Because plugging in an electric vehicle is a hassle.
BMW first announced its wireless charging pilot program back in 2017. It works with BMW 530e plug-in hybrid models and the pilot program is helping people test the ability to charge the cars using magnetic induction. The system works in much the same way as we use induction charging for cell phones, except the charging pad is bigger. Parking over the pad starts the charging process automatically and the driver doesn’t have to do anything more. We knew the technology would make it to the US eventually, and now BMW has announced it’s testing it here through a pilot program.
The program is very limited with just 200 slots available. To qualify, residential homeowners need an enclosed garage and to live in California. BMW has a “530e Readiness Survey” to fill out and the installation of the induction charging pad will be handled by Qmerit on BMW’s dime. BMW will also take responsibility for maintenance and the subsequent removal when the lease terminates.
BMW won’t supply the car though. To join the pilot program, interested parties will have to take a 36-month lease on a 2019 model-year BMW 530e. The good news is that the 530e is a very nice car and, although color options are limited, comes with the M Sport package and a ton of active and passive safety equipment.
The wireless charging system is fast, charging at 3.2 kilowatts with an efficiency of about 85%. That means the 530e’s battery can be charged in about 3.5 hours. Thankfully, as this is a California program for now, there’s some leeway for how precise parking over the charging pad needs to be and the infotainment screen helps guide the driver into place.
Wireless charging strikes us as one of the biggest improvements in charging, and when it becomes viable on a large scale will solve a lot of problems. Recently we reported on VW working with Electrify America to build charging stations with robot arms to charge driverless cars. The reality of wireless charging makes that look like a whole lot of unnecessary complication.