- BMW announced the ChargeNow DC Fast program, which will provide buyers of the 2014 BMW i3 electric vehicle with free DC fast charging through the end of 2015.
- BMW has partnered with Bosch to produce the i DC Combo Fast Charger, capable of restoring the i3's battery to 80 percent capacity in about 30 minutes.
- Along with the purchase of a BMW i3, buyers will receive limited-time free access to stations in the NRG eVgo network equipped with the DC Combo Fast Charger.
SAN JOSE, California — BMW on Monday announced a program that will provide buyers of the 2014 BMW i3 electric vehicle with free DC fast charging through the end of 2015.
The BMW ChargeNow DC Fast program allows i3 drivers unlimited access to participating stations in the NRG eVgo network equipped with BMW's new i DC Combo Fast Charger, which is capable of restoring the battery to 80 percent capacity in about 30 minutes.
The program can be utilized with the popular ChargePoint card or BMW's own ChargeNow card.
In order to take advantage of the program, the i3 must be equipped with the BMW Fast Charging option, which accommodates both DC charging and Level 2 AC charging by providing connectors for both kinds of plugs on one receptacle.
BMW spokesman Dave Buchko told Edmunds that the Fast Charging option will add $700 to the cost of the i3, which is priced at $42,300, including a $950 destination fee. Buchko also noted that all i3 Launch Edition models will be equipped with the Fast Charging option.
In addition to fast DC charging, the i3 may also be charged via conventional home or public station chargers that can restore 80 percent of the lithium-ion battery's power in as little as six hours, depending on type of charger and electrical supply.
Cliff Fietzek, manager of connected eMobility for BMW of North America told Edmunds that the idea behind the new i DC Combo Fast Charger, developed in conjunction with Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, was to introduce a lower-cost DC fast charger to public charging stations.
"If you want to do a DC charging installation today, it's quite expensive," he said. "The charger alone is at least $30,000. Total installation at a site can run between $50,000 and $100,000. We at BMW wanted to help out, along with the i3 launch, by bringing to market a low-cost charger that we could roll out to our dealerships and then offer to the wider market in order to expedite installations."
The i DC Combo Fast Charger is priced at $6,548 for BMW dealers and authorized partners, like NRG eVgo.
Just as important as the attractive price point is the ease of installation of the new charger. About the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, the i DC Combo Fast Charger weighs less than 100 pounds and is designed to be mounted on a wall or pedestal, rather than bolted to special concrete base, as is the case with other DC chargers.
Robert Healey, EV infrastructure manager for BMW of North America, told Edmunds that the plan is to make the chargers affordable and simple to install so that fast DC charging quickly becomes available and convenient across the U.S.
"In the past few years we've learned that customers perceive blocks to electric vehicle ownership," Healey said. "So we're taking a two-pronged approach to removing those barriers with home charging and now what we see as the future of public charging: DC fast charging."
BMW's immediate goal, said Healey, is to have 50 DC fast chargers available at NRG eVgo Freedom Stations throughout California by the end of this year and 100 by the end of 2015.
Buchko added that, in addition to NRG eVgo, "BMW will be reaching out to other potential partners. Our goal is to get as many public chargers out there as possible to take away concerns on the part of customers about the ability to charge the car easily. The more chargers that are out there visible to customers, then that barrier will be removed."
Buchko was unable to name other potential partners at this time, but he did note that BMW's plans reach beyond California: "We're looking at this from a variety of perspectives and not just focusing on any one geographical location."
Regarding reports that BMW might partner with Nissan and Tesla on some sort of combined charging network or initiative, Fietzek said that, while the three companies are "talking to each other," at the moment "there are no concrete projects in the works."
The BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car is not included in the ChargeNow program since it isn't set up for DC fast charging. As Buchko noted, the i8 really doesn't need it, since it can already be fully charged with a 240-volt Level 2 charger in about 1½ hours or a 110-volt household outlet in about three hours.
The BMW i8 is expected to arrive at BMW dealers in September.
Edmunds says: BMW seems to be on the right track, since charging time has consistently been shown to be a sticking point for potential EV buyers.