Eine Wiese mit Bäumen, im Hintergrund ein Windrad
Sustainability 22.04.2020 5 Min.

A pioneer in climate protection, the BMW Group continues to pursue its ambitious goal to lower CO2 emissions. Efforts cover the entire value chain to achieve effective climate protection by combining the right products with the right manufacturing. Renewable energy in plants coupled with innovative charging concepts for vehicles are consistently reducing the carbon footprint of the company and its products.

‘Avoid rather than compensate’ is a key premise of the BMW Group’s CO2 strategy and fundamental to its efforts over many years to cut emissions and energy consumption at plants around the world – with new, energy-efficient production systems and smart energy management, among other things.

From the end of 2020, the BMW Group will purchase CO2-free energy only  – worldwide

Wherever possible, the BMW Group powers its production facilities with energy from renewable sources. The options for generating renewables on-site are assessed for each one, resulting in a wind farm at Plant Leipzig (GER), a methane gas system at Spartanburg, and photovoltaic systems at Plants Oxford (UK), Shenyang (CN) and San Luis Potosí (MEX).

Ein roter BMW an einer Ladestation in Rotterdam

But over the last few years, the BMW Group has also increasingly sourced any additional energy from purely renewable sources. In some countries, this was quite a challenge, as electricity from renewables is not available everywhere, and there is simply a lack of providers. But in Europe, the BMW Group’s energy needs have been met purely from renewable sources since 2017.

2020 will see the BMW Group achieve yet another milestone: from the end of this year, it will buy all of its energy worldwide solely from renewable sources, powering not only production facilities but also other sites, including office buildings, research centres and dealerships entirely with green energy.

For the BMW Group, the same kind of advances are crucial in products as well, as the best way to maximise CO2-savings and protect the environment is to power vehicles by green energy too. To make this possible, the BMW Group launched a number of smart charging projects several years ago, including one in northern California, which has delivered promising results from various perspectives after three years.

BMW ChargeForward: Smart charging substantially reduces CO2 emissions.

ChargeForward brings together two key tools in the fight against climate change – vehicle electrification and renewable energy – to encourage EV charging when energy is cheapest and cleanest.

ChargeForward has created a win-win-situation not only for EV drivers but also for the utility grid and the environment. Customers benefit from direct monetary incentives for allowing BMW to manage their charging: rather than topping up batteries during morning and evening peak hours, when energy comes from expensive, less-efficient power plants, BMW’s smart charging algorithms encourage them to charge during the day, when solar energy is abundant and existing resources can be used more efficiently. This not only evens out the grid load but also significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Between Earth Day 2018 and Earth Day 2019 alone, ChargeForward participants drove about 1.1 million “renewably powered miles”.

Charge-Forward Teilnehmer Michael
Charge-Forward Teilnehmer Nitesh

Michael: “It’s easy to just plug in and have the car be ready, knowing that ChargeForward will optimize the car. I no longer have to worry about how best to charge efficiently and inexpensively.”

Nitesh: “Normally I would just charge at home at night. For Earth Week, I made sure to split charging between home and work. It was interesting to see what a little bit of awareness can do, and how the ChargeForward participants’ charging [with renewable energy] compared to the rest of the nation!”

Based on ChargeForward drivers’ mobility habits, UC Berkeley developed a model which revealed that managed EV charging produces 31 percent less greenhouse gas emissions a year than non-managed EV charging. It also feeds 1,200 kWh more renewable energy into each vehicle per year – the equivalent of four months of green-energy charging for a typical BEV per year.

In addition, the study explored how charging can be managed away from home. Incentives encouraged participants to replenish batteries during the daytime, even when away from home, as the availability of renewables exceeds demand during this time. Charging went up by 155 percent between 10am and 2pm, and the number of days on which ChargeForward PHEV drivers were found to plug was 67 percent higher than for other PHEV drivers. In short, BMW Group ChargeForward established a scenario in which customers and energy suppliers benefited financially in equal measure and CO2 emissions fell significantly.

Infografik Ladepeaks

ChargeForward was designed to research the potential benefits and opportunities of timing vehicle charging to meet the needs of the grid while maintaining the flexibility to meet the mobility needs of more than 300 customers. It was initiated in collaboration with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and subsidised by the California Energy Commission (CEC).

A detailed report with more findings and insights from BMW ChargeForward will be released in the coming weeks.