The so­lar rev­o­lu­tion that will power SA’s e-ve­hi­cles A pioneer of al­ter­na­tive forms of green en­ergy, BMW Group SA has un­veiled its unique so­lar power so­lu­tion to power its e-ve­hi­cles

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY -

Group South Africa is no stranger to pi­o­neer­ing al­ter­na­tive forms of green en­ergy. Last year the com­pany un­veiled its part­ner­ship with Bio2Watt, the meth­ane from cow dung fa­cil­ity that cur­rently sup­plies 35% of en­ergy re­quire­ments at BMW’s lo­cal ve­hi­cle pro­duc­tion plant in Ross­lyn.

Now the com­pany is forg­ing ahead with an­other clean en­ergy so­lu­tion, so­lar power. It’s a free en­ergy source that will power BMW’s i3 elec­tric and plug-in hy­brid ve­hi­cles or even do­mes­tic ap­pli­ances.

South Africa, with its abun­dance of sun, should be a pioneer of this tech­nol­ogy, says Tim Ab­bott, CEO of BMW Group South Africa and sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa. “We should lead the rev­o­lu­tion in terms of so­lar power be­cause it has not been taken up around the world. So we are go­ing to set the course.”

Kick-start­ing that so­lar rev­o­lu­tion locally has seen BMW Group South Africa rolling out its i so­lar car­port in sunny SA, the first ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer to of­fer this unique charg­ing prod­uct. The so­lar car­port con­cept to charge elec­tric and plug-in hy­brid ve­hi­cles was re­vealed in Los An­ge­les in 2014, but SA will be the first coun­try to bring it to mar­ket from July 2016.

Unique charg­ing so­lu­tion

Con­structed pre­dom­i­nantly from bamboo be­cause of the ma­te­rial’s re­newa­bil­ity and strength fac­tors, the BMW i so­lar car­port with its bamboo struts, stain­less steel mesh­ing and see-through glass so­lar pan­els takes its de­sign cues from BMW’s i branded ve­hi­cles, the i3 elec­tric and i8 plug-in hy­brid sports car.

The car­port, which takes just days to con­struct, sup­plies an av­er­age of 3.6kW of so­lar power (at peak times on a clear sunny day) straight to the BMW i Wall­box that is used to charge elec­tric and plug-in hy­brid BMW models.

The cur­rent i3 bat­tery ca­pac­ity of 19 kilo­watt hours (kWh) pro­vides a range of around 150km. In a 12-hour cy­cle, the sun (at this time of year) will pro­duce 14.3kWh pro­vid­ing a range of 120km. In sum­mer that will in­crease to 20kWh.

By in­stalling a static stor­age sys­tem For BMW’s i3 pure elec­tric compact car – 124 of which have been sold locally since launch in 2015 – so­lar charg­ing will take this ve­hi­cle com­pletely off the grid and give it a zero car­bon foot­print. For its i8 plug-in hy­brid sport sibling and other plug-in hy­brids it means a re­duc­tion in emis­sions and re­duced costs to run these ve­hi­cles.

Range anx­i­ety too may be a thing of the past. In the fourth quar­ter of 2016, BMW i will ex­pand the model range of the BMW i3 by of­fer­ing a ver­sion with sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased bat­tery ca­pac­ity. The BMW i3 (94 Ah) will of­fer a ca­pac­ity of 33 kilo­watt hours (kWh), which BMW South Africa and sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa CEO Tim Ab­bott says gives the car a range of over 200km on pure elec­tric power and 330km with the range ex­ten­der. Own­ers with first­gen­er­a­tion bat­ter­ies will be able to have this new bat­tery retro­fit­ted.

Although only two weeks into the pi­lot pro­gramme, UberGREEN – BMW and Nis­san’s part­ner­ship with Uber to make avail­able their i3 and Leaf elec­tric ve­hi­cles to Uber users – has al­ready been very en­cour­ag­ing. “The up­take on UberGREEN has been phe­nom­e­nal,” says Ab­bott. “Ini­tially around half a dozen cars were sup­plied, but Uber now have 40.” It says much about con­sumer in­ter­est in the e-mo­bil­ity move­ment.

The car­port, which takes just days to con­struct, sup­plies an av­er­age of 3.6kW of so­lar power.

Tim Ab­bott, CEO of BMW South Africa and Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa at the launch of the i so­lar car­port, shown here with BMW’s i3 elec­tric ve­hi­cle.

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