Being able to rapid charge an electric car’s battery pack from empty to 80 per cent full in around thirty minutes is unarguably one of the biggest selling points among many of today’s modern electric cars. In order to install one however, sites wishing to offer DC quick charging facilities have not only needed the electrical capacity to provide upwards of 50 kilowatts of power to a rapid charge station but the physical space to set aside for the unit itself. Traditionally, that’s meant a spot in a nearby parking lot capable of accommodating a unit as big as a standard domestic upright refrigerator.
But at yesterday’s Plug-In 2014 conference in San Jose, California, BMW North America unveiled a new DC quick charging station that weighs in at 100 pounds, is small enough to mount on a wall, and will be sold to official BMW partners across the U.S. for just $6,548.
Developed in collaboration with Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, the DC quick charging station is based on the DC Combo Combined Charge Standard (CCS) developed between U.S. and German car makers as an alternative to the already popular CHAdeMO quick charge standard. While the standard itself is capable of supporting power transfer rates as high as 50 kilowatts, BMW’s wall-mounted unit maxes out at 24 kilowatts.
While that might seem a lot slower than the full 50 kilowatts maximum allowable under the standard, the 24 kilowatt charger isn’t that much slower than a more powerful unit. That’s because electric cars only charge at the full 50 kilowatts for the first few minutes of a quick charging cycle. As the battery pack’s state of charge rises, the amount of power being fed into the battery pack gradually drops, as this very informative graph from the MyNissanLeaf forum shows.
As a consequence, someone who wishes to charge up their BMW i3 with the new BMW DC rapid charger from empty to 80 per cent full may notice that they need to wait around for a few more minutes than they might with a 50 kilowatt charger, but the only people who will really notice are those who have a completely empty battery pack and need a few minutes of quick charging versus a full charge to help them reach their destination.
We should probably note at this point that the BMW i DC quick charger should work with any electric car fitted with the DC Combo 1 CCS connector, yet quick charging capability isn’t included as standard with the BMW i3. To make use of this charging station and the connector, you’ll need to have specified your car at the point of ordering with DC CCS capability, regardless of it being an all-electric i3 or a range-extended i3 REx. If your car doesn’t have the CCS socket, you won’t be able to quick charge.
Designed to either pedestal or wall-mount, the new BMW-branded DC quick charging station is not only a lot easier to site than full-size 50 kilowatt units, but it should also be cheaper for businesses to install thanks to its more modest power requirements. While you’re unlikely to be able to install one in a domestic situation, the lower cost over more powerful units should encourage more medium-sized businesses to offer CCS DC quick charging as a customer perk.
Alongside the launch of the new quick charging station, BMW announced that like Nissan and Tesla, it plans to offer its electric car customers unlimited DC quick charging for free. Unlike Tesla’s nationwide Supercharger network and Nissan’s expanding No Charge to Charge program, BMW’s free charging scheme will initially only be offered in the state of California.
Offered under the BMW ChargeNow program in collaboration with NRG eVgo, BMW says i3 owners will be able to charge for free across California at any CCS equipped eVgo Freedom Station sites from now through 2015. In order to be eligible, owners need to charge at least once by the end of 2014 at an eVgo DC quick charger. While there are limited numbers of CCS charging stations in the wild at the time of writing, BMW says eVgo plans to install at least 100 CCS charging stations across California to support the promotion.
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