Published on February 5th, 2014 | by Important Media Cross-Post


BMW Board Member: Public EV Charging Not Important

February 5th, 2014 by  

Originally published on Gas2.
By Heather Carr.


BMW board member Herbert Diess says that typical EV owners don’t use public chargers, and can get along just fine without the charging infrastructure. Most of the charging is done at home, and while public chargers are nice, in most cases they simply aren’t needed.

“We think long-term there will be many EVs around, mainly when it comes to commuting shorter distances in metropolitan areas,” said Diess during the North American International Auto Show. He should know, as he claims to have driven around one of the new BMW i3 electric cars for about a year, and “not once” did Diess need a public charger.

Previous studies have found that close to 95% of car trips can be accomplished on a single charge, even with today’s short-range electric cars. The average person can make it to work and run a few errands without needing to stop for a charge until returning home for the evening.

However, that leaves those other 5% of trips when an electric vehicle might need a quick charge to get to the next point. I’m thinking of those days when traffic is really bad or when you want to take your sweetie to that romantic winery outside of town, but it could also be road trips to see Grandma for Christmas, or maybe the beach for spring break. For those kind of trips, an electric vehicle might need to top off on electrons if it wants to make it home.

BMW does sell a range gas-powered extender as an option in its i3, for about $3850. Without a range extender, the i3 makes it about 80-95 miles on a charge, but with the range extender the i3 travels close to 200 miles. Most i3 buyers don’t get the range extender, according to Diess, though the option may make it a lot more attractive to buyers on the fence, but can’t afford the $135,000 plug-in hybrid BMW i8.

Many other EVs will need public chargers, however. They’re smaller and their range is not as far, at least from now, so what it really comes down to who provides the chargers.

Image: Oregon Department of Transportation/CC

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  • Mr Diess forgets about half his clientèle: the people that must use public parking because they can not park on their own ground.

    Just the ivory tower comment of a wealthy CEO.

  • Benjamin Nead

    What has been superfluous was the large number of L-2 EVSEs installed in city interiors in recent years . . . ones at places where people might only be parked for a few minutes or so. What would have been more useful would have been a smaller number of L-3 QC units on city edges and along highways.

    Any new L-3 going up today should also probably be equipped with both CHAdeMO and SAE-CCS plugs. People make much hay of a format war, but this is a relatively easy solution. Different circuit cards and plugs on the same unit to handle the 440V of DC coming in is easier than a gasoline/diesel pump with separate tanks buried underground.

    Meanwhile, charging at home overnight is as simple as rolling out a 120V extension cord to the driveway and even curbside in many neighborhoods (if you don’t have a 240V J1772 in your garage . . . or even if you don’t have a garage.)

    It’s a bit more complex for high rise dwellers and those in high density cities who don’t have dedicated parking spaces. But we managed to move from the age of horse drawn carriages to ICE automobiles a century ago. Moving to EVs – where every vehicle owner will be able to plug in overnight – will be even easier.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I remember a discussion among people in the car business in which there was agreement that the public L2 chargers weren’t necessary. Except to give some owners peace of mind. As we get more rapid chargers we’re likely to see public L2s disappear.

      As for charging while parking I think we’ll see a couple of things happen.

      First, apartment building owners will start to see charging outlets as profit centers. They’ll find that they can charge something more than the cost of the outlet and make more money from their property. Later on apartments will find it necessary to install charge outlets because if they don’t they will find it harder to fill vacant units.

      Second, we’ll start to see “Don’t park on this block on Tuesdays” signs going up. Tuesday morning a slit trench will be cut down the middle of the parking area and wireless chargers will be put in place. By evening the parking strip will be back in use with EVs automatically charged while parked.

      And, adding a third, we’ll see more businesses and schools adding outlets for people to use during daytime. They’ll either be paid for by users or furnished as an employee perk. Even at higher daytime rates people will still find it cheaper to drive an EV. Plus if the chargers are controlled by the utility then customers will get better rates by allowing their cars to be dispatchable loads. The average car will need only a couple hours of charging per day.

  • Rick Kargaard

    Traffic slow downs in cold weather could be a problem with the need to heat the cabin. Workplace chargers could help but this could increase demand during peak hours. Roof top solar at work dedicated to car charging sounds good.

    • Bob_Wallace

      EVs are moving to heat pumps which are very efficient. Spending an extra half hour sitting in traffic is not likely to cut the range very much.
      There’s just not a lot of area on a car’s top. And it’s not optimally angled for solar panels.

  • Damien

    If traffic was bad I’m pretty sure range would be extended. The Peukert effect means that the slower a battery is discharged (eg. a slow moving car) the more juice you get from it.

    In 10 years when battery prices have quartered maybe public charging wont really be necessary but in the here and now they may be a large determining factor for EV purchase. My example for instance: Capital city (Melbourne, VIC) is 150km away. I would like to be able to make the trip down, charge during the day and drive home at night. As there are currently only about 2 public charging stations don’t fancy my odds of claiming one for the day. This trip could be made with current gen cars but only with sufficient public charging points. In a decade when the average range is on par with the Tesla model S then their utility is reduced, but certainly not void.

  • no

    what if you do not have a garage? where do you charge your car?

    • Jouni Valkonen

      You have to park your car somewhere.

    • Tom G.

      Well ‘no’ that is a valid point. If you live in an apartment complex then it will be up to the owner of the complex to install charging capabilities. About the same for condos or townhomes. If you park on the street then most likely street parking charging stations would be appropriate.

      The condition you are talking about applies to many of our cities in the U.S. like Los Angeles or San Francisco. When Electric Vehicles become more mainstream look for things like inductive street charging or charging at work by your employer. Solutions will appear soon.

      • Most here assume that all apartment buildings have a parking garage. In Europe, that is usually not the case. What’s your solution for those people?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Wireless chargers installed under the pavement/cobble stones.

          South Korea is charging buses “as they roll” with chargers buried 8″ under the road surface. The claim 85% efficiency. We could install less deep and be more efficient. Surface chargers are up to 97% efficient.

          We’ve already got cars that park themselves. We could teach cars to park dead center over the charger, have them contact the charger to tell it how much to charge, whether to pay more for immediate charging or let the utility determine when for a better rate. And the car would tell the system where to send the bill.

          Those are things for which we have the technology deployed today. Just put them all in one package.

    • Bob_Wallace

      An external outlet. Almost all new houses have one or more these days. And they can always be added to an existing house.

      Some apartments are now adding outlets in their parking areas.

      Some people can charge while at work.

      Clearly there are a lot of outlets to be added, but a lot of people already have one available.

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