One of the many things that Tesla Motors understands as well as anybody is how a robust Fast Charge network will liberate their customers from being on an “Electric Leash.” Ubiquitous DC fast charging stations are, in my opinion, just as important as longer range electric vehicles. In fact, they may even be more important.

BMW apparently shares that opinion and has recently announced that they are getting into the DC fast charge game with a partnership that includes Volkswagen and ChargePoint, and will be installing fast chargers at 50 mile intervals on the East and West coasts to create “Express Charging Corridors.” However it won’t end with there. BMW is going to continue to invest in DC fast charge infrastructure here in the US, as they realize that they need to participate in creating the foundation for BMW i to succeed.

As with most things EV-related, California is ahead of most of the US when it comes to DC fast charge infrastructure. While the SAE Combo (CCS) fast charge units are only beginning to be installed, there are some already in the ground there, and they are allowing people to take their i3s further in a shorter period of time than they could if they were relying on 240v Level 2 public charging.

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Which brings me to the story below that I found interesting.  My friend Kris Kluzak, a former ActiveE Electronaut, offered to write a guest post for this blog detailing a day when she drove her i3 312 miles using public charging infrastructure.  It shows that even a medium-range EV, like the i3, can easily cover hundreds of miles in a day if the appropriate infrastructure is in place.

Here’s how it went down, in Kris’s words:
A 312 mile, all electric day in a BMW i3 REx:

On November 11th, 2014 I was scheduled for a research study for my car in Sherman Oaks, California. From my house in East San Diego County, it is about 160-mile trip one-way.

On any given day this “normal” trip would take approximately 3-4+ hours in any vehicle with an engine (ICE) as the main power source. Those of us living in Southern California know the different routes to take to avoid traffic blunders, and are often looking for the carpool lane when it’s an option.

In order to arrive on time for my 2pm appointment, my husband and I had to build in a few charge/food stops; this set us to leave right after 8am. First, we stopped 39 miles away at the Carlsbad Premium Outlets to charge and grab coffee at Starbucks. *We charged for 30 minutes knowing we had enough range to reach our next stop in Santa Ana.

We next stopped at Crevier BMW, 58 miles from Carlsbad. Just days prior they had installed four DCQC (SAE Combo) stations and we were on a mission to check them out. Normally we would not choose this route through Los Angeles, but since it was a Federal holiday we took advantage of the “lighter” traffic. We charged for an hour while our SOC (state of charge) reached 99%. While we didn’t plan to stay that long, we enjoyed talking to the “iGenius” in the new “iBuilding”.  There was also a Starbucks and restroom on site for us to use.  We left there with our next intended stop in Sherman Oaks, not knowing for sure where we would charge, but would look once we got up there.  I was fully prepared to have my range extender kick in if needed, but I really was trying to do this trip without it.

We found that the local KIA dealership claimed to have an ABB charger, which is the same unit that NRG eVgo uses (yes, CHAdeMO and SAE Combo). We called to see if – 1) the charger exists, which it does, and 2) to see if we could charge, which we were told yes, to come on by.  It was a few miles from the Sherman Oaks location, so off we went.  The charger was blocked, but they immediately moved a car and allowed us to charge.  Unfortunately, the charger was so new, that it hadn’t been provisioned yet, and did not work.  At this point I had 22 miles of range, and 27 miles to the next, known Freedom Station in Hermosa Beach.  So we set off, knowing my range extender would probably kick in.

With some luck, and HEAVY Los Angeles traffic on the 405, we managed to get to Hermosa Beach with 6 miles to spare, and no REx usage.  I drove **83.3 miles on that one charge from Crevier. Once at Hermosa Beach, we managed to find the charger, a nearby bar offering Taco Tuesday, and managed to do all of this while just getting a 30 minute charge. Next stop, the Westminster Shopping Mall ***27 miles away.  We arrived at the mall with no range issues, and were able to charge again for just 30 minutes.  FroYo and a potty stop…and away to Carlsbad for the last stop.

We arrived in Carlsbad, once again hit the Starbucks and charged for only 20 minutes, enough charge to get home.  We were there about 30 minutes, but the charger faulted and stopped early.  We arrived home at just before 10pm.  312 total miles driven, all electric, no REx used, and all charges were free.  We spent a few dollars at Starbucks and for the dinner, but overall, did the whole trip for less than $50, all-inclusive.

Some key points to this trip:

I did not use any climate control until the last leg, there was no need for heating or cooling, but I had to run the defrosters a few times for the last 30 miles.

I ran the entire trip in Eco Pro driving mode.

I preconditioned the car that morning prior to leaving, hoping to warm the batteries before the trip for maximum range.

I purposely did not use the carpool lane. While this might have been necessary in another situation where time was an issue, I preferred to stay in the traffic in order to get maximum range.

The total time spent portal to portal was 14 hours. I was at the research facility for almost 3 hours, and then we spent almost another 45 minutes to an hour at the Kia dealership talking to the manager about the charger, and looking at their Soul EVs.

Charging added 3 hours, which by using the DC quick charging options, made this a very reasonable trip.  If we had stopped in an ICE for breakfast and dinner, and potty stops, the total stoppage time would have been less, but not significantly, maybe an hour less, overall.

My Personal Records:

312 all electric miles in one day (previously 187 in my Active E, which did not have L3 charging)

83.3 all electric miles in one charge (previously 80 miles, in the summer, while hypermiling and drafting behind a truck for 20+ miles)

Cheapest day EVER to drive 312 miles, food and energy included.

*These outlets have two NRG eVgo charging options: level 2 and level 3. The level 2 option has one universal J1772 plug, and the level 3 option has a CHAdeMO (for Nissan Leaf’s, Kia Soul’s, and other Asian brand EVs) as well as a SAE combo (CCS) (for BMW’s, VW eGolf, etc.). This Freedom Station powered by NRG eVgo is part of free fast charging offered by BMW.

**This car will definitely do better on range with slower speeds, ie: bumper-to-bumper traffic, and city stop-and-go vs full, freeway speeds.

***The mileage between Hermosa Beach and Carlsbad is 87.1 miles.  While we could have easily avoided a stop and used the REx, I would have been forced to charge longer at Hermosa to get a bigger charge, thus not saving any time AND using gasoline.

[Source: bmwi3blogpost]