BMW Board Member: Public Charging Not That Important

FEB 9 2014 BY JAY COLE 20

In the past we have heard from the likes of Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and other executives how important the development of the public charging infrastructure is for selling electric vehicles.

Also Not Important

Also Not Important In Public

To be fair, these admissions usually comes as an reason why electric car “XYZ” has not sold up to previous forecasts – rarely are they heard as a car is introduced.

Still, the reasoning seemed to be a fair point.

For example, if you wanted to go from Paris, France to neighboring Reims and back, your Renault Zoe isn’t getting it done without a public charging point – therefore, the Zoe missed initial sales marks, or something like that.

Enter BMW board member Herbert Diess, basking in the introductory glow of the BMW i3 at this year’s NAIAS, while talking to Wards Auto and other automotive journalists.

Given past experience with test fleets (MINI e and ActiveE) Diess says “very few people would use public charging.” And for himself, “…not once have I touched public charging.”

Although we don’t know for sure, we imagine Mr. Diess has more than 1 car per adult driver in his household, so has likely never played the “who has got the EV today” game that many families with both a pure electric and a gas car have.

These BMW i3 At The LA Auto Show Were All Charged Back Home In Germany And Didn't Need Any Public Charging To Get Journalists Around

These BMW i3 At The LA Auto Show Were All Charged Back Home In Germany And Didn’t Need Any Public Charging To Get Journalists Around For Test Drives

The BMW board member does say that the fast charging infrastructure is growing fast, especially in Europe but that even still “this public infrastructure is not really very important because most people are charging their cars at home.” 

Diess also says that he prefers the BMW i3 all-electric version because the range-extended i3’s “additional weight loses a little bit of its agility, its nimbleness,” while noting electric cars are mostly used for about an hour a day in the city,  “so there is plenty of time for recharging.”

It all makes sense, but we still can’t help but feel he might have a different point in a year or two if the all-electric BMW i3 underperforms expectation.

Wards Auto (hat tip to Alan!)

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20 Comments on "BMW Board Member: Public Charging Not That Important"

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You can see how committed they are to CCS, aka frankenplug. Don’t expect them to be rolling out any quick charge stations, apparently no one needs them.

While ~95% of driving is accomplished from the EVs home location, it can be said public infrastructure in not that important. What about the remaining 3-5% of trips requiring an extended range to reach a 150-200 mile trip destination? With DCFC infrastructure (with a 75 mile EV range), an extended trip is just 1-2 range-extending public charges. By BMW-i just offeing the Rex option for extending range, it is clear BMW doesn’t want anything to do with public DCFC infrastructure. BMW customers will be forced to navigate range-extending issues on their own (hoping i’s will reach a critical number to justify someone building combo DCFC infrastructure). The user experience will be OK for customers finding a range-extending solution; but the owner experience will be less positive for customers without options. Trips beyond 200-300, and 300-1000 miles mostly fall into the under 1% category for an average driver. This category for now becomes an economic decision. An EV with larger battery range at a high purchase costs or use an alternative travel option for 1% of trips. (For this, BMW has a complex program of points to rent a fossil-fueled vehicle from a dealer) BMW’s focus is on engineering and building… Read more »

It’s comparable to just being able to use one and the same gas station. Works most of the times but imagine trying to sell a car to someone and telling them that more than one gas station is unncessary.

Even Tesla points out that home charging is the priority for daily commuting.

“The most convenient time to charge is often at night, when your car is parked in your garage. Simply plug in when you arrive home. Model S will charge right away or at the time you’ve scheduled using the Touchscreen or a smart phone. Long before morning, your car will be charged and ready for the next adventure.”

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Well it’s not only convenient, but also cheaper for drivers and better for utility profits.

Still, pure EVs won’t be much for long trips without public fast charging.

This is because the Model S has the luxury of a 200+ mile range. Tesla knows this is the point at which the discussion on infrastructure becomes mostly irrelevant. Consider that for most people, there are only three basic trip scenarios: the daily commute including a couple errands (home charging the Model S offers more than enough range); a weekend getaway (under a three hour drive, charge once to get back home); and the vacation road trip (therefore Superchargers). For most city trips only, 100 miles range gives people enough confidence to not need public chargers, which is the i3 and the reason BMW can say this.

I agree and disagree at the same time. Myself, and everyone I know with an EV charges 99% of the time at home. When I first leased my Leaf back in early 2011 there were virtually zero charging stations in my area. I managed to get by without them, but at the cost of reduced flexibility. Now that we have them, I rarely use them. Maybe once per month. And even in those cases I could probably get by without most of the time. To put it in a way that gas drivers can understand, I always suggest trying to think about their car like this. Imagine they had their own gas pump in their garage and could top off their tank every morning before leaving for work. How often would they stop by a gas station? Probably not very often. In fact, you could probably make the case that they would never stop at a gas station except when taking a really long trip. But then imagine that their gas tank was shrunk to where it could hold only a few gallons of gas – enough to get them 70 miles or so. Suddenly the gas stations would start… Read more »
For the most part you hit it right on. The place where we diverge is that the psychological barrier to EV adoption is more complex than just seeing comfort in more EVSEs. If i had to look for a charging station everywhere I went, I would never have bought an EV. Consider your analogy of fueling at home (a good one, by the way) with the added problem of having to find a working & available station everywhere you go. Another way to see this is imagine the stress of only really having a couple of places you can park where ever you go. I know I’m slightly overstating it for effect but I believe it’s a real issue. People are accustom to the simplicity of gassing up once a week or so and then ignoring it for the rest of the week. To take that away from them is a non-starter for the vast majority of the public. Important point is that at some inflection-point range, the issue goes away. I believe it to be 200 mi/ 320 km. Of course cultural effect have some impact on the IP range. So, Herr Deiss is more right than not but… Read more »
Mitsubishi’s early testing of the i-MiEV with TEPCO back in 2008 revealed the paradox. http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1082264_to-sell-electric-cars-in-northeast-is-more-charging-needed-some-thoughts “First is what many analysts call “the TEPCO Paradox,” named after the Tokyo Electric Power Company (now better known as the operator of the failed Fukushima nuclear reactor). In an early test several years ago of battery-electric cars operated by volunteers in Tokyo, TEPCO found that drivers would use plug-in cars only to perhaps half their range. Asked why, they predictably cited range anxiety–the fear of not being able to make it back home. What would alleviate that? Why, publicly available charging stations, of course–so they could recharge en route, or if they had to make unexpected detours. TEPCO duly installed a network of charging stations–and, indeed, the cars were used to a greater degree. Most of the increased mileage, however, did not come from use of those charging stations, which was far lower than projected. It came simply from driver confidence that a fallback was available–even though the drivers rarely used it. The moral of the story: Install just enough charging stations to deliver that confidence–but no more.” Ford discovered during the Th!nk City Clean Commute tests of 2001-2002 that people would charge at… Read more »

Absolutely, but that supports bmw pov. There are almost 10,000 public chargers out there, and will be over 200 combo plug quick chargers in 2016. That appears to hit critical mass.

Now the stupidity of carb making the bevx rules give the car a puny gas tank so it can’t go on long trips with the range extender, that will hurt it against the volt. The price/performance will hurt it against the leaf and tesla S. I don’t however think that lack of charging infrastructure is the i3 or i8 problem.

So a single provider (eVgo) being legally bound to install 200 quick-chargers somehow “hits critical mass”?
The US counts about 3x that number already — CHAdeMO ones, which the US version of the i3 can’t use — and save for some specific relatively well-covered areas now, it’s IMHO still nowhere near enough nation-wide.

Heck, Japan has some 2000 QCs already, yet Nissan, Mitsubishi, Honda and Toyota plan on quickly tripping that number, and that’s only a small step towards the country’s longer-term goal of… 36000.
http://insideevs.com/toyota-nissan-honda-and-mitsubishi-agree-to-jointly-development-of-charging-infrastructure-in-japan/

Mart is spot-on: the mere existence of (compatible) quick-chargers has given me the confidence to dig much deeper into my car’s battery, as I no longer feel the need to keep some buffer, or postpone some trips entirely, “just in case”.

QCs effectively allow me to go farther, even when I don’t use them.

All the companies which demonstrated being serious about EVs got it (Nissan, Tesla, and outside the US, Mitsubishi). BMW? Meh, they have this cool REx to sell…

I think you got it. I only once went on a drive that exceeded 50% of my range with no public chargers to fall back on, in 4 months of ownership. “Workplace” charging can be very important for people in apartments; however, that’s a bit different from “public” charging.

While current EV drivers may charge at home “~99% or the time”, the other 99% of drivers need more utility out of their vehicle than being chained to their garage with a sub 50 mile radius. Then there is the Multi Unit Dwelling population that can ONLY drive EV with public charging. EV adoption will increase as the availability of public charging increases. Not a core concern for an ICE company like BMW.

So does this mean they are saying that they will not help support deployment of public chargers? :-/

It is obvious that this board member did not talk with Tom Moloughney, probably the biggest BMW EV proponent in the US. (He is training some dealers on the i3 for BMW) Tom’s dialy commute is long enough that he uses most of his charge ONE WAY, which means he has to charge at the public chargers at work to get home. (Tom installed the chargers, but made them available to the public.) For those of us living in Southern California a “city car” does not mean that we can always make it through the day on a single charge. Many have commutes that are more than half the range of one charge, thus the need for some additional charging ability. This could be at work or at a public station, but the need is still there. In our case we need to charge during the day about half of the time on one of our EVs, but usually not for both. Having a public infrastructure available makes use of the EV possible. As a MiniE “Pioneer” I feel strongly that BMW should not use data from that program to determine public infrastructure need – the infrastructure simply wasn’t there… Read more »

Tesla supercharger network says otherwise.

The fact that BMW installed a 7,700 watt charger shows his input may not have carried much weight.

It really isnt important at all if your just commuting around locally or even a medium distance, only important for long distance travel. I always charge at home, never use public chargers, well i’ve tried them out but i dont need them.

I think people are reading too much into his comment. He made one offhand comment saying that people don’t use public charging that much… it doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand the value of it under many circumstances.

A better way to look at this: his message may be that many people should not feel they have to wait for more public infrastructure to buy an EV as a commuter car and get a lot of value out of it. This is different from saying there’s no need to deploy public infrastructure.

Region influences functionality. So in the California car culture world, the sc network is both functional in that it will likely, as a whole receive much use. It’s functional in another way simply as an advertisement that is visible to millions of people everyday. I think Bwm is sort of missing with this approach towards charging infrastructure. It’s not merely a question of necessity. They are a well established that makes great cars, and a few models have electric motors, but Tesla
lives or dies with the electric car. To illustrate I present this old joke.

The Chicken(bmw) and the Pig(tesla)

A chicken and a pig went to breakfast, one morning and the chicken ordered ham and eggs all around.
The pig scowled.
“What’s wrong,” squawked the chicken. “I’m eating my own kind too.”
“Yes, replied the pig. “But in your case it’s just a small contribution, in mine it’s going in whole hog!”