BMW Installing Chargers



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Sunday April 23, 2017 BMW Installing Chargers Last week BMW installed the first of 100 chargers it is planning on rolling out to National Parks across the country.  The first four chargers were commissioned at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in Orange New Jersey.  On top of that BMW is going to be picking up the cost of the electricity for the first six months making the chargers free. 


The chargers are Sema level 2 charging stations that are capable of providing power up to about 7.2KW and should be able to charge at rate of 20-25 miles per hour if the EV is equipped with a charger capable of charging at that rate.  The irony here is that BMW is installing AC chargers at the place from which Thomas Edison advocated using DC for electrical power. 


This sounds like a good thing to me but Seth Weintraub from Electrek wasn't impressed.  He thought that BMW should have been installing DC fast chargers.  His logic sounded reasonable.  He argued that if he drove a BMW i3 the 60 miles to attend the opening event he would need to wait around for a couple of hours after the event to get a full charge while he would only need 30 minutes if they had DC fast chargers.


In the comments section he also added that a 30 minute charge would allow 6 to 10 drivers to get a charge in the 3 to 5 hours that a typical patron spends at the museum.  He also suggested that Level 2 chargers should not be installed at places like grocery stores and shopping centers.


Studies have shown that level 2 chargers, and are the most cost effective solution for places where people stay for extended periods of time.  For really extended stays level 1 charging even becomes more cost effective but in this case the 3 to 5 hours typical stay is pretty good for level 2 chargers.  The BMW that Seth talked about would have gotten 60 miles of range in a 3 hour stay which should have been plenty to make the 60 mile trip back home. 


On the other hand, it the charger had been a DC fast charger then the drive would most likely have just left the car at the charger for the duration of their visit blocking it for other users. Not to mention that the charger might not be usable at all if the chargers were Chademo and the BMW uses CCS.  Of course there could always be parking restrictions put on the DC charging station charging bay.  Seth is suggesting 30 minutes of charging.  Assuming that the parking restrictions are being policed, and I have found that in many cases they are not, the the person would need to leave the museum tour and head back to their car after 30 minutes.  In fact they would probably have to wait with the car or risk getting ticketed so that's 30 minutes wasted time.


Now don't get me wrong. fast chargers are desperately needed but not at places where people are going to spend an extended amount of time.  Fast chargers are needed at places like highway rest stops and in town places close to the highway.  If there was a fast charger close to the highway the Seth would have had the option to stop for a 30 minute charge on his way home rather than wait 2 hours for a charge at the Edison National Park.


One thing that I do agree with Seth on is that level 2 chargers are mostly useless at grocery stores except where these are part of a larger shopping center where people will spend lots of time.  Most people spend 20 to 30 minutes in the grocery store and that is only going to give you at best 10 miles of range.  Here is an example from personal experience, this lunchtime I went to a local Whole Foods store and plugged in there while I shopped. While I was there I bought food from their food bar and ate it in the little area set aside for this.  Getting back to my car I had take just 30 minutes and my car had accumulated just 4 miles.  Now keep in mind that my Prius Plug-in only has a 2.4 KWh battery charger so charging rates are pretty slow.  The i3 Seth was talking about would have accumulated about 10 miles in that same 30 minutes but still, that's not much. 


DC charging makes some sense at a Grocery Store as it can give you a decent amount of range while you pick up your groceries.  For the BMW i3 this would have boiled down to about 64 miles of range for that same 30 minutes which is a decent amount of range but installing a DC fast charger is expensive so the store is going to find it cost prohibitive.


In the case of a shopping center they really want you to spend time there so the slower charging rate is going to work to their advantage.  It keeps customers there to browse or eat and this can mean impulse buying and more business for the shopping center.  It can also be a reason to choose a shopping center over a competing shopping center that does not provide charging options.


Let me illustrate my point.  Yesterday I decided to go to the beach.  On a nice warm day like we had yesterday I can get about 11 miles of range out of my batteries.  There is no way that I can make it to the beach and back again on a single charge as the closest beach is about 8 miles away.  If I go to Santa Monica I can usually find available Level 2 chargers.  There are a few Level 1 chargers in Santa Monica place too but because of the charger bay layout most of these are inaccessible.  I was able to find an available charger and get a full charge while I ate, did some shopping, and walked around enjoying this beachside community.  Because of availability of chargers I was able to make the round trip without burning any gas while Santa Monica vendors were the recipients of my discretionary spending.


One last thing, Seth ended up taking a Chevy Bolt to the BMW event instead of the i3.  This meant they could easily make the round trip without a charge.  To his credit he didn't use one of the chargers so it was available to someone who needed it.  Now, I would have had no problem with him using the charger especially since the pictures I saw indicated that most of them were not being occupied during the event.  What I do take exception to is EV drivers who block charging stations but are not using them.


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