It's all about timing.
While BMW recently reaffirmed its commitment to developing combustion engines, the German carmaker has also been hard at work developing new electric vehicles, including the 500-horsepower i4, and the highly anticipated iX SUV which will herald a greener tomorrow for the marque. In its push for a sustainable future, BMW teamed up with California utility Pacific Gas & Electric to pilot a new charging model that would see its cars being charged during certain times of the day to match renewable energy supply and avoid high demand times. The "ChargeForward program" will allow PG&E customers who drive electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles to take part in the first tests of the "Smart Charging" system.
Now in its third phase, this long-standing relationship has evolved from a pilot program of between 100 and 400 cars to approximately 3,000 cars. This will help electric utilities get a good understanding of the massive demand that electric cars will bring with them. The ChargeForward system plans to find harmony in the electricity supply and demand cycles.
"Let's assume someone plugs in at home on a Saturday morning at 9 am and sets their departure time for 4 pm that day. The ChargeForward software system communicates with the vehicle and determines that the vehicle is more than half full, needing two hours of charging to fill up the battery. The system then evaluates the person's home electricity rate, renewable energy availability, and congestion on the grid in their neighborhood. This allows the driver to get a full battery prior to their departure time," says Adam Langton, BMW's Energy Services manager. The two companies will also be researching ways for EVs to discharge electricity back into the grid.
People tend to charge their cars at night, which ramps up fossil-fuel-emitting resources by around 74% according to a study published by MIT (solar panels don't work so great at night). Those participating in the ChargeForward program will be able to give their charging preferences and departure times via a mobile app which will then calculate an optimal charging window. This tech might just become the norm for all manufacturers, as states such as California pursue zero carbon emissions by 2045. The third phase of the ChargeForward program will start in mid-April and will continue through to March 2023. Participants can expect incentives such as a $150 signup fee, and a further $250 per year.