BMW Offers Free Level 2, DC Quick Charging for New BMW i3 Customers — But Not For Existing Ones

Ever since Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] began to offer its customers free rapid charging at its own network of Tesla Superchargers, other automakers have experimented with offering their own free charging programs designed to encourage customers to buy their electric cars.

BMW is offering new BMW i3 owners in 25 markets free DC Fast Charging via the NRG EVGo Network

BMW is offering new BMW i3 owners in 25 markets free DC Fast Charging via the NRG EVGo Network

So far, Nissan stands out as the largest supporter of free public charging for customers courtesy of its No Charge to Charge program, with German automaker BMW launched ChargeNow DC Fast, its own limited-availability zero-cost electric car charging program for Californian owners of its BMW i3 electric car back in July 2014.

Now, as a result of the success of that limited-market, 100-charging station pilot project, BMW has announced its intent to expand the ChargeNow DC Fast charging program throughout a total of fifteen additional key market areas, offering anyone who buys a new BMW i3 with free DC fast charging at participating ChargeNow sites for two years.

Buy a new BMW i3, and you'll get a ChargeNow access card if you live in one of 25 key areas in the U.S.

Buy a new BMW i3, and you’ll get a ChargeNow access card if you live in one of 25 key areas in the U.S.

The expansion will see a total of 500 DC Fast Combo chargers installed across the U.S. by the end of 2018, making it possible for BMW i3 owners to make long distance trips without resorting to using the range-extending gasoline engine of the BMW i3 REx, or a loaner gasoline-powered BMW instead.

By the end of this year, BMW says EVgo will have installed nearly 50 of those additional chargers installed, with at least one DC fast charger installed in each of the key markets joining the scheme. The exception, for some reason, is Portland Oregon, although we note that this market already has five publicly-accessible Combo CCS DC quick chargers in the TriMet area, as well as countless pay-to-use and free Level 2 charging stations.

Operated in partnership with NRG EVgo, anyone who purchases or leases a BMW i3 on or after the start of November from a BMW i Centre can enrol in the program, with unlimited no-cost 30-minute DC CCS quick charging at EVgo stations as well as no-cost 1-hour stints on Level 2 charging stations.

Like Nissan’s NoChargetoCharge program, BMW dealerships will hand out complimentary ChargeNow cards to qualifying customers when they buy their car. That perk, something we’re sure will convince those who had previously consider a BMW i3 with range-extending engine to simply order a BMW i3 EV instead, won’t be available however to existing owners.

DC Fast Charging will make longer-distance trips easier.

DC Fast Charging will make longer-distance trips easier.

As with LEAF owners who purchased a Nissan LEAF before Nissan’s NoChargetoCharge program launched, if you happened to purchase a BMW i3 before November 1st, you’ll have to pay for charging like everyone else.

“This significant expansion in the number as well as the locations of publicly available DC Fast Combo chargers further affirms BMW’s commitment to e-mobility and will make EV ownership even more enjoyable for BMW i3 drivers,” said Robert Healey, Head of EV Infrastructure for BMW of North America. “With ChargeNow DC Fast, BMW i3 owners can experience ‘range confidence’ resulting from convenient, quicker DC Fast charging on the go, making longer EV trips more practical. The no cost charging sessions for BMW i3 drivers will become even more valuable over time, as more of these DC Fast Combo chargers become available.”

While it’s clear BMW’s new program is a marketing ploy to encourage new customers to buy a BMW i3, it’s already upset some of BMW’s earliest i3 customers, many of whom feel left out or cheated by the announcement.

It’s also worth noting that, like the Nissan LEAF, while this new program will make longer-distance trips possible in some states between major commuter cities or perhaps even the occasional cross-country or inter-state trip, the coast-to-coast electric car trips is still only really practical if you happen to have a Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X electric car.

Are you a BMW i3 owner? What do you make of the new program? Or perhaps you were considering a new BMW i3 and this announcement has convinced you to make that purchase?

Let us know what you think of this news in the Comments below.


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  • Michael Thwaite

    Unhappy. Very unhappy.

  • Nate Habeck

    I’m also very annoyed. I’ve had many people ask me questions like, “can you drive on the highway with that?”. It’s totally a niche market at this point and needs enthusiastic evangelists. The brand shouldn’t be ticking off existing customers it should be encouraging them…. This is just bad marketing period.

  • Janner

    In the UK, we’re lucky that Ecotricity has a network of CCS chargers offered for free (at the moment). If they didn’t offer this and BMW introduced free charging without including those who had already bought an i3 I’d be pretty cross, I think.

  • CDspeed

    My i3 is my 9th BMW, and the way they’ve handled the i3 from design to customer service I don’t think I’ll be buying another BMW. The i3 was designed from the ground up, and the trunk is tiny, rear leg room is tight, I’m always cleaning leaves out of the front storage bin, ect ect. And now the sunroof they told me I couldn’t have is now available on just 50 limited edition i3s,

  • vdiv

    Oh, this has the potential of reigniting the charging etiquette “carfuffle” and who gets priority at the charging stations.


  • Daniel Zamir

    Too bad. It is a good idea to give free long distance charging. Stations are a fraction of the price of gas stations. Electricity is cheap. And many places would love to have well heeled customers stop for 30 minutes near them. So you get some sweat deals. They just shouldn’t of left the existing customers out.