Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BMW Initiates "Light and Charge" Pilot Program

It seems BMW has been busy developing new ways to charge your i3 or i8 lately. A few months ago I posted information on BMWs new low cost DC Fast charger and I just got word from an i3 owner in California that the first one is already up and will soon be ready for use at Crevier BMW in Santa Ana, California.
A member of the i3 Facebook group posted this picture from Crevier BMW. BMW's new DC fast charge station has just recently been installed there.

The latest news out of Munich is BMW's "Light the Charge" program. BMW has developed LED streetlights that also have built in charging stations. They already have a couple of them in place outside their Munich headquarters, and will soon begin installing them around the city of Munich for a pilot program. The units will be networked and allow the customer to pay with a credit card or by swiping an RFID card from a partner charging network provider. In the US, BMW's charging partner for ChargeNow is ChargePoint.
The European version of BMW's light pole charging station. In Europe, the EV driver carries the cable that plugs into their car as well as the EVSE. Here in the US, the cable is permanently tethered to the EVSE.

The obvious issue with adding charging stations to light poles is available capacity. Will the utilities have to pull new wires to accommodate the added demand or are they already over sized and can handle the additional load? In Europe the standard electrical supply is 230v so there is already more available power than we have here in the US where the basic household supply is 120v. I'd imagine most light poles here are typically 120v, but I'm not 100% certain about that. Pulling new wires and upgrading the lights could prove very costly, more so than even installing stand along charging stations, but I could see how using these on new light pole installations would work.
Charging stations on all these light poles would be great for workplace charging, airports and shopping malls.

Besides street side parking, I could also see how this approach would work well for large parking lots. Instead of having the charging stations all located in one place, which typically is a desirable location close to the buildings, they could be scattered all over the parking area, and each light pole could service the four parking spaces surrounding it.

Whether this idea comes to fruition and becomes a reality beyond the pilot program is unknown at this time, but I like that BMW is really giving thought to how they can improve public charging for their customers. The maturation of the public charging infrastructure is crucial for mass electric vehicle adoption, and I hope BMW continues to explore new ways to help make it ubiquitous.


  1. Wow, great idea! I like the parking lot configuration.

  2. Municipal and highway lamps are 3-phase, since they're tied more directly to the grid than homes and most businesses. US 3-phase is 208 volts (NOT 230-240V), 277V, or higher, which is why we aren't charging like this already. In Europe, they're used to 3-phase to the breaker box; individual home circuits then distribute three single phases at 240V. Hence this implementation came from Europe, not here.

  3. Great BMW doing good have to do fro lots of other countries like UAE, India and other countries.In the gulf countries their are lots of luxury cars which are giving on rent or lease so this idea must be come in gulf countries.
    Rent a Car in Dubai