On the charge
BMW drives EVS hard
It wasn’t coincidental that we gathered one November morning at the offices of Avis Car Hire at Cape Town airport to start our drive of BMW’S latest e-car, the 740e. Aside from the convenience of travelling against the rush hour flow, the particular relevance is that Avis has bought into the whole alternative energy thing. In a small way, but it’s a statement nonetheless: four of BMW’S compact i3s will go into the rental company’s point-to-point chauffeur service and four of the i8 supercars into its luxury division. Underlying this is Avis’s ongoing initiative to lower emissions and introduce alternative energy vehicles into its fleet.
The other news to come out of the day: BMW and Nissan are expanding their EV infrastructure with the first joint charging stations in the Western Cape. The three stations at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront join similar facilities already installed at BMW’S Midrand headquarters, 27 of its dealerships and at the Melrose Arch precinct in Johannesburg. Possibly onstream by now are charge points at Constantia Village Mall in Cape Town and Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria.
And they will be one size fits all, or at least the two main partners. The latest charging stations will offer Type 2 connections that can be used by the BMW i3 and i8 as well as the Nissan LEAF. BMW says these stations are future-proof and will be able to cater for future EV and PHEV models.
It’s all about increasing public access to charging, says the BMW Group’s CEO for South Africa and sub- Saharan Africa, Tim Abbott. And that’s a critical component of future success for EVS here, he adds.
BMW’S fast-charging focus is on North America, Europe, South Africa, China and Japan and the company has made supporting strategic investments in the charging business. In a total of more than 30 projects and partnerships globally, more than 3 000 DC and more than 1 300 AC charging points have been initiated.
Having sold more than 100 000 purely electric-powered cars and plug-in hybrids worldwide, BMW’S prominence in the EV business is unquestioned. More than 60 000 of its i3 alone have been sold and it is the most successful electric vehicle in the premium compact segment. Locally, in a little under two years, i3 sales have reached 142 and those of the i8 have totalled 181.
Driving sales to the next level will depend, as Abbott says, on support and convenience. To help persuade those on the fence, BMW says it is able to supply a range of solutions that help make charging intelligent and quick. The sophisticated BMW i Wallbox charging station, for instance, is chosen by one in three i3 buyers; and the latest version of the i3 with a more powerful battery and increased range will derive even more benefit.
Besides the physical convenience of having charging where and when it’s needed, there’s also a need for a hassle-free transactions. So, access and payment for charging on the go at public stations is facilitated by means of the Chargenow customer card and app, valid at more than 40 000 charging points in 25 countries. That’s the world’s largest network of publicly accessible charging points for electric and plug-in-hybrid vehicles. In addition, BMW provides assistance services designed specifically for electro-mobility. Its Connecteddrive navigation services not only include the charging status of the high-voltage in route planning, but also recommend the most efficient route. Partnerships in certain countries allow customers to benefit from assistance in the use of electricity gained from regenerative sources they either acquire from energy providers or produce themselves.