CES 2015: BMW Unveils Intelligent i Home Charging Services Designed to Save You Money

Just how clean is an electric car? It’s a question often asked by electric car skeptics and one which alludes to the problem colloquially known as the long-tailpipe: zero emission cars charged from power generated by fossil-fuelled power stations.

BMW's new i Home Charging Services will help you charge your BMW i3 or i8 when it's cheapest -- and greenest -- to do so.

BMW’s new i Home Charging Services will help you charge your BMW i3 or i8 when it’s cheapest — and greenest — to do so.

Most plug-in car owners we know avoid that problem by charging their cars up from power purchased from 100 percent renewable energy companies or from the solar panels on the roof of their home, but now German automaker BMW has unveiled a new smart charging station that helps plug-in car owners vouch that their plug-in cars aren’t powered by dirty power from the local coal-fired power station.

Enter BMW’s i Home Charging Services package, unveiled yesterday at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas . Comprising of a smart home-enabled BMW i Wallbox Pro charging station and a clever backend system which connects to the Cloud, BMW says the i Home Charging Services not only helps owners of the BMW i3 electric car and BMW i8 plug-in hybrid ensure their cars are charged by the greenest possible means but the cheapest too.

Designed to be used with or without a domestic photovoltaic solar array, the system can automatically start and stop charging based on grid load and cost, making it possible for those with solar panels on their home to only ever charge their car while their solar panels are generating excess electricity.

Your electric car is only as clean as the power used to charge it -- and BMW wants to help you make that as clean as possible.

Your electric car is only as clean as the power used to charge it — and BMW wants to help you make that as clean as possible.

It does so by interfacing with data collected by Solarwatt and Kiwigrid, two independent companies offering smart grid solutions for consumers who want to make the most of renewable and affordable power. While Solarwatt specialises in helping homeowners generate, store and manage their domestic power, Kiwigrid focuses on managing distributed energy generation, consumption and storage between individual homes and the local utility grid.

Combined with data from both companies and the local weather forecast, BMW says it can help its BMW i3 and BMW i8 owners automatically charge their cars at the most energy-efficient time, or charge when it’s cheapest.

In total, BMW says, its BMW i Home Charging Services package could save customers up to 800 dollars per year in operating costs, although it has yet to announce the price of the service.

As with other BMW services for plug-in car owners, there’s no requirement BMW i3 or i8 drivers sign up, although for those who like their gadgets and want to appear as green as possible while saving money, this particular service could be a good fit.

For those who are less techie, a decent charge timer or manually charging when the sun is shining could be a low-tech alternative.

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  • Quote : ” charge their cars at the most energy-efficient time, or charge when itu2019s cheapest.”nnInteresting, those are good goals, but I focus instead on charging when the grid is producing the least CO2 per kWh as per this web service that outlines the current carbon intensity of the Ontario electricity grid:nhttp://live.gridwatch.ca/home-page.htmlnnHere in Ontario Canada, I monitor our provincial utility (IESO) website which has charts and predictive graphs which inform the decisions for charging my Smart Fortwo Electric Drive.nnLink (works well in Chrome):nhttp://www.ieso.ca/Pages/Power-Data/default.aspx#supplynnnnThis site shows current and historical power supply chart based on wind, gas, hydro and nuclear. It also has a predictive wind power forecast map.nnnTypically, I will charge my EV when wind power is peaking and/or gas power supply is lowest. Usually this corresponds with the overnight period where there is excess Nuclear in Ontario, or on weekends I wait for wind peaks.

  • Michael Thwaite

    So, charge your car at home using solar panels… What happens if I don’t work at home? 🙂

    • Christiana Giecko

      Energy fed to a stationary energy storage system built from re-purposed batteries previously used in BMW i electric vehicles u2013 through home-generated solar energy u2013 can subsequently be used to charge an electric vehicle or to meet household power needs. (quoting from the Kiwigrid press release)

      • Michael Thwaite

        Isn’t it more efficient to feed the daytime power into the grid where it can be used right then at 100% (ish) efficiency rather than rolling it through a battery charge/discharge cycle?

        • Christiana Giecko

          As most solar energy is generated during a time when little energy is needed, feeding the energy into the grid would mean to sell it for a cheap price. nStoring the energy, however, gives you the chance to increase your self-consumption and use the energy when you need it u2013 without having to rebuy it at higher rates.