2014 BMW i3Enlarge Photo
While other automakers seem to be wavering on their commitment to electric vehicles, BMW is preparing to take the luxury EV market by storm. According to Green Car Reports, the automaker recently unveiled a new supercharger that could soon create an electric-car charging network bigger than Tesla's (which may be exactly what BMW is aiming for).
At 31 inches high, 19 inches wide and 12 inches deep, BMW's 24 kW supercharger is a mere slip of a thing compared to many charging systems. It's light, too: at just 100 pounds, it can be mounted on interior and exterior walls without much structural modification. And it's fast: in 30 minutes, it can charge a battery to about 80 percent of capacity.
It's also cheap: less than $6,600.
But as Wired explains, the most interesting thing about the BMW i DC fast charger is its connector: the SAE Combo 1 plug inlet. Unlike the proprietary connector used by Tesla, the SAE Combo 1 is employed by a number of electric car manufacturers, including Audi, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, GM, Porsche, and Volkswagen.
That means that more cars will be able to use BMW's new charging stations. And while those stations probably won't become a profit center for BMW (because BMW doesn't seem interested in running them), they're certain to make owning an electric car easier. That, in turn, will make electric cars like the BMW i3 and i8 a much easier sell.
ABOUT PATENTS & TESLA TALKS
The news of BMW's chargers (and the decentralized network that they'll create via third-party operators like NRG eVgo) comes at an interesting time.
Back in June, BMW was one of the first companies to talk to Tesla CEO Elon Musk about Tesla's soon-to-be-open-sourced supercharging stations. In July, BMW offered its own version of patent-sharing when it offered to share the electric car batteries it developed with Samsung.
We're not entirely sure what BMW is up to, but we'd guess that all that bonhomie and altruism is meant to ensure that electric car batteries and charging stations are readily available for both manufacturers and consumers. BMW's production and sale of electric cars -- and its potential dominance of the luxury EV segment -- depend on it.