent more. I would probably have chosen another vehicle for that kind of money, such as the Kia Ceed SW PHEV, which presents more electric range and more room.
With the decision almost taken, I took my family to Aveiro to check the car and evaluate how much BMW would pay for my Renault Captur. The salesman managed to offer me a reasonable value for the SUV, and there was another plus: no-interest leasing conditions that would make buying the 225xe relatively easy. We had a deal.
It took me some weeks to finally get the car. When I did, it had very little fuel, even if fully charged. We went to a restaurant to celebrate, and it was at that point that I noticed the rear tires were different from the ones in the front axle. I hate having different tires in my cars, but that was on me: I should have checked them before making the deal. I would probably have managed to get the same ones in all wheels if I had negotiated that.
When I was almost back home, the battery was already depleted, and the fuel tank had only a few drops of gas. When I tried to fill it up again, I had my second surprise with the car: the fuel tank flap would not open.
I immediately called the salesman to see if I was doing anything wrong. I wasn’t: there’s a button on the driver door that you have to press to avoid static shocks and any fire risk in the fueling process. I should hear a click after about 30 seconds but nothing happened. It only opened when I pulled a string that is on the trunk to forcefully release it.
My idea after filling up the tank was to avoid visiting any fuel station anytime soon. Not only because of the fuel flap issue but also because I was going to use my car mostly in the city. Even in these short drives I often take, I noticed I had to control how often the combustion engine would jump in.
If you leave the car software to decide about that, it will turn the engine on whenever you take it to a long climb. BMW says it applies the most efficient sort of propulsion to any situation, but the truth is that it is always the electric motor, especially at speeds of no more than 60 km/h (40 mph). The truth is that the engine enters to make it seem the 225xe can travel further with its small battery pack. And the range estimate does not help.
As soon as I took delivery of my car, it showed only 25 km (15 miles) of range. The air-conditioning was always on, but I thought I could make that number improve by driving in the most energy-saving way I could imagine without blocking traffic lanes. It did not work.
Apart from not burning fuel, buying an electric car made sense to me because all my urban rides are relatively close to my house. With a regular car, its engine would work for less than ten minutes, which is equivalent to severe use: the oil does not lubricate all engine components properly, and it does not heat to the ideal working temperature, as well as the catalyzer. The direct consequence is an engine that lasts a lot less and emits a lot more.
I asked BMW what it advised me to do, as well as all my readers who also own the company’s PHEVs. Should they select the Max eDrive mode in short distances or still allow the car to choose the best option? The email message is with BMW’s PR department since November 5, and all I heard back was an automatic out of office reply – at least so far.
Although I do not have any power outlet in my garage, there are chargers that I can use whenever I have to drive. The hassle is having to deal with the heavy cable that comes with it. Not so much plugging it in and out, but actually making it fit under the luggage compartment floor over and over. It can be as embarrassing as it is annoying.
I have tried to install a power plug at my garage spot to make charging cheaper and slower. If I could put the car to charge when I arrive home, it would always be ready when I needed it. Apart from the more convenient process, it would also be cheaper.
Unfortunately, no electrician was interested in the job so far, even the ones I tried to contact on the phone. The professionals that gave me any sort of excuse said they would call back when they could work in my case – weeks ago. Most of them just ignored me. I fear I may have to do it myself or to move some place else to sort this out.
Although I have no intention to fill up my car’s fuel tank in the near future, I sent it to a dealership closer to where I live. Apart from fixing the fuel tank flap, I also wanted to check the range – and if the battery pack was ok. At the reception, I also saw a tire sale that could save me some euros to replace the tires in the back. I asked for an estimate.
Talking to other owners about the flap issue, I discovered it is something chronic on the 225xe, and it often demands a valve to the replaced. The i3 and the i8 apparently have the same problem.
When I first took it there, it was a Friday. The service adviser told me the car would not be ready on the same day and that I would not have it for the weekend. In other words, why not leave it there during the week?
By coincidence, Lexus had invited InsideEVs to review the UX 300e in Montijo and lent me a CT 200h to drive there on October 14, a Wednesday. I would keep the press vehicle until October 16. So I arranged to leave my 225xe for repairs while I was driving the Lexus.
Ironically, I only managed to pick it up the following Tuesday, on October 20. The dealer told me they did not have the valve that had to be replaced and had to wait for it. Although they had the tires, I never received any estimate for them. On the bright side, my range was now 38 km (24 miles), but the air-conditioning was turned off. Turn it on, and the range immediately drops quite a bit. Lesson learned.
I’m just at the beginning of my life with this EV, but I could not be happier. My kids love it and think Christmas was anticipated with all the lights the car has – even after crying buckets when I said I was selling the Captur. I also love the fact that I am not burning a drop of fuel most of the time.
Am I testing the car’s limits on corners or fast driving? Not a bit, especially because I do not think this thing was made for that. Have I tested how fast it can go? A few times on the road, but it was just to be sure about how it accelerates if I ever need it to. Finally, am I happy that it still has a combustion engine? No. And yes.
I am lucky to have chargers near me, but that is not something most Portuguese drivers can say. In fact, the ones that depend on the poor Portuguese charging infrastructure end up buying a Tesla, such as the guys from Watts On Wheels. In that sense, it is reassuring to know I can still drive if I do not find chargers around but manage to put some gas on the tank.
My plan is to eventually buy an all-electric vehicle, and the truth is that it does not depend on me. I am waiting for Ionity to arrive in Portugal. I am also watching closely what manufacturers are doing to improve EV adoption, and, so far, it is pretty disappointing. But we will all eventually have one if we want to keep driving.
The UK has recently shown this is an irreversible path, whether you like it or not. I happen to enjoy EVs, so I am among the lucky ones that will not cry in desperation or tear my clothes apart in the middle of the street when I have to give up my combustion engine. I am pretty fine with that. Just don’t ask me to give up on cars, especially my new one. Welcome to the family, 225xe.
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