In January at the Consumer Electronics Show, BMW announced the BMW i ChargeForward Program.  The pilot study was undertaken by the BMW Group Technology Office, together with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), whose service area covers much of Northern California. Working with a select group of BMW i3 drivers, BMW i ChargeForward aimed to demonstrate how intelligent management of electric vehicle charging can contribute to improved electric power grid efficiency while reducing total cost of electric vehicle ownership.

The study has two parts, a managed charge pilot program involving BMW i3 owners and a battery second life energy storage system.


The idea behind the pilot was to delay the charge of the i3 electric cars when the power grid is under pressure. One hundred users were registered in the pilot and each received $1,000 upfront to participate in the 18-month trial.

Peter Berman, a 70-year-old, semi-retired Los Altos psychologist, was selected from about 400 applicants.

“My understanding is that we’ll get a text message that says ‘Hey, you’re charging your car right now, can you back off for an hour?'” said Berman to AutoNews. “This is the wave of the future. We can’t continue to be dependent on gas and oil and coal for our energy use. I’m really curious as to how this is all going to unfold.”

Utilities companies are conducting those studies to determine how the grid will react if millions of electric cars will be on the street. PG&E estimates that there are 65,000 EVs in its vast northern California service territory, more than any other utility in the U.S. Utilities could also tap batteries for backup power when the grid is under strain or temporarily knocked out in an emergency, paying drivers for the electricity harvested from their parked cars. PG&E is also testing technology that will turn customers’ electric vehicles into mini power plants when there’s high demand on the grid.

At the BMW Technology Office in Mountain View, BMW uses a solar-powered system to store the energy in repurposed MINI E batteries.