BMW Buys Into EV Charging Network, Preparing for i3 Launch Next Year
By Justin Berkowitz
BMW’s $100-million venture-capital fund, i Ventures, has just made an investment in Coulomb Technologies, the company that operates ChargePoint, the largest online global network of EV charging stations. This isn’t just a business deal; the move points to BMW’s product intentions for the U.S.
The aim for the buy—details of which still are under wraps, for the time being—is to “offer reliable access to public charging” for BMW customers, says Dr. Ulrich Quay, who heads up the fund. With only about 700 BMW ActiveE cars on the road (those are the EV version of the 1-series), the move strengthens BMW’s position in advance of launching the carbon-fiber i3 city car. “It’s coming next year, 2013,” Dr. Quay explains, dispelling some rumors that BMW was getting cold feet about introducing its i sub-brand in the U.S. The mid-engined i8 sports car is slated for 2014.
Coulomb operates the ChargePoint network a bit differently than you’d expect. Sales and installation of the actual EV charging stations—which look a little like old-school vertical gas pumps—are handled by distributors. In fact, ChargePoint will work with stations built by a number of different manufacturers. ChargePoint ends up being a brand name on the stations, a system for finding available spots in which to charge, and a method of paying.
The i Ventures fund is planning to announce a number of other investments this calendar year, in addition to Coulomb Technologies. It also hosts what’s called a tech incubator, a shared office space in which startups pitching ideas to BMW can work under one roof. Thirty-five of about forty-five slots are occupied. We’re looking forward to seeing what else comes from the project.
Read more at Car and Driver:
2012 BMW ActiveE - First Drive Review
2013 BMW 3-series / 328i Sports Wagon - First Drive Review
2009 Mini E - Short Take Road Test
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