BMW Announces Home Energy Storage System Utilizing i3 Battery Packs

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Originally published on The Electric BMW i3.
By Tom Moloughney

Yesterday at EVS29 in Montreal, BMW announced an energy storage system which uses BMW i3 battery packs. The system can utilize a used i3 pack, or it will be able to be purchased with a brand new battery pack. Perhaps the best aspect of the program is the fact that if you own an i3, you can have your old battery pack built into the system when you upgrade your car with a new pack.

BMW i Home Energy Storage

I’ve been waiting for this announcement for a while now. I can remember talking with one of BMW’s top program managers from Munich three years ago. We were discussing my home solar system, and how I’d been powering my MINI-E and ActiveE electric cars with clean, renewable energy from the system for many years at that point. He then asked me the question, “What do you think will happen to your EV’s battery once it has reached its end of life?” I answered that I would imagine it would probably be taken apart and recycled, with the lithium being used for new batteries. To which he said, “What if I told you when you need a new battery for your car, you’ll be able to keep your old pack and put it in your house. You’ll then have the ability to store your unused solar energy, and use it to charge your car at night when you get home. That will assure you’re driving a true zero emission vehicle all the time.” At that point I remember just smiling and he told me: “When you get your i3, I promise you you’ll be able to do just that.”

BMW i Energy Storage3
BMW displayed a smaller, more stylish energy storage system at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. It appears as if each layer of this system could hold one module from the i3’s battery pack.

That was three or four years ago, so obviously I’m not quoting him verbatim, but that’s pretty much exactly how the conversation went. So this program has been in the works for many years now, and hopefully will be launched soon. The press release doesn’t specify when the system will be available, or have any hint of pricing. The one thing I really like about this program is that BMW will allow the customer to keep their old battery pack for use in the system when they upgrade their car to a new pack. No other automaker has provided their customers a path for a 2nd life use of their own battery pack. You already paid for it, why not get another 10 years or so of use from it? Plus, it will be a great comeback when people ask sarcastically (and they do ask this), “Where do you think those toxic batteries from your electric car will end up when you need to replace them?” I can now say, “I’ll hang them on the wall in my home for home energy storage,” and walk away smiling.

 “With a battery storage system electrified by BMW i, our customers can take the next step towards a sustainable energy lifestyle. Coupled with the home charging and solar energy programs, the system enables BMW drivers to embrace holistic sustainability beyond e-mobility,” Rob Healey, Manager of EV Infrastructure for BMW North America.

My i3 in front of my home with an 8.775 kW solar array on the roof. I’ve been powering my electric cars (MINI-E, ActiveE and now i3) with clean, renewable energy since 2010 and would love a system like this to store my excess generation for later use. Having the ability to use my old i3 battery when it’s time to replace it would make it even better.

I currently have 52,000 miles on my i3. If I keep the car long term (still undecided on that), I’ll probably want a new battery in two to three years when I have about 120,000 miles on the odometer. By then I’m certain BMW of North America will have started the battery upgrade program which is currently only available in Europe. In order for this 2nd life energy storage system to work, BMW would have to allow customers to upgrade their battery packs. Therefore I take this announcement as further evidence that BMW of North America will absolutely participate in BMW’s battery upgrade program, even if they decided not to do so just yet.

Although it wasn’t mentioned in the press release, I suspect these complete battery packs are stackable. This will allow commercial applications to stack a tower of perhaps ten of them, and store 100 to 150 kWh of energy in a 4′ by 6′ space. If they were using new 94Ah cells in the pack, it would store over 300 kWh in the same footprint.

This is clearly where the industry is going. Tesla was the first automaker to offer for sale a home energy storage system, and since then other OEMs have announced that they too are exploring this market.

For the complete BMW press release on the subject, follow this link.

Reprinted with permission.

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8 thoughts on “BMW Announces Home Energy Storage System Utilizing i3 Battery Packs

  • Great idea, nice to keep your own pack for this purpose. I guess it depends on how quickly capacity drops at that stage of its life cycle.

    • People probably are not going to want to upgrade their battery packs at the end of life. Reasoning will probably go something like “Do I spend X thousands of dollars” or take a Y% hit on efficiency? That Y% could get to be very large before somebody can justify buying a new battery pack that will probably cost them 10 to 20 thousand dollars! So the used batteries may be totally worthless for any other use. You don’t want to be giving up say 50% of your power to batteries that can’t keep a charge.

      The real question in my mind is how much you’ll get for those used batteries from the manufacturer? How much is recycling worth to them?

      • If Nissan is charging about $6,500 to replace their battery why would BMW need to get 2 to 4 times for theirs? Even if it does would it not be as cheap as a powerwall?

        • I was thinking of Tesla’s batteries when I wrote that. Regardless of the cost most people will not want to ditch their old batteries until they are unusable.

  • What I don’t understand is why can’t they make the car hookup to the house and use it’s energy as a backup

    • It’s just not ideal. I have an article coming on that, but based on info/quotes already out there.

      • You also have to consider that the OEMs don’t want people using the battery for purposes other than propelling the vehicle. They are responsible for the battery warranty for X amount of miles. However, if the owner used the pack for V2H or V2G purposes, then the pack may have excessive wear, and degrade faster than it would if it were used exclusively to power the car.

        How can you ask the manufacturer to honor a warranty when the battery is used for stationary energy storage? That’s not fair.

  • The logic of the Telsa purchase of Solar City is on show in that image

    I3 battery is 22 kWh. I note the Tesla Model 3 battery modules (8 per car) are likely to be 7 kWh (25 MJ) each. 8.75 kWh and 10.5 kWh modules may be available for higher spec M3. Recycling vehicle battery modules for home use will surely become common.

    A brand new battery for home use will surely have a cheaper chemistry – one not optimised for minimum weight.

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