The Tesla Motor Company pioneered the EV fast charging market, and now it has company. The utility NRG has been dipping its giant toe into fast charging by pairing its eVgo subsidiary with car manufacturers. It started off at the relatively affordable end through a partnership with the Nissan Leaf, but now the company is going head to head with Tesla, having just announced a new partnership with the upscale BMW i3.
BMW i3 Vs. Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S has earned rave reviews (btw Elon we’re still waiting for our test drive), but it’s up against some tough competition in the BMW i3.
The BMW i3 has the legendary BMW name to back it up while costing roughly $30,000 less than the Model S, and BMW has also put a lot of thought into the car’s lifecycle carbon footprint for those of you who care about such things.
The fast-charging thing is where it gets interesting. One reason why the Model S costs a great deal more than the BMW i3 is its enviable battery range. Right now the Model S clocks in at an EPA-certified 265 miles for its 85 kW battery, compared to around 100 for the BMW i3.
So far BMW has gotten around the range issue by marketing the i3 as a city car. The fast charging option – especially free fast charging – makes it more convenient for drivers to extend their trips into the open road, aka Tesla territory.
Free EV Fast Charging From NRG
We’ve also been following NRG’s foray into the EV fast charging market along with our sister site Gas2.org, through its eVgo subsidiary. Though initially dragged into the California market kicking and screaming as the result of a lawsuit, NRG quickly followed up with its Leaf partnership in Texas, which provides free fast charging for 12 months.
The newly announced fast charging partnership with BMW is significant because it makes NRG eVgo the first public network to support the Combo DC charging standard set by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) International.
NRG calls the new BMW 13 partnership the eVgo ChargeNow DC Fast program, available at NRG “Freedom Stations.” A slow-charging Level 2 option is also available at the stations.
Under ChargeNow, eVgo is offering BMW i3 drivers free fast charging through 2015.
NRG eVgo aims to use that free window to entice drivers into a long term relationship with a seamless, one-card-fits-all experience apparently inspired by the company’s longstanding experience as a utility.
Instead of paying up front for a home charger, you can commit to a monthly fee that includes use of the Freedom Stations as well as installation and servicing for your home charger. Some of the options are all-inclusive, in which case your monthly fee also includes the cost of charging at the Freedom Stations.
NRG is one of the original members of the Obama Administration’s Workplace Charging initiative, so it’s no surprise that the company is also pulling workplace charging into the customer experience.
What it all adds up to is that NRG appears to be using its experience and leverage as a utility to entice non-Tesla owners to its charging stations. Your move next, Tesla.