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BMW says EV owners can turn i3 into ‘cash cow’, use more solar power with controllable load tech

Over the past 3 years, BMW has been running a trial of its ‘ChargeForward’ program with BMW i3 owners willing to automatically delay the charging of their vehicle at the request of their local electric utility, PG&E, in order to offset peak demand.

BMW is presenting the results of the trial and says that electric car owners can turn i3 into ‘cash cow’ and use more solar power with controllable load technology

The idea is quite simple. Under the program, PG&E can request BMW to delay the charging sessions of BMW i3 owners by up to an hour in order to reduce the load.

Instead, the owners are incentivized to charge for cheaper when renewable energy production is higher.

In return, owners are compensated for the possible inconvenience. For the first trial run, owners received a $1,000 “gift card” at the launch of the program and they were able to get up to $540 more based on how their charging sessions were affected. BMW is actually reducing the rewards for the second round, presumably because they realized that it was a lot of money for what they were asking of the i3 owners.

It’s important to note that owners can easily temporarily opt out of the program before starting a charging session if they absolutely need to charge. But if your car needs to charge, but it’s not urgent, you plug it in and if PG&E needs to offset demand, they will delay it and your car will take up to one more hour to charge.

At the Governor’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this week, the BMW and PG&E are presenting the results.

They listed the main findings:

  • Electric vehicles can help stabilizing the public grid and maximizing the portion of renewables.
  • Drivers are willing to change their charging habits in order to align with renewables, given the right messaging and incentives.
  • Energy companies can help increase daytime charging with renewables by supporting companies in adding workplace charging.
  • Sharing data with other drivers is a motivator for many participants.
  • Programmes like ChargeForward improve customers’ understanding of how the grid works, which helps them become more educated energy consumers.

They found the trial to be successful in saving money for the owners in increasing renewable energy use.

Dr. Joachim Kolling, Head of BMW Group Mobility and Energy Services, said about the

“Our target is to offer charging power generated with the lowest possible CO2 emissions at most attractive prices to drivers of our electric cars”,

BMW says that the i3 owners in the program charged they cars with 56% renewable energy versus over 22% of renewable energy use in California.

The German automaker says that 350 electric vehicle owners are now part of the trial.

A recent study showed that controlling the power load like this could result in advantages in the billions of dollars and it would enable the grid to take better advantage of renewable energy.

It is important to note that this isn’t vehicle to grid technology that Nissan is touting. That will allow even more control over loads and could also offer EV drivers a bigger incentive.

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