Originally published on Gas2.
A year ago, BMW’s carsharing program known as ReachNow folded up shop in San Francisco and moved to Seattle. The service began with 370 cars, including electric BMW i3 sedans and conventional 3 Series and MINI offerings. A year later, the ReachNow fleet has grown to more than 700 cars and expanded to Portland and Brooklyn. It now has more than 50,000 members.
Together with eluminocity US, BMW has developed its Light & Charge system, which converts existing street and parking lot light poles into connected nodes on a smart city network. Each pole includes high-efficiency LED lighting, EV chargers, and a sophisticated Sensor Bus that connects the site to the cloud. Each Light & Charge location will include one ChargePoint DC Fast Charger and up to four AC Level II chargers. ChargePoint is the largest EV Charging network in the US. All of the chargers are available to the public and compatible with any EV equipped with a standard SAE J1772 charging port. (Editor’s Note: A Berlin startup named ubitricity has been playing the streetlight + EV charger game for several years. We visited ubitricity in Berlin in 2014. We’ll look to follow up with the company to try to see where things are going there and what they think of BMW’s new system.)
This week, BMW unveiled the first of its new Light & Charge locations at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, a popular place known for its sustainable practices. “Public access to charging stations is a critical step to increasing the adoption and use of electric vehicles,” says ReachNow CEO Steve Banfield. “The more EV charging stations there are, the faster we can scale the number of EVs in the ReachNow fleet and make sustainable urban transportation services more widely available.”
The Woodland Park Zoo was chosen because it draws more than 1.3 million visitors a year and is known for its commitment to sustainable practices. “Woodland Park Zoo has the highest attendance of any cultural institution in the Puget Sound area, which will provide major visibility for the benefits of EVs and car sharing,” says zoo president Alejandro Grajal. “Our members and guests have a keen interest in doing their part to improve the environment and we are expecting this new station will inspire them to act. We are thrilled to be the first home for a Light & Charge station in the city.”
BMW is investing $1.2 million in the Light & Charge program, a contribution to the local community that mayor Ed Murray was happy to acknowledge. “As a leader on climate change, Seattle is working to connect drivers to our clean, carbon-neutral electricity. This investment from ReachNow and the BMW Group demonstrates that together, government and private industry can help the City reduce pollution and create a healthier community. This partnership will also help Seattle become carbon neutral by 2050 and brings the City closer to achieving the goals laid out in Seattle’s Drive Clean Seattle initiative.”
The Light & Charge program will double the number of public EV charging stations in the Seattle area and make it possible for BMW to include more of its all electric i3 sedans in its ReachNow car sharing program.
Source: Electric Cars Report | Photo credit: BMW