Power To Go: BMW's New, Cheaper, Suitcase-Sized i DC Fast Charger

BMW has introduced the i DC Fast Charger, a lightweight EV charger just half the size of current DC Combo fast chargers. The new chargers are fully compatible with Ford, GM and VW electric vehicles and at $6,500 each they're much more affordable as well.

The i DC Fast Charger and the associated ChargeNow DC Fast program were unveiled on July 28th, 2014 at the San Jose Convention Center. According to BMW USA News, the new ChargeNow DC Fast program (in cooperation with NRG eVgo) offers California-based drivers of the BMW i3 urban electric car no-charge (no pun intended), unlimited 30-minute DC fast charging at NRG eVgo Freedom Station® sites equipped with DC Combo Fast Charging, through 2015.

Both the i DC Fast Charger and the ChargeNow DC Fast program are part & parcel of BMW's “current” effort to emulate the success Tesla has achieved with their nationwide Supercharger network. One major difference, however, is that the BMW-branded chargers will work with EVs made by Ford, GM and Volkswagen while Tesla is maintaining (for the moment, at least) strict brand exclusivity.

Most available brands of fast chargers cost in the neighborhood of $30,000 each; a major sticking point BMW would sorely like to circumvent. “Our focus is on getting as many DC fast chargers out there as possible, but the cost has been a hindrance,” confirms Robert Healey, EV infrastructure manager at BMW of North America. “We want to remove every perceived barrier for our potential customers. We want to ensure that customers see these chargers.” While $6,458 is hardly chump change, it's a significant price reduction that could turn the tide in BMW's favor.

Designed by Bosch Automotive Service Solutions and funded by BMW, the new 24-kilowatt charger can 80%-recharge the BMW i3's lithium ion batteries in less than 30 minutes. The suitcase-sized i DC Fast Charger weighs around 100 pounds and can be wall-mounted without too much trouble, compared to other quick chargers tipping the scales at over 1,500 lbs.

Owners of Japanese EV's made by Mitsubishi and Nissan will not be able to use the i DC Fast Charger, which uses the SAE standardized combo plug backed by GM, Ford, Chrysler Group, Daimler AG , and VW Group. Could a “war of the quick chargers” evoking the legendary Betamax/VHS video tape battle be in the offing?
In any case, BMW will first offer the i DC Fast Charger to BMW dealers beginning sometime in August. At press time, 285 of BMW's 340 American dealers have signed up to get one. (via Automotive News, Inside EVs, and The Long Tail Pipe)