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BMW Mobile Storage Program Charges into Tesla Territory

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BMW i3  ©2013 BMW of North America, LLC
BMW i3
©2013 BMW of North America, LLC

BMW announced the BMW i ChargeForward Program at the recently concluded CES 2015.

It is a two-part program to help stabilize the PG&E’s franchise area, an area which covers Tesla’s headquarters in Fremont. The first part allows PG&E to delay the charging of selected BMW i3 cars during times of peak demand in order to help stabilize the grid.

The second part involves the repurposing of BMW’s MINI E batteries into storage systems for solar power generators.

The goal of this program is to provide PG&E with an additional 100 kilowatts of power capacity which is a tiny drop in the bucket in PG&E’s more than 24 thousand megawatt peak demand. The great thing about the program, however, is that it will allow the utility to use the BMW electric vehicles as literal spinning reserves (electric generation capacity that kicks in when power demand shoots up). In fact, it’s much better because usual spinning reserve generators which are power plants that burn fuel just to remain on standby. Using the BMW EV’s battery banks, PG&E can draw electricity on demand without having to waste fuel to keep generators spinning.

The company will select 100 BMW i3 drivers in the San Francisco Bay Area to participate in the pilot study which will run from July 2015 to December 2016. During the one and a half year study period, the car company “will manage the charging of participating BMW i3 vehicles, while prioritizing the e-mobility needs of participants based on timing by which vehicles should be fully charged, as communicated through a smartphone app.”

When PG&E’s system hits peak demand, some of these drivers will receive a text message telling them that their car will stop charging for up to an hour to help reduce the load on the grid. The selected drivers can deny this, say if they have a party to go to, so that their EV charging can go on uninterrupted.

As an incentive, the selected drivers will receive US$1,000 a month.  They also stand to get an additional reward of up to US$540 at the end of the program, depending on their cooperation in the study.

This is the first commercial program we’ve heard of since  Prof. Kempton’s vehicle to grid (V2G) study at the University of Delaware and the US Air Force’s adoption of an all electric vehicle general purpose vehicle fleet in Los Angeles, CA.

BMW hopes to promote EV use by reducing the cost of ownership “while demonstrating the ability to integrate renewable energy into the grid” with iChargeForward.  In this way, the commuting public is happy while mother earth smiles.

Hopefully, Tesla and other car makers will soon latch on to the idea and charge away with V2G programs of their own.

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