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
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.