PG&E and BMW Partner on ChargeForward to Study Advanced Electric Vehicle Charging

BMW chargeForward program

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and automaker BMW  announced the second phase of the BMW ChargeForward program to test the ability of electric vehicles (EVs) to support the electric grid and integrate renewable energy through smart charging.

BMW i3, BMW i8 and iPerformance EV and plug-in hybrid EV owners in the greater San Francisco Bay Area who are PG&E customers are invited to apply for participation in a 24-month program focused on managed EV charging. Eligible customers can apply at www.BMWChargeForward.com. Funding for the second phase of this pilot program was secured by BMW through a competitive bid for a California Energy Commission (CEC) grant.

The first phase of the pilot demonstrated the viability of creating grid value by optimizing smart charging of EVs. BMW developed solutions that utilize the existing vehicle communication system to both create value for customers and improve reliability of the energy grid through demand response. Demand response programs improve reliability, lower costs and help the environment by incenting customers to cut usage during periods of high peak demand. Conducted from July 2015 through December 2016, the first phase of the PG&E and BMW pilot allowed 100 households located in the San Francisco Bay Area with BMW i3s to earn an incentive by offering flexibility in charging their EV.

“We have more than 100,000 electric vehicles in PG&E’s service area of Northern and Central California. Through this pilot with BMW, we’ve learned that these drivers present a growing resource that want to be part of building our clean energy future,” said PG&E Vice President of Customer Energy Solutions Aaron Johnson.

Building on the functionality tested in the first phase of the initiative, the next phase will explore the ability to optimize charging events wherever 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 and to EV drivers – including optimizing customer charging across multiple charging events, shifting charging across grid locations, and adjusting charging according to the level of renewables on the grid. As in the first phase of the pilot, BMW will ensure participants will always be able to use their vehicle when needed.

Exploring 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, BMW selected vehicles for delayed charging – up to one hour delay per day – based on drivers’ needs. Participants could choose to opt-out of participation as desired if they needed to begin charging their BMW i3 immediately. BMW supplemented the smart charging of these vehicles with a solar-powered energy storage system made from “second life” EV batteries – lithium-ion batteries from old BMW MINI E demonstration EVs – as a back-up to support the grid during these demand response events as necessary.

Results from the first phase of the pilot with the BMW i3 include:

  • Nearly 100 BMW PG&E customers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area who own BMW i3 EVs participated in the pilot.
  • Satisfaction has been high with 92 percent of participants indicating they are very satisfied with the pilot and 86 percent 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 percent 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 – enough to power the electricity for two homes over one year – avoiding costly and carbon-intensive electricity generation.

Phase two program participation

BMW seeks more than 250 BMW i3, BMW i8 and iPerformance drivers located in the greater San Francisco Bay Area to participate in the second phase of the pilot by completing an application at www.BMWChargeForward.com, starting today, November 14, 2016. Throughout the 24-month pilot, BMW will manage the at-home and on-the-go charging of selected BMW i3, BMW i8 and iPerformance vehicles in partnership with PG&E to optimize grid reliability and support renewable energy integration.

Through BMW ConnectedDrive, which enables connectivity between cars, drivers and their surroundings, and a special BMW ChargeForward smartphone app, participating drivers will be able to opt-out of any smart charging request as needed. If a customer does not opt-out, the vehicle charging can be shifted to meet the needs of the energy grid and provide energy back to the grid to meet high demand.

Participants can earn up to $900 for participating in this 24-month pilot, with all participants receiving a $300 initial incentive soon after the program launches. The total amount earned over the two years depends upon individual participation in charging events. Customers may also have the opportunity to earn additional incentives for participating in short-term charging tests, or sub-pilot projects, that may occur during the 24-month period.

BMW ChargeForward pilot goals

The goal of the pilot is to make smart charging more beneficial to the grid and more rewarding to participating drivers. The ChargeForward program is expected to help improve grid reliability and support the integration of renewable energy. By sharing the benefits of this optimization with EV drivers through incentives, smart charging also helps reduce the total cost of EV ownership – encouraging EV adoption.

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