With its eye-catching i3 hatchback and head-turning i8 supercar, BMW is at the cutting edge of electric car engineering.
So it was only a matter of time before the German car maker decided to slot its plug-in power units into more of its mainstream models.
The plug-in hybrid 330e is BMW’s first mainstream saloon in the UK to benefit from an eco-friendly makeover and what is most remarkable is how understated it appears.
At first glance the 330e could easily be mistaken for any petrol- or diesel-powered 3 Series. The only external clues to its green status are small eDrive badges and an extra filler flap in the nearside front wing for charging.
Inside, the sleek 330e is virtually impossible to distinguish from the raft of other 3 Series models – an eDrive button behind the gearshift and a small power gauge just below the rev counter are the only tell-tale signs that something special is happening under the bonnet.
The 330e combines a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an electric motor to deliver a combined 252 horsepower, with super-low emissions and fuel consumption, according to official figures, as low as 148mpg.
But more importantly, with a full charge in its batteries, the BMW will travel about 25 miles in zero emissions electric mode.
The price for this green glow is a loss of space in the boot to make way for the lithium-ion battery cells and a subsequent substantial increase in weight. The rear-wheel-drive car’s smooth poise is largely unaffected and only really poor roads expose the slight loss of feedback.
On the road, a touch of the dashboard starter button switches on the dashboard displays, press the accelerator and the car swishes silently forward.
With a full charge the 330e can travel on electric power for about 25 miles at speeds of up to 50mph. Go further or faster and the petrol engine joins in, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Standard specification is extensive and includes a sports multi-functional leather steering wheel with gearshift paddles, front and rear park distance control and BMW eDrive services, allowing the driver to access various features of the vehicle remotely.
In addition to this, the 330e features LED daytime running lights and LED rear lights with the option to upgrade to LED headlights. Business Navigation also comes as standard as does an extensive arrange of on-board technologies.
At more than £34,000, the 330e is clearly a pricey purchase, but for business users the car’s seven per cent benefit-in-kind rating might just be a factor to tip the balance.
The growth in electric cars in Oxford – home to the Mini and Plant Oxford where the majority of Minis are produced – is being boosted by £800,000 of government funding to trial different charging options, including rapid-charging hubs and Light & Charge technology from BMW – a smart LED street lamp which doubles up as an electric vehicle charging point.
Other suggestions being considered include access to bus lanes in city centres, up to 25,000 free parking spaces –which could save commuters as much as £1,300 a year, a large growth in charging stations and discounted leasing schemes.

Model: BMW 330e Sport Saloon
Price: £34,235
Insurance group: 31 (1-50)
Fuel consumption (Combined): 148.7mpg
Top speed: 140mph
Length: 463.3cm/182.4in
Width: 181.1cm/71.3in
Luggage capacity: 16.9 cu ft
Fuel tank capacity: Nine gallons/41 litres
CO2 emissions: 45g/km
Warranty: Three years/100,000 miles