A Few Facts About Charging Your i3

The two companies authorised by BMW to install the BMW wallboxes are Just Energy Solutions and Schneider Electric.

You or BMW will need to contact them to ask for the installation ahead of your car delivery. It will only take a day to install, but you will need to give the installing company time to plan the installation. The basic cost for a standard installation will be *£560 inc. VAT. This includes the government grant (*£500), which either Schneider or Just Energy Solutions take care of in the cost plan. If, however your wallbox cannot be set up in the same space or garage as your electricity meter, the installation may cost you a little more as you will have to run more wiring to your mains electricity meter. So this might include extra armoured cabling, an isolator switch, an earthing system and additional mains board distribution blocks. The installation company will make this clear on any non-standard quote. Also installed at the same time is an electric smart meter, a government requirement in the UK as part of the grant award, which sends packets of charging data back via a SIM to Schneider (no cost to you). This data is anonymous, but is compiled to collect electric drive charging consumptions and frequencies as a new infrastructure for the future develops.

There are three types of BMW i wallbox.

The Wallbox Pure. £640.00, charge time < 3 hrs
The Wallbox Professional. £1,350.00, charge time < 3 hrs
The Wallbox Pro has a 7” colour LCD touch display and proximity sensor for intuitive operation. It can store multiple user profiles including charging history and come with an optional internet connection that can export individual charging reports. It also optimises the charging process in accordance with the renewable energy available (such as your installed solar panels), so ensuring maximum emission-free charging. Please talk with Schneider or Just Energy Solutions about the options for your your mains electrical circuit. Both wallboxes come with their own type-2 charging connectors and a 3-year warranty.
The Wallbox Plus. £315, charge time < 3 hrs
This premium charging station has the following functions:
Shorter charging time due to 1-phase or 3-phase charging technology with capacity of up to 22 kW, 5m tethered cable, multi-user access via integrated RFID authentication, charging session history and Wallbox control via optional local network connection and BMW iV App (Apple iOS and Android devices), optional Smart Home connectivity to compatible systems (MyGEKKO and Loxone).
Charging capacity up to 22kW/3-phase, 230V, 32A, T2, 5m cable length. More information contact BMW.

Other home charging units

You can also opt for other affordable home-charging stations from companies such as Rolec and Pod Point. With these options, the government grant will cover some of the cost of the unit and the set up. Make sure to clarify this with them as part of the purchase and installation. Make sure that the unit you are buying is a 32amp version, up from older 16amp models. With EV manufacturers now expanding their car's battery capicities year-on-year, your charging will be faster with a 32amp unit installed.

BMW Mennekes Cable

BMW Mennekes Cable


Additional Cables

Your i3 will come with a standard slow charging cable with a household plug to 'type-2' Mennekes charging plug. This is for domestic and slow public chargers. If you want to use the public fast chargers, you'll need to buy either:

  1. Phase-1 'type-2 to type-2' Mennekes 7pin charger cable for 7kW charging. Make sure to select the 32amp version rather than the older 16amp cable. BMW sell theirs for *£165 inc. VAT, (collect yours at your local BMW parts dealer or buy online from BMW or from Amazon's BMW Direct with free postage). Evconnectors.com sell their 32 amp, 3-metre i3 cable, costing *£150 Inc. VAT, plus postage on top comes at a total of *£165 as well..
  2. Phase-3 'type-2 to type-2' Mennekes cable. Capable of rapid charging at 11kW 32amp at selected charing stations. NOTE: Only the 94Ah BMWi3 will be able to use the 3-phase cable. If you plug a 3-phase into the 60Ah BMWi3, the car's invertor will only draw at a single phase and you will not avail yourself of the faster charging. You may need to ask your BMWi dealership for this cable. Be specific to ask for 3-phase.
Tip: A good reason for buying a longer cable is if the EV charging bay is ICE'd (a fuel car is illegally parked); or if another EV is parked but not plugged in! - amazingly, this does happen.

*prices September 2016

Charging Speeds

The speed of charging can be modified in the car's menu settings. When the car comes from the factory it is set to the default 'Low' setting, and may need increasing depending on your charger's voltage and its cable capacity. You can increase it to a 'Reduced' or *'Maximum' setting.

The 'Low' setting is the car's default setting, because the car comes with a domestic (3-pin) plug charger that should really only pull 'Low' or 'Reduced' (10amps) on the Standard charging rate. If you are using BMW's 32amp AC home iwallbox, installed by Schniedier or Just Energy Solutions, then you could set the car to the 'Reduced' or *'Maximum' setting.

It would not make sense if you connected to an AC Rapid Charger and had the car set to 'Low', because you would not get the rapid charging time that you were expecting.

For a rule of thumb: low = 10>13amps; reduced = 16>32amps; maximum = 32>48>63amps

You will see that there is no setting for a 'DC Rapid Charge' option. DC Rapid Chargers deliver 125amps (or 50kW) and are controlled by the i3's computer.

In the photos above, you can see where you find these settings.

*Bear in mind that an AC Rapid charge set to a Maximum setting could eventually reduce your i3's battery life if it were repeatedly charged like this over time.

Fully Charged Timer

When you plug your car into a public or home charging station, the screen behind the steering wheel will display the time when the car will be fully charged. This is useful to know when you are on motorway journeys and need to know when to set off again.

The car's computer will detect the differences between the different charger speeds (Slow, Fast, and Rapid) and adjust the timer accordingly; and of course you can also use the BMW Remote App to update your car's charging progress.

The realistic costs of home charging

Let's assume you have a normal tariff with a national energy supplier like E.ON. This also includes a normal set up in a family home without economy 7. And let's also assume, like most of us, you use more electricity during the day, so an economy 7 set up is not your best tariff, which is why you might not have it already. OK, so the normal cost includes a daily standard charge of 26.019p from the energy supplier, plus a 10.658p per kWh* standard charge.

If the i3 is run flat then a full charge is calculated to be 18.8kWh net battery capacity. Now let's add all this together for our full charge cost.

26.019p + (10.658 per kWh x 18.8kWh capacity) makes a cost of £2.26 per charge.

Cost per mile can then be calculated £2.26 / 85 miles (minimum full range of i3) as £0.026 [2.6p per mile]

Therefore the annual mileage running cost of your i3 can be:

30,000 miles: £780
20,000 miles: £520
10,000 miles: £260 (average mileage)
8,000 miles: £208
5,000 miles: £130

*Energy prices vary all the time (published by E.ON 1-year fixed until 2017 (v19)). Please visit your tariff and substitute the figures to get your costs.

Subscribing to public chargers

When you've bought your first EV car, you won't automatically be subscribed to the public charging services. So don't get caught out on your first long-distance drive without having first registered with Chargemaster.com, Ecotricity.com, Pod-point.com and Chargeyourcar.org.uk, amongst others. Each will send you a membership card in the post which you use to activate their respective charging stations. Each company has its own costs and some offer free charging. Your 3-pin 13amp charger will plug into 'Slow' charging services; or you'll need to buy a type-2 Mennekes cable to use 7kW + 'Fast' chargers (remember to take these cables with you); and the Rapid AC or DC chargers will have their own cables attached, which you plug directly into your car like the fuel pumps. At the end of the first year, remember to check that your subscriptions haven't expired.

Other Home Charger Installers

If you're looking for other home charing options, Zap-Map have a useful page to help you choose from other manufacturers. Click here.

You can also find more information on the Gov (UK) Home Charging Scheme by clicking here.

Finding Public Chargers

Nearly all public chargers are based around most of the major commuter belts, major roads, motorways and inside cities and large towns.

The BMW iRemote app, your BMW i3's Sat Nav, Zap-Map.com, the Open Charge Map app, Polar Instant (Chargemaster's app) and many others are good tools to help you find new public charging points.

I mention these ones above, in particular, because they provide the i3 driver with BMW supported charge points. Other charge stations sometimes only support other EV's such as Nissan's Leaf or Tesla's model range, like the 'S' because they have different connectors. I have found that Zap-map.com is the better tool to use for planning long journeys before leaving home. With Zap-Map you can search by car type, or connector type so your results shown are specific to your i3.

Helpful Tips

Tip 1: If you're driving to a friend's or family's home, and they're generous enough to let you charge your car there, take an extension reel so you can comfortably plug in your 3pin charger cable. Remember that it can take 6-8 hours to fully charge on a 13amp plug.

Tip 2: To find a BMW compatible charge point, using your i3's Sat Nav, when you are on the road, simply follow these steps on the navigation system:
ConnectedDrive >
BMW Online >
Applications >
Charging Stations >
Select the nearest available station >
[Start Guidance]

Tip 3: Protect your Charing in Bad Weather

BMW i3guide reader, Bob Watling, came up with a neat solution to protect his BMWi3 whilst charging outside in very bad weather. He noticed that other EV owners, specifically those in wet, cold climates have problems with the charging socket icing up. His simple solution is based on a £10 folding golf head bag cover and a small sucker for holding the cover over the socket.

Although the BMWi3's charging socket is waterproof, and is hazardous environment sealed (protected to use in the presence of volatile fumes, petrol stations)*, the problem comes when the socket and plug ice together in extreme winter conditions. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to protect the charging process in wet weather as a precaution or peace of mind.

Here you can also see there is a double use for the cover. Whilst it covers the BMWi3's socket, when he's not plugged in the cover protects the outside charger from weathering.

Images courtesy of Bob Watling

* Source: The Circuit (Official BMW i Forum)

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The i3 new owner's guide

What you may or may not know about owning your first BMW i3. This guide will help you through the blind spots, inform you of the things no one explained and left you to discover for yourself, reveal the nice little surprises, and help you correct the things that don't seem right at first. This is a guide for new owners, and we hope that there will be a lot more of you who follow.