Right of way for green electricity by intelligent charging with the BMW i3.

Munich. The BMW Group is working in close
collaboration with power grid operator TenneT to devise groundbreaking
solutions that will turn electric mobility into one of the mainstays
of the energy revolution. An intelligent charge control system
developed for BMW Charging can help to adapt electric vehicle charging
in a way that keeps the power grid stable and makes optimum use of
energy from renewable sources. Following successful deployment in the
USA, the technology’s practicability has now also been demonstrated in
Germany as part of a subsequent pilot project. Providing the platform
for this new solution is the connectivity technology already included
as standard in the all-electric BMW i3.

The BMW Group is aiming to offer its customers ways of charging their
electrified vehicles as easily and cheaply as possible while
minimising the associated emissions. The digital integration of
electric vehicles into the power grid will make it possible to adjust
vehicle charging with customers’ mobility requirements, grid stability
and the availability of renewable energy all factored in. Intelligent
charge control can therefore play a role in preventing power grid
congestion and give priority to green electricity at the same time. As
and when the customer’s mobility schedule allows, charging of suitably
equipped electric vehicles can be briefly decreased – in the event of
an electricity supply shortfall, for example – in order to reduce the
load on the grid. Charging of the high-voltage battery will resume as
soon as the supply bottleneck has been alleviated, ideally at a time
when sufficient reserves of wind or solar energy have accumulated.

Intelligent charge control responds to signals from the grid

The system of charge control developed for BMW Charging acts as a
link between car and power grid. It registers the grid requirements
signalled by the operator, making it possible to control the charging
of plugged-in electric vehicles for optimum results – whether the
vehicle is hooked up to the electricity grid at a public charging
station, via a BMW Wallbox or using a domestic power socket. The
signals are processed by the digital charge control technology and the
vehicle’s connected electronics.

In the latest pilot project, the team succeeded in recording and
processing signals from grid operator and project partner TenneT that
indicated an imminent grid overload. This allowed charging to be
temporarily decreased in selected BMW i3 cars in response. Electricity
from renewable sources could then be integrated into the grid to
optimum effect and there was no need to use backup power plants
running on fossil fuels. The results from the pilot project represent
further progress towards digital integration of electric vehicles into
the power grid and pave the way for implementing this solution on a
larger scale.

Electric mobility: turning a problem for the energy revolution
into a solution.

As the number of electric vehicles on our roads continues to grow, so
does the amount of electric power needed to fuel individual mobility.
Considered in terms of total requirements, however, electric mobility
is a relatively small factor. Independent studies predict that in
Germany, for example, a fleet of two million electric vehicles would
only increase electricity demand by around one per cent.

At the same time, intelligent charge control means electric mobility
can help grid operators handle new challenges arising from the
increasing input of renewable energy. These centre on precisely
balancing supply and demand – i.e. power generation and consumption –
both geographically and in terms of quantity. Wind electricity
generated in the north of Germany, for instance, must be able to reach
consumers in the south. This is made more difficult when the grid is
already working at maximum capacity. Without intelligent charging,
this can lead to congestion that has to be cleared rapidly. So, if a
particular region is at risk of an electricity shortage, the usual
response is to increase output from coal- or gas-fired power plants
that can be brought on line at short notice.

Intelligent charging can help to keep the price of electricity

Known as “redispatching”, these interventions in the power generation
network generate costs in the region of €500 millions a year in
Germany alone – and these must be met by the power grid operators.
Intelligently controlled charging holds potential to cut these costs,
as briefly decreasing vehicle charging eliminates the grid congestion,
allowing wind power to flow smoothly and dispensing with the need to
use fossil energy in power plants.

As integrating electric vehicles into the power grid and implementing
intelligent charge control reduces redispatching costs, it can also
help to limit expansion of the cross-regional network of power lines –
and thereby restrict electricity price rises.

Contributions made to stabilisation of the power grid also provide
the basis for energy-linked business models, as owners of electrified
vehicles can actually earn money through intelligently controlled
charging. This represents a milestone on the road to realising the BMW
Group’s vision of offering electric vehicle drivers electricity for
charging their cars that is both free and generated with zero emissions.

An all-encompassing electric mobility offering.

The BMW Group has been running a precursor to the pilot project in
Germany for several years already. The ongoing BMW i Charge Forward
initiative in California has seen intelligent charging control –
according to the needs of both customers and the power grid –
undergoing practical trials under everyday conditions with a fleet of
over 300 electric vehicles. The local grid operator has backed the
scheme with financial rewards. And as the drivers of the electric
vehicles participating in the scheme ultimately pocket the bonuses,
this is a win-win situation for all involved.