The ManufacturerCar and Driver
- BMW is launching a pilot program in the U.S. for an inductive charging system that’s compatible with the 5-series plug-in hybrid.
- This system doesn’t require a plug and can charge the battery using a ground pad under the car.
- The pilot program includes a 36-month lease of 200 vehicles in 13 counties in California, and all installation costs are included.
UPDATE 8/12/19: BMW has finally launched a pilot program for its inductive charging system in the U.S. around a year later than originally planned. The program will be available to 200 California residents provided that they live in one of the thirteen participating counties and live in a location that’s qualified for the inductive charging pad installation (the application is here). Once approved, customers will have to go to one of the 33 participating dealerships to begin a 36-month lease of a 2019 530e plug-in hybrid sedan. The lease covers all costs of the inductive charging pad installation, maintenance, and de-installation.
BMW has announced that it will bring inductive charging to market for its electrified 5-series, the 530e iPerformance, starting in Europe and later in other markets, including the United States.
The unit consists of a GroundPad, which can be installed on a garage floor or outside, and a CarPad, which is attached to the vehicle undercarriage and is connected to the lithium-ion battery. The car’s display screen helps guide the driver in positioning the car directly over the GroundPad (the system allows up to three inches of leeway fore and aft and roughly five and a half inches side to side). Once the car is correctly placed, the driver presses a Start button and wireless charging begins; the system switches off automatically when the battery is topped off.
The process to fully recharge the 530e’s 9.2-kWh battery takes about three and a half hours and has a claimed efficiency rate of 85 percent. BMW says that’s similar to the speed of its Level 2 home charger.
The inductive charging option will not be offered on any other BMW plug-in models; it’s exclusive to the 530e, and available for leased vehicles only. It’s further restricted to just 200 cars and will be offered only in California.
Despite automakers’ big push toward electrified powertrains, inductive charging has been lagging. Mercedes-Benz previously announced that the feature would be available on the S550e later this year, but it appears now that it has been delayed. Aftermarket supplier Evatran makes units for the i3 as well as for the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and the Tesla Model S.
We might have expected to see wider availability of the technology, but it has been hindered by its high cost, concerns about interoperability, and relatively slow charging times. That’s too bad given the convenience that the technology promises. BMW’s rollout is fairly limited, but at least it’s a start.
This story was originally published in May 2018.