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BMW Brings its Wireless EV Charging Pilot to the U.S. for the 530e Plug-in Hybrid

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【Summary】BMW announced it’s launching its inductive charging pilot program for the hybrid 530e sedan in the U.S. The inductive EV charging technology allows the 530e plug-in hybrid sedan to be charged without cables.

Eric Walz    Aug 09, 2019 11:15 AM PT
BMW Brings its Wireless EV Charging Pilot to the U.S. for the 530e Plug-in Hybrid

In the future, charging an electric vehicle might be as easy as refueling a gas-powered car, which is the aim of automaker BMW for its new 530e plug-in hybrid sedan. 

BMW announced it's launching its inductive charging pilot program for the hybrid 530e sedan in the U.S. The inductive EV charging technology allows the 530e plug-in hybrid sedan to be charged without cables. 

The wireless charging pilot program first began in Germany in 2018 and BMW announced in May that it would eventually expand to the U.S. The automaker is offering it for free to qualifying driver's who lease the new BMW 530e.

The pilot program is available in the state of California for qualifying residential home customers who are able to charge the 530e inside an enclosed garage space. 

BMW's wireless charging uses the same inductive charging technology already used for supplying power to devices such as cell phones and electric toothbrushes. The principal benefit of inductive charging for EV drivers is ease of use, as drivers no longer need to plug in a bulky charging cable.

Wireless charging was first offered as an option on the BMW 530e iPerformance sedan beginning in 2018. BMW is among the first in automakers to offer wireless charging for electric vehicles.

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The BMW 530e

How it Works

BMW's inductive charging system consists of a wireless GroundPad Module (GPM) with an integrated primary coil, which can be installed in a garage along with a secondary coil integrated in the underside of the vehicle. The transfer of energy between the GroundPad and CarPad is conducted over a distance of around three inches.

An alternating magnetic field is generated between the two embedded coils when a driver parks over the GPM on the floor, enabling electricity to be transmitted without cables or contacts. The system produces a charge rate of up to 3.2 kW. This charging rate offers a charging time of around 3.5 hours for the 530e sedan's 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery.

The entire charging process happens automatically as soon as the vehicle has been parked in position without any further input from the driver. As soon as the vehicle has been parked in the correct position above the inductive charging pad, a simple push of the Start/Stop button on the dash initiates the charging process. Once the battery is fully charged, the system switches off automatically.

Parking sometimes can be tricky and the vehicle needs to be parked in the correct location over the charging pad. This can deviate from the optimum position by up to 2.75 inches longitudinally and up to 5.5 inches laterally, according to BMW.

To assist the driver to maneuver to the correct charging position, a WiFi connection is established between the charging station and vehicle.  Once a WiFi connection is established, an overhead view of the car and its surroundings is displayed in center Control Display with colored lines that help guide the driver into the correct spot. A graphic icon appears in the vehicle's infotainment display to confirm that the correct parking position has been reached. 

Although BMW requires a 530e leasee to have a garage for the pilot program, the GroundPad can also be installed outdoors and works in all weather conditions. All components that conduct electricity are protected from rain and snow, and driving over the GroundPad will not damage it in any way.

For added safety when charging, ambient electromagnetic radiation is limited to the 530e undercarriage. The GroundPad is permanently monitored and will be switched off if any foreign matters are detected.

Interested drivers in California are asked to fill out online questionnaire at https://www.qmerit.com/bmwwireless to help determine location suitability. The next step involves a "530e Readiness Survey" about the participant's garage and local electric grid to ensure that the wireless charging hardware is compatible.

Approved participants will then receive a confirmation number to visit one of 33 participating California BMW dealers to complete the 36-month lease of the 530e plug-in hybrid sedan. BMW's installation partner in the pilot Qmerit will then complete the residential hardware installation.

Participating dealers cover thirteen CA counties including San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma counties in Northern CA, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in southern CA.

All costs, expenses and expenditures associated with the initial installation, maintenance and de-installation of the Ground Pad Module are covered by BMW. 

The launch of this technology sees the BMW Group move closer to an infrastructure that will make charging the battery of a BMW electric vehicle as simple refueling a car with a internal combustion engine.

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