Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BMW i Announces New DC Quick Charger and It's a Potential Game Changer

The very first public display of the new BMW i DC quick charger
BMW stole the show today at the start of Plug-in 2014 in San Jose, California by not only announcing a new DC quick charger that will charge an i3 to 80% in 30 minutes, but also by saying the use of these chargers will be free for i3 users through the end of 2015. 

This is a huge step forward for BMW i and the EV movement in general. I have consistently contended that the mass adoption of electric vehicles will hinge on the deployment of rapid charging. Even though the majority of charging will be at a slower rate and overnight, for EVs to really be taken seriously by the masses they need to be capable of refueling in less than an hour while making longer journeys. Tesla and Nissan have already demonstrated that they understand this and have made significant investments in DC quick charge infrastructure, and today's announcement from BMW is proof that BMW also realizes this and appears ready and willing to jump into the DC quick charge game.  
The new BMW i 24kW DC quick charger
The interesting thing about BMW's approach is that they didn't just use existing DCQC equipment. Instead, they took a different approach working with Bosch to create an entirely new type of DCQC that is specifically tailored to suit the needs of their car, the i3. One of the barriers to installing DC quick chargers is the cost of bringing the high voltage service to the location.  By limiting the draw to 24kW's the site won't incur the sometimes-astronomical utility demand fees which can make DC Fast charging cost as much as filling up a car with gas. BMW has worked with utilities to agree on a level of supply which would avoid these high demand charges. 

So if these DC quick chargers only supply 24 kW's that must mean they charge the cars much slower than a conventional 50kW DC quick charger, right? Wrong. This is what I meant about these being tailored for the i3. The i3's relatively small battery can't really utilize a higher rate than 24kW effectively. All DC Quick chargers taper off to a lower charge rate once they get close to fully charging the battery to prevent overcharging and damaging the cells. The i3 only has a usable battery capacity of 18.8kW's so on a 50kW quick charger it only will charge at the full rate for about 10 minutes before it starts ramping down to a lower charge rate. In fact, BMW claims the i3 will charge to 80% in about 25 minutes on a 50kW DC quick charger. On this new 24kW unit, it only takes about 5 minutes longer, charging to 80% SOC in 30 minutes. So for only an extra 5 minute penalty, you get:

1) A low-cost solution for DCQC. BMW will sell the unit to their partners for only $6,548 which is less than half as expensive as the least expensive 50kW CCS DC quick charger made by ABB. "Partners" include BMW dealerships, utilities and municipalities that want to provide this service. BMW hasn't decided on a regular retail cost for the units but they are willing to discuss it with interested parties.
2) The unit is small, measuring 31"(H) x 19" (W) x 12"(D) and only weighs about 125 lbs. It can even be pedestal or wall mounted, unlike any other DCQC on the market.
3) The sites won't have to pay the excessive demand charges for electricity. Instead it will be the regular  electric rate, allowing for a reasonable cost to be assessed for use of the charger. 

Even with all this great news, you'll notice the title reads that this is a "potential" game changer. As good as these units sound, they won't do any good if they aren't installed. It's already been announced that in California the NRG eVgo DC Fast Charging network will deploy a minimum of 100 BMW i3 compatible DC Fast Chargers, but what about the rest of the country? Will BMW step up and prove they are "all in" like Nissan and Tesla have and assist (yes that means subsidize) the deployment of these quick charge stations in other markets? Only time will tell, but I have to say I like what I'm seeing so far. Let's keep the ball rolling BMW.
Specifications for the new DCQC unit

Below is the full press release from BMW:
 
San Jose, CA/Woodcliff Lake, NJ – July 28, 2014… At Plug-In 2014, a conference dedicated to discussing key issues for the long-term success of electric vehicles, BMW of North America launched its BMW i DC Fast Chargers which can charge the BMW i3 all-electric vehicle’s battery up to 80 percent in 30 minutes. A joint development between BMW and Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, BMW i DC Fast Chargers will change the face of public charging as the first compact and affordable DC Combo fast charger. The first BMW i DC Fast Charger will be on display at Plug-In 2014 on July 28 at the San Jose Convention Center. BMW also announced its new ChargeNow DC Fast program in cooperation with NRG eVgo, in which BMW i3 drivers in California can enjoy no cost unlimited 30 minute DC fast charging, at NRG eVgo Freedom Station® sites equipped with DC Combo Fast Charging, through 2015.

Introducing the BMW i DC Fast Charger
Conventional DC fast chargers are about the size of a standard refrigerator, cost tens of thousands of dollars and require a significant amount of electricity. Half the size of a traditional electric vehicle DC charger – measuring 31”H x 19”W x 12”D and weighing approximately 100 pounds – BMW i DC Fast Chargers can be mounted on a wall, a first for electric vehicle DC fast chargers. In addition, BMW i DC Fast Chargers will be priced significantly less than other DC Combo chargers in the market at $6,548 for authorized BMW partners.

“This is a milestone in the development of the DC fast charging infrastructure. With more than five years of real world experience, we understand that a robust network of publicly available DC Combo Fast Chargers is a key part of the mobility of tomorrow,” said Robert Healey, EV Infrastructure Manager, at BMW of North America. “BMW is offering the BMW i DC Fast Charger at an appealing price point, and more manageable size, to make the convenience of DC fast charging more accessible for BMW i3 owners.”

The 24 kW DC Fast Charger feeds the current directly to the vehicle’s battery, resulting in a more efficient and faster charge. BMW i DC Fast Chargers use the SAE Combo 1 connector, the North American automotive industry standard for fast charging; feature a rugged aluminum IP54 enclosure; meet NEMA 3 requirements; and are designed to perform in extreme weather conditions, from -40°F to 185°F. Additionally, the BMW i DC Fast Charger is ChargePoint network-enabled, allowing electric vehicle drivers with the SAE Combo 1 inlet to access the BMW i DC Fast Charger using a ChargePoint or ChargeNow card. Major automakers including BMW, GM, Ford, Chrysler, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche have committed to adopting the SAE Combo 1 inlet for DC charging. The BMW i DC Fast Chargers will be available for BMW i Centers across the U.S. beginning in August.

Introducing ChargeNow DC Fast for BMW i3 Drivers
In keeping with its holistic approach to making DC fast charging more accessible and, in turn, increasing the adoption of electric vehicles, BMW, in cooperation with NRG eVgo, will offer no cost charging to BMW i3 drivers at participating eVgo Freedom Station sites equipped with DC Combo Fast Charging in California through 2015.

Using their ChargeNow cards, BMW i3 drivers will have access to unlimited 30-minute DC fast charging sessions with the ChargeNow DC Fast program. BMW i3 owners can sign up easily for ChargeNow DC Fast at chargenow.com/us. In order to receive the full benefits of the program, BMW i3 drivers must use the ChargeNow card, provided with their BMW i3, to charge the vehicle at least once by December 31, 2014, at a participating eVgo Freedom Station. By doing so, BMW i3 drivers will enjoy continued access to no cost DC charging sessions through the end of 2015. Eligible BMW i3 vehicles must be equipped with the DC Fast Charging option (SAE).

“We’re confident the rapidly-expanding NRG eVgo DC Fast Charging network will provide significant benefits to BMW i3 drivers in California,” continued Mr. Healey. “With the cooperation between ChargePoint and NRG eVgo, ChargeNow DC Fast brings us closer to the reality of one card, one account public charging network interoperability.” eVgo will deploy a minimum of 100 BMW i3 compatible DC Fast Chargers across California to support the ChargeNow DC Fast Program.
“This is a milestone in the development of the DC fast charging infrastructure. With more than five years of real world experience, we understand that a robust network of publicly available DC Combo Fast Chargers is a key part of the mobility of tomorrow,” said Robert Healey, EV Infrastructure Manager, at BMW of North America. “BMW is offering the BMW i DC Fast Charger at an appealing price point, and more manageable size, to make the convenience of DC fast charging more accessible for BMW i3 owners.” - See more at: http://www.longtailpipe.com/2014/07/bmw-shows-smallest-and-lowest-cost-dc.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook#sthash.B9P4jL3V.dpuf
“This is a milestone in the development of the DC fast charging infrastructure. With more than five years of real world experience, we understand that a robust network of publicly available DC Combo Fast Chargers is a key part of the mobility of tomorrow,” said Robert Healey, EV Infrastructure Manager, at BMW of North America. “BMW is offering the BMW i DC Fast Charger at an appealing price point, and more manageable size, to make the convenience of DC fast charging more accessible for BMW i3 owners.” - See more at: http://www.longtailpipe.com/2014/07/bmw-shows-smallest-and-lowest-cost-dc.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook#sthash.B9P4jL3V.dpuf

11 comments:

  1. It's good news but I'm struggling to see how the numbers make sense. If you estimate 15% charging losses then 30 mins from a 24kW charger will deliver 56% of the i3 battery capacity, well below the 80% quoted and that's ignoring the fact that the charge rate ramps down as the battery is charged (as mentioned in your article).

    Or have I got that wrong?

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    1. I'm not quite sure what the charging losses will be. Since this is DC to DC and the current doesn't have to go through the onboard charger for conversion, the charging losses should be potentially much lower than 15%. Also, from what I understand the charging losses increase as the current does so a 24kW charge would have less losses than a 50kW charge rate. The charge rate shouldn't ramp down until the car is 80% full though because the i3 can handle about 24kW right up to 80% I have charged my i3 on a 50kW DC fast charger and have talked to a few there that have also and it seems that after the initial few minutes of a higher rate it slows down to about 24kW until it is about 80% full. So I believe the i3 can utilize the full charge rate this will offer for the majority of the charging time (and the i3 was most likely purposefully designed for this)

      That said you are right that the numbers don't exactly match. 80% of the i3's battery with no losses at all would be 15kW and a half hour on this would return 12kW at full charge rate and zero losses. So it does come up a little short. I'll work my connections to try and get some clarity on this once Plug-in 2014 is over.

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    2. Even if DC quick charge doesn't have the same charging losses, that 80% of the battery is 15.04 kWh which would require 30 kW of power to recharge in 30 minutes. At 24 kW it should take at least 38 minutes to 80%. Did they round down to half an hour?

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    3. Tom, you are absolutely right--this is a game changer, not for what it will do immediately but as a harbinger of what will happen in the not-too-distant future. I just called eVgo again to see how soon their Freedom Stations will be operational in California with the CCS combo charger. They told me once again (I spoke to them two weeks ago) that they have two operational stations in Southern California, one in San Diego and the other in Hermosa Beach. Unfortunately, the Hermosa Beach station is not operational yet and it is not clear when it will go into operation. California's web of local and state regulations causes the best intended projects to drag on beyond reason for months. EVgo is looking at several months before other stations with the Combo charger will be available. Furthermore, these stations depend on private operators to decide what they wish to offer, as in the case of the four new stations in Orange County for which the CCS Combo charger is not an immediate thought. So, this is indeed a game changer and promises something truly significant for those of us in California--my guess, by mid to late 2015. So expectations should be high but tempered by a little patience. By contrast, BMW's coordination with Bosch may produce more immediate results, especially if these units will be installed in BMW dealerships. Good things are happening. Tom, thanks for keeping us updated.

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  2. Tom. Thanks for the info. Looking forward to the Hermosa Beach location coming on line. You can watch the sunset from the roof of the garage over the Pacific! Any idea when those "minimum of 100 BMW i3 compatible DC Fast Chargers" locations will be know? Keep up the great work!

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  3. This is all nice and sweet, but will these charing station be beneficial to non BMW users? If not, then we are just creating just another net of charging stations, this time it is not a different standard, but same standard which is useless to other users….
    I doubt it is completely useless, it will probably just charge slower then those other "normal" high voltage DC stations

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    1. Zsolt: Yes, of course other cars can use it. The i3 uses the SAE-endorsed CCS (Combined Charging System). Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Volkswagen all agreed to use this DCQC system on their cars moving forward.

      The Chevy Spark which is available now and the Volkswagen Golf EV which will be launching in a month or so will both use the CCS system and can use these chargers also.

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    2. Thanks Tom for pointing out other manufacturers who will using CCS, it is very nice to see that all mayor and well established Europe brands are deciding for CCS, it is the best possible situation to bring the number of charging stations to higher number. What I wanted to say is that the BMW charges will be less "attractive" to other non BMW users as they are quick, but then yet again, not that quick. But if the charging price will be lower due to the fact that the installation and utility bill will be lower, then maybe it is still a good option to have even for non BMW users. BTW, I don't know if you are aware of this, during my recent visit to BMW World in Munich, I was told that BMW is building up a charging net in Europe with partners, all under https://www.chargenow.com/ brand. So things are definitely moving ahead, and I guess BMW is a bit caught off guard regarding charging stations, by unexpectedly good sales figures, but I'm sure they are working hard to fix this.

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    3. They will still be attractive because all of the other manufacturers, like BMW are making EV's will small batteries. The 24kW DCQC is perfect for them all. Only Telsa is making large battery electric vehicles so they definitely need a much higher charging rate to replenish the battery in a reasonable amount of time. Think about it, the Model S 85 has an 85kWh battery. The i3's is ~22kWh. The Chevy Sparks is 21kWh and the Golf EV's is 24kWh. All these cars have a battery the is roughly 25% the size of the Model S! So if the DCQC charge rate is ~25% of how fast the Model S charges at then that shouldn't be too surprising, no? These "little battery" EV's can't really take advantage of the super high charging rate that the Model S uses.

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    4. There's the all-important fact... "all of the other manufacturers, like BMW are making EV's will small batteries" Thanks Tom!!

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