BMW To Finally Replace i3 Onboard Charger To Restore Promised 7.4 kW Charging Rate

1 year ago by Eric Loveday 24

BMW i3

BMW i3

With This Cord Plugged In, The BMW i3 Will Now Charge At It Promised Rate After Onboard Charger Replacement

With This Cord Plugged In, The BMW i3 Will Now Charge At Its Promised Rate After Onboard Charger Replacement

When the BMW i3 launched in the U.S., BMW promised a Level 2 charging rate of over 7.0 kW.

Promised Versus Delivered

While the promise was over 7.0 kW (7.4 kW to be precise), several U.S. i3s began to blow what’s known as the KLE (onboard charger).  BMW’s response was to push through an update that effectively limited charging to between 4 and 5.5 kW.  In essence, the i3 was no longer the electric car that BMW promised, at least for those who got the update.  However, some i3 owners squeezed through the holes, managing to avoid the update as long as possible.  Several of those owners later experienced onboard charger failure.  There were even some i3 owners who demanded and received a buyback from BMW on the grounds that the car did not match the charging specifications released by BMW.

Resolution

BMW isn’t being open is regards to the actual issue.  With years of testing electric cars under its belt, you’d think that the German automaker would’ve equipped the i3 with a robust onboard charger.  However, the same issues that plagued BMW ActiveE owners continue to be problematic for new i3 buyers.

Fortunately, BMW finally claims to have fix for a problem that’s been irking i3 owners for a long time now.

BMW has issued a service campaign to replace the onboard chargers in affected vehicles.  This, along with a software update, should restore the i3’s charging rate back to 7.0 kW or higher.

Beta Testing

Some i3 owners have been beta testing this replacement onboard charger for a few weeks now.  To the best of our knowledge, no problems have been reported with this new unit.

What To Do

If you own an i3 in the U.S., contact your dealer to see if your vehicle is among the affected cars.  Onboard chargers will be replaced free of charge. A software update will be needed to restore maximum Level 2 charging.

For reference, here’s the official service action.  Your dealer should be made aware of this:

Service Action – B61 31 14 KLE Update

Tags: , , ,

24 responses to "BMW To Finally Replace i3 Onboard Charger To Restore Promised 7.4 kW Charging Rate"

  1. Bill Howland says:

    It would be interesting to see what the precise problem was, and what the precise interim fix was:

    I would suppose a 20 amp current limit would provide 4000 watts on a 200 volt line, and 5000 watts on a 250.

    There was initially some confusion in their marketing materials, since the 10 amp Mennekes chargers were 7 kw, but a 32 amp 7.4 kw unit (provided the supply was over 231 volts) was provided for the ‘niche’ North American Market.

    I shake my head at how ‘greenhorn’ these car companies are when it comes to this kind of stuff. They should hire someone who knows how to build stuff that won’t die. Charging a battery is a simple,
    ‘one quadrant’ process, and although there is the complication of an up-converter, and a low/high voltage issue in North America these companies still should be able to make things that work, and I’m not singleing out BMW since others have had these same silly problems.

    Its as if the designers don’t actually expect that people are going to be charging their cars for hours on end, which, is rather necessary if people are actually going to be driving their products.

    1. QCO says:

      Yes it would be interesting to know the design flaw that led to the derating – silicon devices, cooling, cabling, connectors….

      As Bill points out, chargers are far from rocket science so this is a black eye for BMW.

      Perhap the best solution would have been to design a reliable universal 10-12 amp module that can be used in a triplet for 3 phase Mennekes and paralleled for single phase US. That would have provided application flexibility and soft fail capability.

  2. Disappointed says:

    “Promised Versus Delivered”

    There are others.

    https://transportevolved.com/2014/12…-month-report/

  3. Bill Howland says:

    I think they worried more about what the EVSE looked like than whether the hidden on-board charger actually worked.

    Perhaps they thought all of their sales would be in Germany, and they’d only sell one or two of those ‘weird’ single phase high current (32 amp) units in the states.

    Unfortunately for that train of thought, the I3 has sold rather well ‘across the pond’.

    GM to their credit only has one charger period world wide, a 16 amp (3300 watt maximum) for any of their products, and I’m not aware of any huge failure rate for these things. One long awaited option which many here would want is a dual (32 amp – 6600 watt) option, which will become more necessary as GM produces more BEV’s and much larger PHEV’s.

    The minor changes in the 110 volt EVSE’s provided to my mind were only done to avoid litigious arguments, (i.e. nuisance lawsuits) since I had the first version of this available to the public, and with a good household recepticle (something the owner’s manual insisted there be) there were no problems.

    1. Anonymous says:

      FYI,

      All the i3s have the same L2 charge rate standard so what you’re saying makes no sense. The optional feature was L3, which is soon to be standard for MY2015.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        Excuse me, but how would you run a 32 amp single phase load in a country that LEGISLATES 16 amperes maximum unballanced load.

        Its quite obvious you’ve never had to wrestle with that issue.

        The power levels of the I3 in Germany are very similiar to the state side models. But you can’t transplant a german model to the states since for one, the J1772 connector used here wont fit!

        1. Bill Howland says:

          An analogous issue would be the ’10kw’ chargers in model S’s.

          In the states, they draw 40 amps.

          In european countries, Tesla’s sold there draw under 16 amps.

          The 2 cars will not work at the same power levels in both countries interchangably, or legally, at all, but

          The American Model S works fine in America.
          The European Model S works find in Europe.

          But don’t try transplanting them.

      2. Bill Howland says:

        The fact that you don’t realize that there are different distribution systems in different parts of the world, in other words, that this discussion is over your head, makes it very rude that you don’t try to educate yourself to these differences, but merely take the simplistic view that since the power levels of the chargers are similiar, therefore absolutely every other aspect much also be the same, which is the true nonsense.

        1. Bill Howland says:

          Notice how these BIG EXPERTS delude themselves into thinking they fully understand how something works, then when someone comes by with different information, it is AUTOMATICALLY wrong since they didn’t say it first!

          And there is never any doubt: They are always 100% cocksure of themselves even when they don’t understand what is even being discussed.

        2. Mint says:

          Thanks for the information, but no need to be so harsh.

          Everyone knows that the distributions systems are different, but most of us didn’t know that Europe legislates a maximum of 16A at a 1P socket.

          What is the point of such a restriction? Household breakers give you 100-200A of peak current (depending on service), and they can’t possibly balance the phase load to within 16A as appliances/lighting is turned on and off.

          1. Bill Howland says:

            Not harsh. People who aren’t conversant with the way electricity works shouldn’t call people who do know how the stuff works idiots. It is fine and polite to ask a question, but the cocksureness here of neophytes is irksome.

            Not sure what country you reside in Mint but Britain I know will at least allow 32 amp single phase loads on your ring circuits (something unique to the British Isles, so I’m told).

            Countries such as Switzerland have a 16 amp single phase limitation.

            Not an issue in the states since most utilities allow 400 amp single phase services for residence customers.

            A Switzerland household may have a 40 ampere main service device for the entire household, which is 3 phase.

            The short answer is that in North America, the ‘electrical pie’ is assumed to be much larger, and phase imballance loadings are ameliorated much closer to the ultimate supply source, whereas in Continental Europe, Loads are kept ballanced much closer to the loads.

            Which way is superior? Its not for me to judge. Only thing I can say is most of the world does not do things the way Americans do.

  4. John Hollenberg says:

    Sounds like more of a beta product than the Leaf was when it came out (battery capacity loss excepted).

    1. George B says:

      Yes, John. To be clear, I had an early 2011 LEAF, which was followed by an ActiveE and an i3.

      Based on my experience, you are right to say that the LEAF has likely experienced fewer breakdowns and issues (battery longevity problems excepted). Incidentally, I had several repeat problems with the onboard charger in the ActiveE, and the same subsystem failed on my i3 on day nine of ownership.

      Much like I argued with the LEAF when the battery problems surfaced, it’s not about the fact that there are some issues, that’s almost a given with such a radical departure from the status quo in the automotive industry. It’s what you do about them.

      To BMW’s credit, they are apparently listening, and are catching up very quickly despite coming onto the market relatively late.

      That said, I’m heartened to see that Nissan has tackled their battery problems, and even though it took a long time, they took it seriously and came up with a host of remedies and approaches, which should allay concerns and help EV adoption going forward.

      I hope that BMW and the i3 will overcome their teething issues, and will join the ranks of EV leaders in the market.

  5. mr. M says:

    FYI the charge rate in germany got limited as well. I don’t know the reason but it should be the same as in the US…

  6. BMW in Phoenix says:

    Let’s stop bashing for a second for some clarification–Where was this ‘promise’ published or made by BMW?

    As part of the training process BEFORE this car launched, and BEFORE the first car was delivered in the US-BMW had changed the charging times for the vehicle from the INTERNAL preliminary and pre-launch info on the Level 1 110V charging from 13.5 hours to 18-20 hours. I can’t see where the public was misled. Bad information is everywhere but are we splitting hairs and pointing fingers for the fact we can or do we have a genuine interest in the car? Ask for the iCertified personnel at each center that you have questions of-they will either have the answers or get them for you. You can’t believe everything you read, if you did Elvis is riding the Lockness Monster and Michael Jackson is hanging out with Bigfoot. Hasn’t clarity always depended on the source??? Ask the experts, not a writer or reviewer that may have misinterpreted or misunderstood the facts.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      I’m not bashing, and I’m certainly not singling out BMW.

      BMW in fact is to be commended for detecting the problem early and derating the car charger to 4kw.

      It was good they did so, since the many who didn’t take the derating ended up with defunct chargers.

      However, its not bashing BMW to complement GM for designing chargers that keep working, albeit not as powerful as BMW’s.

      And it does appear BMW put more design emphasis on the looks of the EVSE, than the longevity of the hidden charger in the car.

    2. E.V. Fitter says:

      The “promise” of the 240v charge time was (and still is) published on BMW’s own website and in brochures
      .
      http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/Vehicles/2014/i3/BMWi3/Features_and_Specs/BMWi3Specifications.aspx

      I bought one knowing about the reduced rate. So, obviously, I don’t have a problem with the rate being slowed untill the problem could be fixed. However I didn’t find out about it from the dealer and they never said a word about it. That’s where BMW is in the wrong. To be fair, I honestly don’t think my salesman knew anything about this.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        Very interesting ‘spec’ page you came up with, E.V. Fitter.

        On that page they say 32 amps @ 240 volts, which, assuming pf > .99 to meet Euro Standards, would mean 7600 watts.

        If true, that’s an even higher bar to meet.

  7. Ct200h says:

    I would like to see some reports from owners once the repair and software is done on the charge rate achieved.
    I will be very “shocked” , and pleased if it ever really hits the spec of 7.4kw.

  8. OFF GAS says:

    I had my KLE replaced a month ago but for a different, possibly related reason: charge time. As I understand it there are actually two chargers: one charger and the KLE which split the load, somewhat evenly. One of these was derated due to overheating problems and hence the slower charging rate. When charging with 120V only one of the units is engaged- can’t remember which one. This approach is efficient and utilizes the power electronics effectively. I normally see a charge rate of 6.8 KWatts when connected to a chargepoint charger that displays the power being delivered, but I rarely use Level 2 charging.
    Mostly I use Level 1 on 240V at max setting. I use a power meter (Blue Planet) to monitor consumption. At first I noticed it seemed to take more power and longer to charge than expected. This I confirmed with the Level 1 meter which shows a drop from 120V actual to 113V while charging due to expected line losses. It also shows a charge rate of 11.6 Amps throughout the charge. One day when I was at 1/3 SOC it consumed over 20 KWattHrs energy on Level 1. My concern is where is all the extra power going?
    I’ve checked the power factor on Level 2 at 30A which is 100% so they do have a well designed charger. I also noticed that the charge rate dropped off from 95% SOC to 100% as a finishing charge as expected. This could consume up to two hours extra. The slower rate does not occur on Level 1 charging (Yes, I watched it charge for hours to confirm and logged and plotted it). Still the charge times seem excessive. As I don’t have a 240V logging power meter I can’t log/graph the charge rate. I’m using the dash display horizontal bar to estimate SOC. It seems to be consistent with the product of the Trip Computer Efficiency average and the trip distance which is the only way of discovering the KWattHrs consumed I know of, short of reverse engineering the OBD2 port codes.
    Most (all?) inverter power electronics are inefficient when not running at maximum and I expect the loss is going into heat but haven’t pointed an IR temp guage at the DLE or charger yet to confirm.
    The main problem is that charge time is longer than hoped which is a major impact on long trips using multiple Level 2 charging. On day to day usage home based with overnight charging or even occasional opportunity charging, it is a non-issue. I am hesitant to make a longer trip due to this but for city use it exceeds all my expectations, and way better than my old conversion. If anyone has a logging meter and can plot the charge rate and total consumption to calibrate the dash display it would be helpful.
    Born electric ebike 2005, E-boat 2006, EV Jan 2008, i3 May 2014

  9. Ct200h says:

    I3 owners who have the kle repair done and can check the charge rate please report !

  10. Seth says:

    We have one of the first European i3’s and we have a 32 amp 240v charge station at home. But for some reason we get an error message on the info screen all the time that the max charging rate had been reduced and that we need to contact BMW if this happens regularly. So we did, but not much has changed. It also happens at other charging stations (32 amps 3 phase of which the i3 only uses 1).

    After reading this article I start to wonder if this could effect European i3’s as well. Fyi we live in the Netherlands.

  11. CompuMagic says:

    I bought my car May 28th in NY. I have had two software updates- one in August, and then one around December 1. Both times to address the CEL light (which is still not fixed). I noticed after the last update that my charging time is about double what it used to be and I have a Level 2 Levinton charger which is rated at 9.6kW so I have plenty of power. Car is going back later today to a different dealer this time and I will request the Service Action – B61 31 14 KLE Update.

    1. CompuMagic says:

      Update: The dealer found the Service Action – B61 31 14 KLE Update and they are going to attempt to order the on board charger replacement and get it fixed. Thanks Eric for posting this article!