Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the BMW Group in a press release on 22 March, an expansion of their partnership focused on smart charging electric vehicles (EVs) with excess renewable energy to support grid reliability. The companies will work together to send signals to participants to charge at times that support the grid. The program will be launched in mid-April and run through March 2023, it has kicked-off enrollment. Through BMW ConnectedDrive and a customized BMW ChargeForward smartphone app, participating BMW drivers will be able to opt-out of any smart charging request. If opting in, the vehicle charging will be shifted to meet the needs of the electric grid. The companies are also collaborating in a lab setting to understand the potential of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) functionalities.
Participating BMW EV drivers earn incentives for smart charging including USD150 at sign-up and up to an additional USD250 per year by following ChargeForward recommendations. The companies anticipate that during the spring and fall months, program participants could earn incentives that offset the entire cost of charging their vehicle, charging 750 miles (1207 km) per month for free due to the ChargeForward incentives and plugging into the grid when renewable energy is highly available.
Significance: PG&E and the BMW Group are commencing phase three of their ChargeForward program that is aimed at catering to BMW EV drivers in Northern and Central California who are PG&E residential, electric customers. This phase aims to reach about 3,000 BMW EV drivers compared to 100 and 400 in phase one and two. The third phase is also aimed at understanding to how to incentivize drivers to shift their EV charging times to help meet the needs of the electric grid and use excess renewable energy available during the day.
The companies believe that as the e-mobility landscape expands, it will become more important with time to support the grid, as new vehicle technologies are developed. For instance, Future EVs could come with technology to discharge the vehicle battery to support the grid, moving beyond smart charging and supporting the grid during emergencies. Additionally, these efforts support bill savings for customers driving EVs and help test EV batteries for backup generation and other grid services.
The aim of the project is to understand how smart charging EVs can act as a flexible grid resource. Smart charging entails moving EV charging away from peak power demand times toward time brackets with less demand and more renewable energy on the grid, such as mid-day.
“Our sustainability vision at the BMW Group aims to bring sustainability principles to all aspects of the customer experience—including the energy our vehicles use. ChargeForward demonstrates how our company’s digital technology can help customers use more renewable energy and reduce their energy costs,” said Adam Langton, Energy Services manager, Connected eMobility, BMW of North America.
“The more than 320,000 electric vehicles plugging into PG&E’s electric grid offer a unique resource that contributes to building our clean energy future in California. As EV adoption continues to grow, the potential for these clean vehicles as a flexible grid resource becomes more significant. Our ongoing collaboration with BMW has allowed us to explore and demonstrate future possibilities of scaling the smart charging capabilities of this growing resource to support the electric grid,” said Quinn Nakayama, director, Integrated Grid Planning and Innovation, PG&E.