BMW Group (OTC:BAMXF) wants to make charging electric vehicles, or EVs, easier. Currently, owners of sub-200-mile range EVs have little consistency in charging experiences as they travel. To address this problem, the company recently announced a new joint association called ROEV (which stands for Roaming EV), aimed at supporting "EV adoption by facilitating public charging network interoperability."
But will associations like this be enough to truly achieve universal charging solutions for EV owners?
BMW wants charging to be convenient
"Driving an EV will be easier thanks to ROEV," said Simon Lonsdale, chairman of the newly formed organization, in a press release announcing its formation. "The EV driver's ability to find, and charge at, any member public station, using an EV charging network account of their choice, is paramount to a simple driving and charging experience," he continued.
ROEV's approach to make charging convenient is to "streamline EV charging access across multiple charging networks." To help achieve interoperability, BMW founded the organization with key members, including Nissan and the three largest charging networks in the U.S.: Car Charging, ChargePoint, and NRG EVgo.
BMW explained the plan:
Much like bank cards make it possible to withdraw funds from any ATM, drivers with a participating EV charging network account will be able to charge their EV at other participating charging stations. By improving the convenience of public EV charging, ROEV's charging network interoperability will enhance the EV ownership experience for current and future drivers.
Two totally different charging infrastructure stories
BMW's attempt to clean up a charging infrastructure mess, which often requires EV owners to have multiple accounts with different charging networks and carry multiple access cards, highlights critical differences between charging infrastructure needs for cars with less than 200 miles and needs of those with more than 200 miles.
One critical difference in the charging needs for these two EV types is that EVs with larger batteries will arguably require far fewer charging locations than those with smaller batteries. As it turns out, vehicles with batteries with 200-plus miles of range -- a market which currently only belongs to Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) but will include additional brands within the next few years -- can charge far more miles in a much shorter period of time than EVs with smaller batteries. Furthermore, EV owners with 200-plus miles of range rarely need to use charging locations, as charging at home is sufficient for the majority of their travel. So, 200-plus mile EVs require far less charging infrastructure. This means most Tesla vehicle owners can travel almost anywhere they would want to travel in the U.S. and Western Europe while only using Tesla's strategically placed Supercharger locations, and nothing more. With less infrastructure required to achieve convenient travel, the charging experience for Tesla owners is likely a preview of what's to come for all 200-plus mile-range EVs.
And here's another interesting development in the evolution of charging infrastructure: Since EVs with larger batteries can handle both a 120 kW charge and any lower level of charge, these owners will benefit from convenience improvements to the networks for both EV types. On the flip side, however, there isn't yet a way for owners of current EVs with less than 200 miles of range to benefit from advancements in convenience of 120 kW charging stations.
Going forward, it's unclear whether or not the charging solutions for 200-plus mile EVs and sub-200-mile EVs will ever be on the same page. Yes, Tesla has extended an open invitation for all automakers to tap into the company's Supercharger network (Tesla CEO Elon Musk only requires that any manufacturers who use the network pay their share of operating costs). But no automaker has produced a car that can handle the charge yet.
On the right track
There will undoubtedly continue to be challenges in developing a charging network for EVs. But the spirit of BMW's effort to make charging easier is the attitude that will be needed to move forward. Combining interoperability initiatives such as this one by ROEV with home charging and the low cost of building and maintaining charging infrastructure, convenient charging for all EV types has potential to become a reality.
Beyond the founding members, ROEV has already attracted additional members, including automakers and energy solutions companies: Audi, Honda, Efacec, Portland General Electric, SemaConnect, and BTC Power.