I think it'll be quite a while before full electric vehicles really become a common sight in the Philippines. Maybe in 5 years. Minimum.
The reason I think that isn't because the average customer doesn't want to drive electric. Actually, I think many do want to buy an electric vehicle, but the prices are way too high and charging stations are too few and far in between to be considered practical. Even with the new EV law, we don't see that changing.
That, however, isn't the case in the luxury sector.
If you've got the kind of money we all aspire to have, your lifestyle isn't really too bothered by issues regarding exchange rates, inflation, fuel prices, and so on and so forth. You can still live comfortably by the standards you've become accustomed to. What you can afford a few years ago, you can still afford now. That goes the same for your cars.
Truth be told, judging by the supercars and luxury cars that we typically see in places like Alabang, Wack-Wack, or any of the CBDs, the PHP 6.29 million introductory price for the pure electric BMW iX xDrive40 is actually quite reasonable. But the question is will it be worth it for you to do so?
If you're someone who's a fan of BMW's classic designs, then this might drive you a bit nuts. The iX gives me the impression that they started with the nostril grille (a fake one) and then grew a car around it. Actually, they grew an SUV around it (or SAV, in BMW speak) and a very big one at that. It's actually a bit bigger than the X5 based on the dimensions, even though it doesn't seem to be the case when you walk up to it.
Nevertheless, I think BMW is using the iX to break the mold even though they started with that modernized and supersized throwback of a faux grille. This looks more like a concept car than a production car, and that must have been what they were going for. They want the look of the SUV to appeal to a fashion-forward early adopter, not someone who's looking for the classic BMW elements with every model that wears that roundel on the hood. And speaking of the roundel, it's actually functional as it hides the washer fluid reservoir funnel.
The interior, however, is very Star Trek. And by that, I mean the series where the captain was Picard. The seats, controls, touch-sensitive buttons, and futuristic dashboard look like something out of the Enterprise D. The way the dashboard is canted looks really neat, especially with the way the curved panoramic display is mounted atop it. And speaking of display, there are actually two; one serves as an instrument cluster while the other is the multimedia system.
As alien and sci-fi as the interior may seem, there's a certain warmth about the cabin. If anything, it feels neat and welcoming with the way the controls have been devised, the way the seats hug the body, and how the selection of colors appeal to the eye. They spent time crafting this to be this inviting and not alienating, especially given the technology.
Even when you sit in the back, that seems to be the case. Granted, this isn't an X5 or 7-Series type of BMW vehicle as I think the owner probably won't be sitting here while a chauffeur takes care of the driving, but the rear seat is comfortable. The way the rear seats are scalloped makes it nice to sit in, even though the uncannily flat floor sans a transmission tunnel seems a bit strange.
If you look at the iX from the side with the doors open, you'll see why. There's actually quite a gap between the floor from the inside of the car to the lowest point of the floor underneath the vehicle. The reason for this big thick floor is because that's where all the batteries are. Some may wonder why there, and that's because it's the only place where they can put a big battery pack (it spans the floor of the cabin) without consuming cargo space in the back, and having it in the middle means they can manage the weight penalty on handling.
BMW doesn't actually recommend opening the hood of the iX, and that's why they made it a bit more complex than just pulling one lever that's easy to spot. Instead, they have two loops that you have to pull, but you have to fish around for them in the cabin.
Once you do get the hood open, then you'll see why: they didn't bother covering anything up. The engine bay is really just a lot of bare metal. They didn't bother painting the aluminum space frame structure that's under the hood, nor did they try to conceal the electronics under plastic. Instead, you see everything, which is so un-BMW and un-premium. But only by seeing the engineering bits can we understand what makes the car special. Actually, you can even see the bare carbon fiber that also makes up the structure by opening the doors.
Under the hood of the iX xDrive40, you'll spot the usual bits like a radiator, but one big difference versus a lot of other conventional ICE vehicles is the presence of a lot of orange hoses. Those denote the high voltage lines of the system; if we understand it correctly, the iX has a system voltage of 330V. The radiator is actually smaller than you would find in an ICE compartment, but the cooling demand of an EV isn't as high as internal combustion either.
But a peek under the hood only shows half of the drivetrain. There's one motor there, but the other motor is in the back. Yes, this is all-wheel drive, but there's no need for a drive shaft from front to back, which is why there's no transmission tunnel/hump in the cabin. Both motors combine for 326 horsepower and whiplash-inducing 630 newton-meters of torque. If you watch the video above, you'll see what that feels like.
The thing here is that the iX is not a hybrid. It's a BEV or battery electric vehicle. There is no engine to serve as a generator, meaning this is entirely dependent on an external charger. You can charge at home using the supplied mobile charger that basically looks like a large laptop adaptor. Given the capacity of the battery, they may as well say the charging time is forever, but it's useful if you're somewhere and you really need to plug in.
The other real option is to have a faster one installed in your garage; actually, companies now are starting to have these charging stations available for purchase with installation. This is actually the better option; a few hours to a full charge is better than forever. You can also use BMW's fast chargers at their dealership, but there are some commercial chargers now at some malls and service stations. Still, the chargers are too few and too far in between. Hopefully, that changes in the coming years with the new EV law, and since BMW and Petron are under the same conglomerate.
Once you do have a full charge, you can truly enjoy what the iX has to offer. BMW says the range is about 372 kilometers on a full charge, but that's not what I'm talking about. Electric motors have instant torque which means rapid acceleration. For a vehicle that weighs almost 2.5 tonnes, that is what you want, and the result is 100 km/h is dispatched from a standstill in 6.1 seconds. Believe me when I say you have to be careful how you step on the throttle because the vehicle behaves very differently from regular SUVs. You have to treat the pedal with the utmost respect.
The suspension leans towards the firm side of the spectrum; this is a BMW after all, and BMW prides itself on producing vehicles that handle better than any of its contemporaries. But there's a remarkable difference in how this iX feels when you take it around a few bends. The torque plays a major part, but also the steering which is very precise even when the vehicle is leaning. It's enjoyable, but in a different way versus other BMWs (especially the RWD ones) that you may have driven in the past.
But what I'm really enjoying is the refinement. EVs are super smooth because there's no reciprocating mass that results in vibrations that need to be canceled out or mitigated. There are no pistons, and nothing moving while at “idle” or in the ready state. It's also extremely quiet, so much so that BMW commissioned a composer to make a rather unique sound that their EVs would emit when being driven. His name is Hans Zimmer. You may have heard of him from movies such as The Lion King, Inception, Interstellar, and even The Dark Knight Trilogy.
More than anything though, what I truly appreciate is how the iX just naturally works. The xDrive40 is easy to drive, has a rather spacious interior, is comfortable, has a fantastic and crisp audio system, has seamless integration with any modern smartphone, isn't intimidating, and so on and so forth.
There are many criticisms that people tend to throw at EVs. One is the source of the energy; the iX may be zero emissions when driven, but the energy still comes from a coal-fired power plant if you're charging in Metro Manila. There are things like the use of materials not exactly considered eco-friendly, but BMW did try to make it more guilt-free by using things like recycled plastics and the like. But perhaps the biggest is that the range of EVs is tethered to the nearest charging station. That's something that will hopefully change soon.
There will likely be more, but honestly, I think it's a good step forward. If we're talking in car terms, the things I would change would be including more features that I would have considered expected in a vehicle such as this, particularly with advanced driver assistance systems. I mean, it's quite unusual to have this much technology but not adaptive cruise control. The other would be the recommendation not to fully charge the battery all the time for fear of reducing the battery life. This is the first EV I've driven where it was mentioned not to go 100% all the time.
As a concept, I think BMW made a good set of decisions to make the iX a proper representation of what the brand wants to achieve in the future. Make no mistake: the iX is only the start of BMW's EV revolution, and it is coming.
It is taking some time for the mass market brands and their customers to get into the EV wave. Hopefully, that changes sooner rather than later. Many are curious about EVs for their daily drive, but until prices become more reasonable, the luxury sector will be the green pasture for EVs... at least for now.