The BMW Group and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced an expanded partnership that further leverages renewable energy to sustainably power electric vehicles (EVs). ChargeForward is the first smart charging program to offer customers incentives for maximizing the integration of renewable energy while optimizing their EV charging. This advanced smart charging initiative is available to all BMW’s battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) drivers in Northern and Central California who are also PG&E residential, electric customers.
Now entering its third phase, ChargeForward originally launched in 2015 to test the ability of EVs to support the electric grid and provide benefits to customers through vehicle-grid-integration applications that enable smart charging and demand response. Optimizing charging against renewable energy was the primary focus of the second phase. Initial tests of renewable optimizations showed participants averaged more than 55% of renewable energy charging, more than double the national average at the time.
Highlights from the ChargeForward Phase 2 pilot include:
More than 1 million miles were powered by 100% renewable energy charging during a one-year period.
Smart charging EVs can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 32% on average in Northern California, according to research from the University of California Berkeley.
Smart charging, when combined with broad access to workplace charging infrastructure, enables plug-in electric vehicles to more than double their renewable energy usage.
A smart-charging plugin hybrid can integrate more renewable energy than a normal-charging all-battery electric vehicle, despite the smaller battery size.
The goal of the phase-three pilot is to continue to make smart charging more beneficial to the grid and more rewarding for BMW EV drivers. The program is expected to help improve grid stability and support the integration of renewable energy—forwarding the BMW Group’s commitment to sustainability from design to engineering, production and the vehicle’s overall lifecycle. By sharing the benefits of this optimization with drivers through incentives, smart charging also helps reduce the total cost of EV ownership, thus encouraging EV adoption.
Designed for a larger group of BMW EV drivers—about 3,000 EV drivers compared to 100 and 400 in ChargeForward phase one and two—phase three of the pilot will further explore how incentivizing drivers to shift their EV charging times can help meet the needs of the electric grid and use excess renewable energy available during the day.
Enrollment in the 24-month pilot kicked off Monday 22 March, with the Phase 3 ChargeForward program program officially launching in mid-April and running through March 2023. The pilot is designed to further explore how to optimize EV charging with renewables on the electric grid and enable more customers to power their EVs with cleaner energy.
Based on past research, the use of optimized charging can enable electric vehicles to accept an additional 1,200 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy per vehicle per year, which is the equivalent of four months of clean energy charging for a typical battery EV.
Through smart charging, EVs act as a flexible grid resource to support the overall reliability of the electric grid. Smart charging focuses on moving EV charging away from times when electricity is in high demand and toward times when there is less demand and also more renewable energy on the grid such as mid-day. By responding to requests to move their EV charging times, drivers will support the electric grid and take advantage of clean, renewable energy. Additionally, utilizing EVs as a flexible grid resource could ultimately lead to cost savings associated with operating and maintaining the grid as well as for customers owning an EV.
In the future, PG&E and the BMW Group believe that vehicles can play a larger role in supporting the grid as new vehicle technologies are developed. Future EVs may have the ability to discharge the vehicle battery to support the grid, expanding the capabilities beyond smart charging and supporting customers and the grid during emergencies. To support this, PG&E and the BMW Group will collaborate in a lab setting to explore this potential by testing vehicle-to-grid functionalities that could support bill savings for customers driving EVs as well as test using EV batteries for backup generation and other grid services.
BMW ChargeForward Phase Three. Through BMW ConnectedDrive, which enables connectivity between cars, drivers and their surroundings, and a customized BMW ChargeForward smartphone app, participating BMW drivers will be able to opt-out of any smart charging request, based on their driving and personal preferences. When a customer allows their vehicle to be smart charged, the vehicle charging will be shifted to meet the needs of the electric grid.
Participating BMW EV drivers earn incentives for smart charging including $150 at sign-up and up to an additional $250/year by following ChargeForward recommendations. The total amount earned over the two years depends upon individual participation in charging events. These incentives can offset the extra cost for some drivers, depending on their electricity rate.
For example, during the Spring and Fall months, program participants could earn incentives that offset the entire cost of charging their vehicle, charging 750 miles per month with clean electricity at no cost due to the ChargeForward incentives and plugging into the grid when renewable energy is highly available.