Politicians and government officials will be silently transported about in new electric BMWs from the middle of next year following a decision by COMCAR to replace its internal-combustion fleet.
The new BMW iX40 and iX50 SUVs will take over official government driving duties from the diesel-powered BMW 6-Series GT models as they end their three-year leases.
There’s no dollar figure on the deal yet, but it’s said to make good on a commitment by the Federal Government for 75 per cent of its new vehicle orders to be low-emission by 2025.
Based on Dairy Road in Canberra, the Department of Finance’s COMCAR fleet provides car-with-driver transport services for parliamentarians, the Governor-General, the federal judiciary and international guests of government.
It’s also available to parliamentary secretaries and shadow ministers for their personal safety when their private-plated vehicle or private vehicle can’t “reasonably” be used.
The current fleet consists of 92 BMW 620d sedans and 45 Toyota Camry Hybrid sedans. It dates back to 2020 when long-time COMCAR favourite, the Holden Caprice sedan, was retired to save taxpayers $100,000 each year with more “environmentally-friendly” options.
Prices for the new BMW iX40 start from $135,900 and the iX50, with a bigger battery, from $180,400. It’s a model that’s already been chosen for official duties within the NSW Police Force, with an iX40 joining the Highway Patrol team earlier in May 2023.
In COMCAR’s case, the iX was whittled down from an initial list of 40 cars and then 14 for “preliminary physical assessment”.
Under the Commonwealth Fleet Vehicle Selection Policy, the new fleet was to comprise low and zero-emission vehicles, score a five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) safety rating and meet “minimum fit-for-purpose requirements”.
Only nine cars reached the final stage – test drives in off-road and on-road conditions. In addition to the BMW models, these included the Polestar 2, Genesis GV60, Genesis GV70, Kia EV6, Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model Y and Hyundai IONIQ 5.
In a statement, COMCAR said it considered “battery consumption, charging capability, vehicle handling, manoeuvrability and performance in a variety of traffic conditions, driver and passenger comfort, ease of access for passengers, luggage space and potential integration with the COMCAR Automated Resource System (CARS)”.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet also provided input.
Ultimately, the iX40 was identified as the “only vehicle that is suitable for all aspects of COMCAR’s operations”. The iX50, with its 550 km of estimated driving range, was chosen to help in “long-range driving conditions”.
The cars “will initially cost more” than petrol or diesel equivalents upfront, but COMCAR expects “savings in the running costs, including fuel and maintenance”. It’s also understood works are planned for bringing the Dairy Road depot up to scratch.
“COMCAR is introducing EV charging capability in each of its state depots to support the operation of the new EV fleet and to avoid adding additional pressure on public EV charging infrastructure,” the COMCAR team said.
The first electric BMWs will arrive in mid-2023, with the full fleet in operation by mid-2024.