In an effort to further understand and expand the possibilities of smart charging for electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), BMW of North America has announced the second phase of its ChargeForward programme. BMW EV owners in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area who are Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) customers are invited to apply for participation in a 24-month programme focused on managed EV and PHEV charging. Funding for this second phase was secured through a competitive bid for a California Energy Commission (CEC) grant.

The first phase of the programme demonstrated the viability of creating grid value by optimising smart charging of EVs. The automaker developed systems that utilise the existing vehicle communication system to help optimise the electric grid through demand response, which improves grid reliability, lowers costs and helps the environment by incentivising customers to reduce usage during periods of high peak demand. Conducted with PG&E from July 2015 through December 2016, BMW enabled nearly 100 i3 owners located in the Bay Area to earn an incentive by offering flexibility in the time by which their vehicle was charged.

Building on the functionality tested in the first phase of the initiative, the new phase will explore the ability to optimise charging events, whether the vehicle is charging at home or on the go. The goal is to expand and test new smart charging functionality to generate greater benefits to the grid (including optimising across multiple charging events, shifting charging across grid locations, adjusting charging according to the level of renewables on the grid, and exploring the benefits of optimising charging in response to a variety of grid signals) and to EV and PHEV drivers (by way of participation incentives). As in the first phase of the pilot, the automaker will ensure participant-drivers' expressed mobility needs are always met, while using remaining flexibility to create grid value.

"BMW envisions a future where electric vehicles are part of a mobility and energy lifestyle and are instrumental for supporting increased renewable energy on a more efficient grid. We are very encouraged by the level of activity and participation throughout the first phase of the programme with PG&E. In this next phase, we will leverage smart charging to expand the range of possible additional grid services that are expected to lower the total cost of electric vehicle ownership," said Cliff Fietzek, manager, Connected eMobility, BMW of North America. "By managing charging when a vehicle is plugged in – wherever the vehicle is plugged in – we can ensure that vehicles are efficiently charged to meet driver's communicated mobility needs while helping the grid reach greater levels of efficiency and sustainability."

Phase One Findings

During the first phase of ChargeForward, PG&E sent signals to BMW requesting a load reduction on the grid of up to 100 kilowatts (kW). In response to these demand response signals, the automaker selected vehicles for delayed charging (up to one hour delay per day), based on drivers' communicated mobility needs. Driver-participants could also choose to opt-out of participation as desired if they needed to begin charging their EV immediately. BMW supplemented the smart charging of these vehicles with a solar-powered battery system made from second life EV batteries to support the grid during these demand response events, as necessary.

Results from the first phase of the pilot include:

Nearly 100 PG&E customers in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area who own i3 EVs participated in the pilot. Satisfaction has been high with 92% of participants indicating they are very satisfied with the pilot and 86% indicating they would likely recommend it to family or friends. A total of 192 demand response events took place between July 2015 and October 2016, with events scheduled through the end of 2016. In 94% of the demand response events through October 2016, BMW successfully reached the full grid load reduction of 100 kW requested by PG&E. By August 2016, more than 19,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) were shifted as a result of ChargeForward events, avoiding costly and carbon-intensive electricity generation.