Last week’s launch of the BMW i3, BMW’s first electric vehicle, is generating a fair amount of chatter among auto enthusiasts as well as folks who are simply concerned about the environment, and with good reason. It is a significant step forward toward a day when automobiles don’t rely on fossil fuels, which in turn will be a significant contributor to the whole concept of the smart city.
The web site FleetDirectory, a news source for “anything fleet related,” was on top of the launch and noted the role Schneider Electric is playing in delivering the home charging station that will be offered with the i3. As the site reports:
Each BMW i3 can be charged using a standard household socket at 2.4kW over eight to ten hours.
It can also be recharged from empty to 80% within three hours using a 7.4kW outlet or the optional BMW i Wallbox which, BMW says, has been created to “give customers a comprehensive and premium sustainable mobility experience”.
The i Wallbox must be installed by a qualified electrician but Schneider Electric is offering a package which covers home survey, delivery, fitting and maintenance.
In some countries, government incentives will dramatically reduce the cost of the Wallbox. In the UK, for example, the government will subsidize up to 75% of its cost, making the fee for the customer about ₤315 ($483 U.S.), according to this video from BMW UK.
The Wallbox also comes with a 7-day timer that lets customers set the time when they’d like to charge the vehicle, enabling them to take advantage of times when electricity costs less. Customers who take that tack can pay less than ₤2 (about $3 U.S.) for a full charge. And as we mentioned in a previous post, a full charge will take you about 100 miles.
All this is good news for EVs, and for the concept of smart cities. Cities today take up just 2% of the earth’s surface, but account for 50% of the world’s population, 75% of energy consumption and 80% of CO2 emissions. And they’re growing fast, with some estimates saying cities will account for 70% of the world’s population in the next 40 years. Clearly we’ll be facing some daunting challenges in terms of congestion and pollution.
EVs can help meet that challenge. Schneider Electric believes they will be part of a smart mobility ecosystem, along with social networking, traffic management systems and consumer tools that help with parking availability and traffic congestion management. All of these systems will integrate to create a better driver experience while helping to reduce CO2 emissions.
Of course EVs are just one piece of the puzzle, but they could be a driver for other systems. When a city or region wants to support lots of EVs, they typically have to invest in the electric grid as well. Upgrading the grid infrastructure then enables other “smart” services, such as demand response programs, and can be a catalyst for creating new distributed energy generation offerings. Such offerings may include localized renewable energy and waste-to-energy plants, for example. After all, a city is a system of systems, and an investment in one area should include analysis of opportunities in the connecting systems.
The BMW i3 launch is a rather high-profile example, but these are the type of challenges Schneider Electric is working on with its partners every day.