Partnerships in Electric Vehicles: Another Step Towards Smart Cities

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BMWi3 Charging Solutions on display at BMW's launch event in Beijing, China
BMWi3 Charging Solutions on display at BMW’s launch event in Beijing, China

At simultaneous events in New York, London and Beijing this week, BMW unveiled its much-anticipated BMW i3, the automaker’s first electric vehicle (EV). The i3 is a big deal for BMW but also for Schneider Electric, because we are one of the partners providing the charging infrastructure that make the EV feasible for drivers as well as BMW dealerships.

Schneider Electric is the BMW i partner, entrusted with installing the BMW i wallbox that complements the BMW i3. Once the wallbox is installed, customers can charge the vehicle comfortably at home between uses.

With a range of about 100 miles per charge, it’s expected that the i3 will be most popular for urban use, where a charge would be required only every 2 or 3 days. That makes sense, because EVs certainly play into the concept of smart cities.

Schneider Electric envisions a day in the not too distant future when cars will share information about traffic patterns and weather in order to find the fastest route, and to pace the car so it has to brake less often, thus conserving energy and lowering emissions. In some cities, drivers can already get information about available parking spots and charging stations, leading to efficiency and convenience.

It takes partnerships to realize these visions and make them widespread. Cities, for example, have to collaborate with other entities to build the smart city infrastructure. For example, as EVs become more prevalent, demand will rise for charging stations throughout the city, in garages and off-street parking, and at city facilities. Cities will need partners to design this infrastructure with livability, efficiency and sustainability in mind.

Employers will also play a role. Schneider Electric, for example, has signed on to the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge, saying we’ll install EV charging stations at our buildings that employees and guests can use. The goal is to make free EV charging available to all employees at our major locations, as well as nearby residents. We currently have 48 charging stations available at 16 U.S. locations.

Another area for collaboration is intelligently tying EVs into the power grid, so they can both take power from the grid when they need it as well as give it back when they don’t. Imagine it’s a hot summer day, when demand is high on the electric grid. Rather than drive his EV to work, a customer can elect to work from home and give the power the car would’ve used back to the grid.

All of these efforts require cooperation among numerous players, from the governments that drive infrastructure projects, to the industry players like Schneider Electric that build them, to the consumers who use them. We’re excited to be partnered with BMW for the i3 launch because we think EVs will play an important role in the smart city of the future. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Expect more great things to come as we continue to forge partnerships and alliances around the globe in this space.

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