BMW E-Car Drivers Asked To Delay Charging In San Francisco – Forbes

Posted: Monday, August 03, 2015

Just as word comes that all-electric vehicles now take a paltry 0.4-percent share of the U.S. auto market, BMW has announced a way that EV purchasers can make up at least a part of the sticker premium they’re paying to purchase a BMW i3: Allow recharging of their cars to be interrupted by the needs of the collective “grid.”

BMW has begun an 18-month pilot of a program it calls i ChargeForward in which the local power company, Pacific Gas and Electric, will ask participating drivers to stop charging their EVs for one hour during high-demand periods in an experiment that could “ultimately” lead to driving down the cost of EV ownership for all consumers, as the company put it in a news release. The company is offering participants $1,000 at first and an additional reward of up to $540 at the conclusion of the program.

Quite naturally — OK, singularly — this experiment is taking place in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area to be precise. Not only is California the only state that is essentially trying to drive gasoline-powered cars off its roadways (see a new Bloomberg Bloomberg profile of Mary Nichols, draconian head of the California Air Resources Board), but the state also suffered a uniquely ruinous time in which it couldn’t figure out how to supply its residents with enough dependable electricity. Its residential electricity prices are among the highest in the nation.

Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel have a  great time in a BMW i3 during a Super Bowl commercial last February.

Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel have a great time in a BMW i3 during a Super Bowl commercial last February.

BMW’s program will work with about 100 BMW i3 drivers selected from about 400 applicants. The delays in charging their vehicles will be based on requests received from PG&E PG&E, the participating utility, when grid loads are at their peak. The goal is to provide PG&E with up to 100 kilowatts of capacity at any given time, regardless of how many BMW electric vehicles are charging, as part of a voluntary load-reduction program known as “Demand Response.”

Oh, yeah — if an i3 owner really needs to get his or her car juiced without interruption because of an unforeseen need to get out of town, or some other sort of surprise occasion that requires their wheels, it’ll be OK. But the amount of each participant’s end-of-test bonus will be based on “their level of participation in charging ‘Demand Response’ events” as well as on filling out surveys.

“One thing that we’ll be investigating with this pilot is understanding how people charge, how flexible they are with respect to when they charge, and how best to design future products in a way that benefit both customers and utilities,” said Julia Sohnen, advanced-technology engineer for sustainable mobility at the BMW Group BMW Group Technology Office USA.

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