What has BMW learned from years of electric vehicle test programs and working with Mini E drivers and the ActiveE Electronauts? According to BMW board member Herbert Diess, it's that public charging is not an important piece of the puzzle of making EVs a success. The way those early EV drivers used their vehicles told BMW that, "public infrastructure is not really very important because most people are charging their cars at home," Diess recently told Wards Auto. It's a message we've heard before.

Diess' personal experience fits with this conclusion, he said. After driving his company's new i3 city EV for over a year, "not once have I touched public charging." Of course, the i3 does let the driver search for public charging stations and BMW has a partnership with ChargePoint, and Diess is not hinting that BMW is totally against the idea of public charging.

Still, Diess' comments are not likely to find a warm welcome with everyone in the EV scene. An August 2012 UCLA study titled "Financial Viability Of Non-Residential Electric Vehicle Charging Stations" (PDF) clearly states:

Adoption by consumers will largely be a function of the electric vehicle charging options available. Studies show that most EV charging currently takes place in the home (Carr 2010). Even so, in order for EVs to gain widespread consumer adoption, it is critical for an infrastructure of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSEs) to exist outside the home.

Even BMW's own electric drivers have been sending mixed messages. In 2010, a study of Mini E drivers found that 87.5 percent said a public charging infrastructure is necessary, though 75 percent later said they could manage without such a network.


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  • 101 Comments
      Randy C
      • 10 Months Ago
      Level 2 public charging is a fantasy. First off it's to damn expensive, on the order of $5 to $8 a day in my case. This is just as expensive as gasoline. Plus I would have to stay with the car. I could not go home and get some sleep during the 5 to 8 hours of charging time. Most of the money collected goes to funding the billing system. The electricity is to cheap to make it worth tracking. And the practice of setting up a charging station every place I might stop has its problems. I'm not going to pay $1 (or more) for a full hour to stop at my local hardware store for 20 minutes (long line at the register) to buy some nails. Only places where I may stop for a couple of hours like a movie theater or work make any sense. The quick charger is what makes the most sense for public charging. It saved my butt 3 months ago when I had a couple of unexpected trips to the outer limits of my driving range. Most of the trip was on the highway which eats range a little faster. With a little prior planning I was able to get to a quick charger at the 56 mile mark, recharge and finish my day. With the range of my EV I don't have to worry about charging every where. I can make it the entire day, go home plug in, eat dinner, go to bed. Some time during the night, while I'm sleeping, the car finishes charging ready for the next day. You can not beat the convenience of having your "fuel" delivered straight to your "tank" in your driveway while you're sleeping. I'd love to see gasoline pull that trick off!
        Spec
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Randy C
        Meh. L2 public charging has some purpose. If there is a theme park or zoo that is like 70 miles away, then I could drive there, plug in, enjoy the attraction, and then have a full charge at the end of the day. I don't mind the high price because I'd rarely use it.
          VL00
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Spec
          If you're in a Leaf and you want make a 140 mile round trip, you'd have no choice. In a Volt, paying $6 to charge is a ripoff, and its cheaper to drive home on gas.
      CaptTesla
      • 10 Months Ago
      Just shows the narrow minded thinking from auto execs. Of course they are all charging from home, because your cars don't have the range like a tesla. When you finally get away for big oil making your decision you will see your owners driving Long distances, tesla has already shown this.
      itsme38269
      • 10 Months Ago
      He's right. In 4 years of driving EVs, I've charged in public maybe 5 times, and only 2-3 of them were necessary. The only real "public" charging which people make routine use of is workplace charging, which is often important. The most important charging hurdle for EVs is charging for people who rent apartments, move a lot, or park on the street. In other words, young people, the very people who would be most likely to want to try out new technology. Other than that, if you have a place to charge which is also where you sleep, then you really won't need to charge in public. I don't think this is contradicted by the study mentioned above, either, though. Charging stations are important for public acceptance of EVs because they raise the profile of EVs and they remove one barrier people put up for themselves in buying them. Non-EV drivers think the infrastructure is important, so to even get them to consider an EV, you need to show them infrastructure. Then they'll end up never using it when they get one, but it helps get people in the door.
      MTN RANGER
      • 10 Months Ago
      I use public charging almost every work day for my 35-45 miles range. However, if I had a 80-100 range, I would probably use it less. I see PHEVs using the charging systems since they don't go as far as most BEVs. Luckily almost all charging in my area is free.
      Carguy
      • 10 Months Ago
      I have both an Active E and a Volt and from my experience I think he is right. When I first got my Active E 2 years ago as is typical I searched out public chargers near my work and along my route. But after maybe a few weeks you realize that its unnecessary and that in my case with a 100 mile range and a 50 mile roundtrip commute I have half a tank left when I get home. For pretty much every two car family home owner in the US a Level 2 charger at home and either a second gas car or plug in hybrid will be a workable solution with or without public chargers.
        Carguy
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Carguy
        I'm not opposed to public chargers in fact I think localities should consider regulations for new large developments (shopping centers, large apt. communities to add L2 or DC chargers). My point was that even without public charging most families can go electric. Flexibility is the key to the success of EV thats why I think BMW is offering the i3 with both Rex and DC - I have ordered my i3 with both even though it might rarely be used.
        Spec
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Carguy
        Well, as Rotation points out above, neither of those cars had a DC fast charger.
          Rotation
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Spec
          VL00: He said he also has a gas car for part of his normal activities. With a good DCFC infrastructure, you can remove the need for a gas car or hybrid to make a workable solution.
          VL00
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Spec
          He didn't need any charging to drive his commute, or other normal activities. DC fast charging doesn't change that.
      SpikedLemon
      • 10 Months Ago
      Polling early adopters if they can manage with minimal infrastructure is like polling AB forum members if they want to see an AWD Diesel Stationwagon with a 6spd manual transmission.
        rubley00
        • 10 Months Ago
        @SpikedLemon
        I can charge my Volt at home, overnight, for $0.55. Public charging is more like $5. Its ridiculous, and that's part of the reason.
      BraveLil'Toaster
      • 10 Months Ago
      Yes! Yes, of course that's true! This trip took 4 days, just three years ago: http://green.autoblog.com/2014/01/30/robert-llewellyn-fast-chargers-long-distance-leaf-ev-drive-in-uk/#aol-comments Now it takes 24 hours. So what was that you were saying again?
      oRenj9
      • 10 Months Ago
      The current market for EVs are home owners, that's why the vast majority of EV drivers charge their cars at home. A significant portion of the population is being completely ignored by this study because most cars are not garage kept; they are parked in driveways or parking lots, neither of which are suitable for charging.
        ElectricAvenue
        • 1 Day Ago
        @oRenj9
        Why are driveways not suitable for charging? Almost every EVSE on the market is certified for outdoor installation.
      EZEE2
      • 1 Day Ago
      Nooooooo, Douchetron is a rank amongst the Douche. Let's say you needed to meet with the Douchetron. You would be led by a group of Douche (they would all have shirts with three buttons opened, and gold chains, overly skinny jeans, and constantly making duck face posted while holding their hands in what they think are gang type symbols) to their king, the Douchetron. The Douchetron would be on this throne, with two shapely women on either side. Although shapely, they would be completely without allure, as they would be taking selfies while making more duck face poses, fixing their platinum dyed blonde hair, arching their backs and thrusting their chests, while not realizing that they use so much self tan that they have now turned orange. And that, my friends, is what ADHD can do for you!
      • 10 Months Ago
      This is a bit more complex issue than a simple yes or no: Sustainability Group’s recently surveyed EV professionals on expectations for EV sales in 2014: http://evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=2076 Here’s what these ‘EV insiders’ think about the main drivers of and barriers to EV adoption: MPGe - Bottom line fuel cost savings is the main driver of the decision to purchase an EV. “Asked about the single-most factor that drives consumers to purchase an electric vehicle, insiders overwhelmingly point to high miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) fuel economy and implicitly, savings derived from not purchasing petroleum transportation fuels. Main Driver of EV Purchase: - Fuel economy 69.8% - Feel good 12.8% - Environment 10.5% - Oil 5.8% - Technology 1.1% (majority of ABG commenters fall into this category) “69.8 percent of the survey respondents think fuel economy is the main driver of a decision to buy an EV… [while] very few point to a love of new technology.” As we can see, the overwhelming majority [ca. 98.9%] of real EV consumers are not tech geeks at all, therefore, they must be approached accordingly. Now the main barriers to purchasing EVs - Vehicle cost 46.3% - Range 27.4 % - Charge access 21.3% - Charger time 5.0% - Electricity cost 0.0% EV insiders see the high cost of purchasing plug-in EVs as the single most imposing barrier (46.3%) to EV sales growth: “range anxiety” being the second (27.5%), followed closely, at 21.3%, by concern about access to charging infrastructure. According to this specific survey, very surprisingly, the lack of charging infrastructure is a way bigger issue than charging time itself, as barrier to growth in EV sales. Conclusion: we simply cannot say for sure, that public chargers are not important for EV success, since it’s a much more complex issue. But to have some fun, here’s what president and CEO of BMW North America Ludwig Willisch had to say why the i3 is "the ultimate driving machine among the EVs”: “…The i3 starts at $35,325. after a $7,500 federal tax credit. The cheapest Model S comes in at $63,570. The Tesla can go farther on a full battery than the BMW (208 miles vs. 80-100 miles). But BMW is marketing the i3 more as a city car, so that range will do just fine. Plus, you can take the $30,000 you save and buy a 3 Series for those road trips.” Hard to argue against it. Finally, if you for some reason decide not to buy a 3 Series for those longer road trips, than you can simply order your i3 with a range extender, consequently solving the charging infrastructure issue for good.
        rubley00
        • 1 Day Ago
        i3 + 3 Series does not equal a Tesla Model S, the same way that 9 women pregnant for 1 month does not equal a baby.
          • 1 Day Ago
          @rubley00
          Your statement is naturally perfectly true (either for you or for many others as well). But people usually make different evaluative judgments in the sense of liking or disliking an object(s). However, even this does not mean that their preference is necessarily stable over time, moreover, it usually changes (that’s mainly what e.g. advertisements try to achieve spending lots of money in the making). People rather base their preferences on the degree of happiness, satisfaction, gratification, enjoyment, or utility things provide for them, or try to make an ‘optimal choice’ whether it is real or imagined. Now, after the theoretical foundation, we can safely say that we have not less than four equally true equations, since each of them very true for a different set of people. Here they are: 1.) i3 + 3 Series =/= Tesla Model S 2.) i3 + 3 Series = Tesla Model S 3.) i3 + 3 Series < Tesla Model S 4.) i3 + 3 Series > Tesla Model S I also wouldn't argue with any of these statements as well, since as the age old Latin maxim goes: De gustibus non est disputandum, meaning, in matters of taste, there can be no disputes.
      Bernard
      • 10 Months Ago
      It is shame that BMW doesn't have brilliance like Elon Musk at the helm. No vision, no clear view of the total picture. If your EV's don't have road trip range and your chargers take more than hour to do anything meaningful, then no one is going to use your public chargers. Now excuse me, I need to buy more Tesla stock :-)
      • 10 Months Ago
      We don't need slow 30 amp public charging. Most of the public chargers are very low power and would take many hours to recharge an EV. We need 70 amps or higher for public charging. Something that can recharge at a rate of 50+ miles of range per hour. So that while shopping for an hour, your car can be full when you leave. For road trips, Tesla has it all figured out perfectly. Superchargers that recharge at a rate of 300+ miles of range per hour. Drive 2-3 hours, then stop at Supercharger for 20 minutes for drinks/bathroom, drive another 2-3 hours. It works great.
        Hunter Smith
        • 1 Day Ago
        The Model S can be recharged approximately 50% in 20 min which equates to a little over 130 miles of additional range.
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