It looks like it's just a blue box on a pole, but BMW's new i DC Fast Charger represents a much bigger deal than just the lowest-cost SAE Combo Charger on the market. BMW sees it as the key to getting more drivers into electric vehicles. As Robert Healey, the EV infrastructure manager for BMW of North America told us, "For [BMW], the future is clear. DC charging really is the future."

"DC charging really is the future." – Robert Healey, BMW

We spoke with Healey at the Plug-In 2014 conference in San Jose, CA last week about the promise of the new $6,548 DC fast charger. "The strategy is pretty simple," he said. "BMW wants to get as many DC Fast Chargers out there as possible. We're not in the charging business, we're in the EV business and to support the sales of our cars, we have identified some key areas: home charging, public charging and assistant services for EV drivers."

That's why the first of the new blue boxes will be installed at the 285 i dealers in the US, many of whom already installed the cables needed for fast charging when they put in the Level 2 chargers, said BMW's Cliff Fietzek, manager of connected eMobility. Even if you haven't gotten a site ready for a DC fast charger, the installation costs for BMW's unit are lower because you don't need to pour concrete (for the wall unit) and the SAE Combo connector plug costs "significantly" less than the competing CHAdeMO plug, Fietzek said.

One minor drawback to the BMW DC fast charger compared to the more expensive traditional, full-size DC fast chargers is that the 24kW BMW fast charger allows you to charge to 80 percent full in 30 minutes, while the bigger units can do the job in 20. The good news for EV drivers with SAE Combo cars (which, in the US, means the Chevy Spark EV and the VW e-Golf) is that any driver with a Combo plug car and a ChargePoint card will be able to use the BMW stations. In fact, BMW is talking with both GM and VW on where to install SAE Combo stations in the US so that there is minimal duplication of effort.

BMW i DC Fast Charger

In other places, BMW is working with other automakers, including Nissan, which uses a competing fast charging standard. "In Great Britain, we are installing triple chargers, the CHAdeMO, SAE Combo and the high-power, three-phase AC that can go up to 43 kW to support the Renault [EVs] and others," Fietzek said. The reason for the competitors working together is that the cost of laying the cables and pouring the concrete are the most expensive parts of an installation, and the different connectors and software can all be run from one box.

"[Interoperability] is the best customer experience, it's the best way to get customers into electric vehicles."

BMW has also worked to get two charging networks (ChargePoint and NRG eVgo) to play nice behind the scenes for the ChargeNow DC Fast free charging program that launches with the new chargers. "What's significant about the program, which is a first for the industry right now, is that you are able to use a ChargePoint card on the EVgo network," Healey said. "Our customers don't need to go to the EVgo to open up a new account. It's the first step towards true interoperability." Think of it like the early ATMs, when you couldn't use your bank card at a competing bank's ATM. Now, that sort of ease-of-use is standard, you just pay a little fee to do so. BMW hopes the same thing will happen with DC fast chargers once the free charging program ends (currently, that's set to happen at the end of 2015).

"We have eight or 10 large charging networks out there right now," Healey said. "The future is that they have to be interoperable. It's the best customer experience, it's the best way to get customers into electric vehicles."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 54 Comments
      Spec
      • 4 Months Ago
      It is certainly a great charger in that it is fast and inexpensive. But it is not going to help much unless there is a concerted effort to install hundreds of them. Who's going to pick up that task?
        DaveMart
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Spec
        The VW group. With a $114 bn total world investment budget over the next 5 years helping set up a charging network is hardly going to make them go overdrawn.
          Rotation
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          Every penny they spend is money not available for other initiatives? The same is true for Tesla. Tesla saw a value in putting in chargers, to drive adoptions of their cars. I can't see why you think VW would see it any differently.
          DaveMart
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          Volt owners are using out of home chargers more often than Leaf drivers so that they still drive most of their miles on electric with a much smaller battery pack. The VW group's cars will have half again the electric range of the Volt, and folk are going to be really keen where possible to recharge during the day, at work and so on. So I see VW pushing away from home chargers. What is a major initiative for Tesla is pocket change for the VW group. For instance the 'gigafactory' for batteries could be paid for 4 and a half times over by their investment budget every single year.
          skierpage
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          Sure VW has the money, but will they? Every penny they spend on this is money not available for other initiatives. Until VW sell a long-distance EV they promote as your only car, they don't need to install hundreds of fast charging stations. It's far more tempting to rely on other players, industry consortia, and "good enough" cheap AC charging. So I predict VW won't spend money the way Tesla has. We'll see.
        scraejtp
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Spec
        I don't agree that it is very fast, at least not for DC. My level 2 charger at home is capable of 9.6 kW, and a Tesla with a dual charger option can charge at 19.2 kW on AC at home. They are going the cheap route to put our charger more quickly/cheaply, but I feel (hope?) they will be obsolete in a relatively short time-frame.
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 4 Months Ago
          @scraejtp
          Yes, Tesla's with dual chargers can almost charge at 20kW. That is about 60 to 65 miles range in a hour. This 24kW DC is not much better and the Tesla HPWC (High Power Wall Connector) charger is only 1000 dollars!!! Their is a guy that already is beta testing the Chademo adapter that Tesla is working on and he says he gains 140 range per hour using it. BMW is ******* it all up on purpose. You suck it BMW and SAE! Perhaps BMW thinks they can entrench wimpy EV's forever by matching them with wimpy chargers. Don't think to big when it comes to EV's BMW. Those gasser sales are what butters your bread.
          taser it
          • 4 Months Ago
          @scraejtp
          You are missing the point with these second-tier DC charging stations. They can be replaced/upgraded and the cars with DC charging will be able to charge faster. Not so if you upgraded your home EVSE, as you are limited by the power electronics on your car. It's much better for the consumer to have these second-tier DC charging stations supplant L2 charging stations in commericial locations.
          Spec
          • 4 Months Ago
          @scraejtp
          I didn't say 'very fast', I said 'fast and inexpensive'. It is the combo of the two that make the difference. This unit is small and only $6.5K such that when you include the installation costs, it really doesn't cost much more than installing an L2 charger. My L2 charger at home can do 240V at 40Amps too . . . but that doesn't matter much since the onboard charger of most EVs is 6.6KW or less.
      Roto
      • 4 Months Ago
      BMW is out of its league in pure electric cars. They should stick to petrol and hybrids (i8 not bad!).
      purrpullberra
      • 4 Months Ago
      I like the effort. One would hope the talk with Tesla and get together. At the LEAST these should be installed near Superchargers, maybe on the same property, of ones these cars can get to. Unfortunately dealerships are not the best locations for these units unless the staff all switch, that would make a difference. But too many choices isn't always better. The sooner these manufacturers settle on the most popular technically advanced system the better. It seems clear that the Tesla setup is superior. And their sales are the most spectacular probably earning the title of most popular. So that means, basically, the sooner everyone builds their batteries to accept true fast charging the better. Maybe there will be 2 kinds of EV's, ones that can travel along routes with Supercharger access and the others are sort of stuck in urban areas. It's not a bad idea I suppose.
        Rotation
        • 4 Months Ago
        @purrpullberra
        Tesla does not have the highest sales. There are far more LEAFs in the world than Teslas. There already are 2 kinds of EVs. Making very long trips in a small-battery EV just isn't practical right now because charge rate is proportional to battery size. It is difficult to charge a battery to 80%, no matter how small in under 25 minutes. So with a small battery EV, no matter who makes it, you're going to have to stop a lot. If you have a battery that can only go 60 miles, you have to stop for 25 minutes every 60 miles. That's going to make these cars limited in long-distance driving no matter what charging standard you adopt.
          purrpullberra
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          Your totally right. I didn't say or mean to say that there were more Tesla's. Just the trajectory of sales growth, the incredible year on year or quarter to quarter growth is unlike the Volt or Leaf is much more spectacular. That's part of the popular part too. Yeah the 2 kinds of EV's do exist. I wonder if they will just become further entrenched. You can either be on the Supercharger network or be 'stuck' in your metro area. Maybe there'll be an opening for non-Supercharged 40kWh ModelS's or X's? I still think they could sell enough to make it worth while. Those folks just couldn't justify putting down $5k so far in advance and then stretch to afford it. But if/when the deposit goes way down and if/when they make a smaller, non-Supercharged 40kWh version I bet plenty will/would be purchased.
        Spec
        • 4 Months Ago
        @purrpullberra
        If I were running a car company that was going to put out a long-range EV, I would DEFINITELY sign a deal with Tesla to get access to and help fund their Superchargers. They really came up an ingenious solution that doesn't require much infrastructure to be installed and works very well. The only down side to the Tesla supercharger system is that it requires very large batteries in the cars. But that can be solved by having battery prices come down (go gigafactory!) or installing more supercharger stations.
          DaveMart
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Spec
          Yep, it is amazing that BMW, VW and the rest don't simply scrap the cars they have spent a billion or so developing and try to imitate Tesla from scratch, meanwhile helping them to develop their network. I wonder why they haven't thought of that. If I were a shareholder in either company I might be rather glad that you are not in charge though.
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Spec
          DaveMart, you know Mr Martin the only reason BMW would not make money scraping their lame EV's and lame chargers and copy Tesla is because, that Tesla like car would make all their gassers look so bad that they would be like Tesla, large back up of orders for one vehicle while all their gassers just sit on the lot. Let's face it, the reason none of these car companies are NOT making a Tesla like car is the same reason Tesla does not let dealers sell their cars. It is hard to sell a car that makes all your other cars look bad. OR. Conflict of interests. Ah, that and cheap batteries, he, he, hea, cough.
          Spec
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Spec
          Yeah, I don't know where I said anything about scrapping the cars they have . . . . but I guess you have to use strawman arguments when you don't have good ones.
      DaveMart
      • 4 Months Ago
      If you take a look at the picture the clumsiness and inconvenience of using any plug on a car is clear. With its premium brand BMW is well placed to lead in wireless charging, and in my view are probably planning on it. At the moment it can only do 3.3kw, but 6.6kw is in the works and presumably higher voltages are possible for cars as well as buses. That would get them neatly past the whole SAE/CHADEMO thing. Most BMW customers are likely to fork out a couple of grand for convenience and so they don't have to fool around in the rain and snow with dirty cables.
        DarylMc
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        C'mon DaveMart Not everyone lives near the north pole. We both know it doesn't snow in California and wasn't there a song about it never raining:)
        taser it
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        Remember that the entire problem of the charge connector was created by CARB who forced it upon automakers. GM, Nissan and Toyota favored inductive paddle charging. GM's EV1 and S10 and the 1st RAV4 had inductive paddles. In 1998, GM installed inductive chargers capable of 50kw in CA and AZ, and it was believed that they could upgrade these to 80KW. They could charge an s10's battery in 12 minutes. Then CARB mandated that conductive wire connecters be used. GM thus was forced to discontinue their magne charge connector in 2001. Now we have 3 different plugs and counting and lost a decade of working on EV inductive charging.
        Ryan
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        Millions of people are fine with the clumsiness and inconvenience of using a gas pump. Taking a few seconds to plug in so you don't waste a lot of energy and have to deal with the other problems with wireless charging isn't a big deal.
        Jon
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        When wireless charging can efficiently and cost competitively do 150 kW I'll get interested. Till then manufacturers need to adopt the Tesla SC plug if they are halfway serious about EV's.
      DaveMart
      • 4 Months Ago
      You said: 'The only down side to the Tesla supercharger system is that it requires very large batteries in the cars' So the billions they have spent developing cars not designed to take huge battery packs would clearly be wasted, and they would be starting from scratch. What part of what you are saying don't you understand or have simply ignored the implications of?
      danfred311
      • 4 Months Ago
      Fast charge is indeed the future. That has been obvious for quite a while BMW. But it takes more than 24kW. When you are following Tesla's lead, learn the full lesson, not this half assed stuff.
        Dave D
        • 4 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        I'm ok with this, Dan. It gets more chargers out there faster and the lower charge rate is less stressful on batteries as well. I think the higher level chargers are only needed in large highways where people are taking longer trips and need a truly quuck charge to get back on the road. For local charging, a 10 minute shot on one of these is plenty of juice to get home. And if the higher level chargers are really needed, competition will usher them in quickly as a bragging point or draw for customers at the convenience store, etc.
        samcrut
        • 4 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        I'd rather have these spread out at every grocery store and restaurant in town than level 2 chargers. Level 2 is just too slow to be useful unless you can park while at work. I want to be able to take a substantial hit while I pick up milk and bread or while I'm grabbing lunch. This would do the trick. The really fast chargers cost 10x as much as these. I'd rather have 10 quick-ish chargers than 1 really fast one.
        Spec
        • 4 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        But 24KW at $6500 is a good value. When you add in the installation costs, this unit probably doesn't cost much more than a public L2 charger.
      Levine Levine
      • 4 Months Ago
      Like the battle between Betamax and VHS that decided the video tape standard, the CHAdeMo is losing ground to SAE. Japan should worry.
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Levine Levine
        Yea and they both suck compared to Tesla. This stupid idea that it has to be a big clugy connection the size of a fire hose is stupid for both SAE and Chademo. Neither one of these lame standards compares with the elegance and utility of Tesla. Let's see, Betamax (Chademo), VHS (SAE), or Digital Recorder (Tesla)? It is laughable introducing SAE as if it's a big step up when Tesla had it's connection out before SAE standards. Innovate, Tesla did it the best so far. Even J1772 is bigger than the Tesla super charge connection that puts out 325 amps at 350 volts.
          taser it
          • 4 Months Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          Makes no difference. Since when has the consumer not bought an ICE car based on the size of gas the gas nozzle at a gas station? You can admire Tesla, but don't go overboard with things that really don't matter.
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 4 Months Ago
      Tesla makes AC EVSE for 1000 dollars that is almost as fast as BMW's DC charger if you get the 1.500 dollar dual on board charger option. Maybe BMW should by on board chargers from Tesla and then buy Tesla's HPWC EVSE unit for 1000 and save themselves over 4000 dollars.
        JakeY
        • 4 Months Ago
        @EVSUPERHERO
        Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. You still need the DC connector interface/cable and something that will work with a range of battery voltages (not just one or two like the Model S onboard charger). Also, the $1.5k is only for the extra 10kW unit, you still need the one bundled with the car, so that will bring cost to $1.5k + $1.5k + $1k = $4k. Add the DC connector interface, an outdoor rated enclosure, and the extra $2.5k does not seem like much. What I would be interested to see is if Tesla built their own 24kW DC charger, although they have no incentive to do so (they would likely rather people just opt for the dual chargers).
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 4 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          I don't understand this as well as you Jake. I would never want Tesla to change a thing to accommodate lesser EV's. Clipper Creek puts out a L2 EVSE that will allow 19.2kW to charge a Tesla with the dual on board charger option. I bet Tesla could sell two of their chargers for 1500 to 2000 dollars if BMW purchased enough of them in bulk. Tesla is really cranking these chargers out as their are actually 10 of them in each super charge station stall. Why use a DC connection for a AC connection? Just use J1772 or the craptastic SAE connection, to get 19.2 kW into the pack. Any car can use it with any size pack if they have the onboard chargers to do so. That is how I use to charge in Kirkland WA using Clipper creek EVSE's that put out 80 amps at approx 220v. Even though it charges at 65 miles range in one hour it is still considered L2 charging. I still say SAE is a cluster suck put out way late to slow EV adoption. SAE are funded by gas holes.
      samcrut
      • 4 Months Ago
      I don't mind the slower quick charge if it means we can have lots more chargers spread about. I think the Blink chargers cost about $60K per quick charger and they're pretty flakey. If we can have 9 lower powered quick chargers out there instead, I'd take the broader coverage. Right now they're putting QC's about every 25 miles down I-5. At this price, we could really get most of the major highways covered at a good price which would really put the nail in the range anxiety coffin.
      skierpage
      • 4 Months Ago
      "The only down side to the Tesla supercharger system is that it requires very large batteries in the cars" I'm not sure what you mean. I'm sure a Supercharger adjusts to a battery that can only recharge at a lower rate. Bigger batteries can recharge faster but there's more to fill, so smaller batteries take around the same time to recharge to 85% of capacity. Or are you referring to Tesla locating Supercharger stations further apart than the range of other EVs?
      Pancakes
      • 4 Months Ago
      SAE is the future, supported by Ford, BMW, GM, VW, Audi. Meanwhile Tesla has 1 car supporting a charging standard no one uses. If Tesla files for bankruptcy, every Tesla car owner is screwed haha.
        skierpage
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Pancakes
        Meanwhile Tesla offers its drivers free DC fast charging for life at a network of DC fast chargers that are almost 5 times more powerful than this BMW charger, with a better smaller connector. Instead of a haphazard network of chargers randomly located at car dealerships or where charging network providers get government deals, Tesla puts Superchargers between cities where Tesla drivers need them to complete long trips. I think eventually SAE DC fast chargers will spread across the country and drivers of other plug-in cars that support the standard will be able to quickly recharge (for a fee at most stations). That will be great and will help popularize EVs. But eventually is a long time when there's little money to be made. Tesla was and remains insanely smart to come up with their own standard and their own network! Imagine if Tesla had put an SAE fast charge plug on the Model S and relied on charging networks: many long-distance routes would still be impractical, and despite the standard's ability to recharge at 100 kW, Tesla drivers would be driving between car dealerships and paying $$ for 2 hour recharges or worse waiting for half a day at the far more common 7.2 kW AC chargers to recharge. Tesla might offer an SAE DC fast charging adapter some day.
          Rotation
          • 4 Months Ago
          @skierpage
          Why do you pretend SAE chargers will only be at dealerships? Tesla will certainly have an SAE adapter some day. Because hey, Tesla don't contribute to the pool of available chargers, but they sure don't want to be left out on any!
          Jon
          • 4 Months Ago
          @skierpage
          @Rotation Ah, I remember you have the "Tesla should be a team player and cripple their cars with an inferior charging plug" opinion. Tesla certainly contributes to the pool of available chargers. Its just that no other manufacturers want to use them (so far) or make cars capable of charging quickly enough off them. If nothing else look at it this way. More Model S's charging at SC's means less model S's charging at other public chargers. Tesla is contributing more than anyone else to charger availability. Do you really want cars with 85 kWh packs sitting at J1772 chargers all the time?
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 4 Months Ago
          @skierpage
          Rotation, no, no, no! Jon, yes, yes, yes! OMG Rotation is a reasoning person and you crushed him with it! Squashed! OMG!
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Pancakes
        Pancake, you know your right! I down voted you anyway. Wow, now I am really worried, I don't think I will sleep tonight! I feel sick. Here comes those Pancakes!
        Majerus
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Pancakes
        your a pos
        spannermonkeyuk
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Pancakes
        Teslas have charging capability far in excess of any of these standards, and have adapters to make them backwardly-compatible. If Tesla were to go bankrupt, and nobody else took over their (demonstrably better) charging solution, then they'd still be able to charge at any of the SAE-based stations, or J1772, Chademo, NEMA 14-50, etc, etc.
      Rotation
      • 4 Months Ago
      I'm frustrated these are only 25kW. While having lots of 25kW chargers available will be great, they don't replace 50kW chargers in between-city locations.
        DarylMc
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        Hi Rotation The $6,548 price for 25kW sounds pretty good but I imagine that 50kW would be less than double that installed. It seems a shame to not take advantage of what the vehicle can do. Perhaps you or someone else can answer a question for me. DC fast chargers often state in the charging times so many minutes to 80%. Does that mean that DC fast chargers stop at 80% or will they bring the battery to 100% if you leave it connected? What I mean is the cell balancing functional on DC fast charging?
          samcrut
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          The time to get from 0-80% is fast. The time to get from 80-100% is SLOOOOWW! If you QC all the way to 100%, that 20 minute quick charge could grow to 40 minutes.
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          Yes, DC charging will charge your battery all the way to 100%. It tappers down as the others above said. All AC chargers convert to DC for the batteries so they too are charging on DC even though plugged into AC, it ends up being the same. Tesla super chargers will start at 325 amps and after 5 mins it begins to tapper down, eventually to 1 amp (balancing at this point) if you leave it on the super charger long enough. Pretty sure the tapering down part is the same for SAE and Chademo.
          Majerus
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          You can only use the full capacity of the charger with lithium ion until about 80% then it tapers off to avoid destroying the cell. This is the reason they always state to 80% in x minutes.
        taser it
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        These 24KW stations are likely to be located inside municipalities. On the highways, it will be more likely to have the 50kw models.
        JakeY
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        But the 24kW is likely the enabler for the lower price and smaller size. I do hope they have higher power versions available it the future, but even 24kW is better than nothing.
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