BMW ActiveE electric car, January 2012, New Jersey
BMW ActiveE electric car, January 2012, New JerseyEnlarge Photo
If you're thinking about applying to lease a BMW ActiveE--or of buying one of several other electric cars now on the market--you may be eligible for a nice freebie.
Coulomb Technologies, the company behind the ChargePoint network of public charging stations, said this week it is offering a free wall-mounted home charging station (known as an EVSE) to drivers who lease a BMW ActiveE.
The offer is part of Coulomb's 'ChargePoint America Program', and is partly funded by a $15 million grant that's part of the electrification initiative within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Under that program, ChargePoint America is to provide 4,600 public and home ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations. All of the public units have already been allocated--so the company is now focusing on electric-car buyers.
The program also gets funding from four automakers. It covers the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Transit Connect, Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf, Smart Electric Drive, and of course the BMW ActiveE. If you have one of those vehicles, you could be eligible.
Coulomb Technologies ChargePoint
Coulomb Technologies ChargePointEnlarge Photo
The charging station offered to home subscribers is the ChargePoint CT500, a 7.2-kilowatt unit when used in homes with a 240-Volt, 30-amp feed. It has a standard J1772 connector and is reasonably compact.
Are there any catches? Well, there's always some fine print.
The program is only available in certain regions: Austin, Texas; Boston; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando/Tampa; Sacramento; San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area; Redmond/Bellevue, Washington; Washington DC/Baltimore; and Southern Michigan (including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Detroit).
The unit itself is free to eligible candidates. However, the installation isn't, and it must be carried out by an authorized installer. In other words, ChargePoint isn't just going to mail it to you - shame!
As part of the agreement, you will have to promise that you'll keep the unit plugged in and powered up until the end of 2013, at which point it becomes yours.
This is the purpose of the trial; it's all about measurement.
The U.S. Department of the Environment will capture anonymous usage information; how much electricity you use, and when.
2012 BMW ActiveE - Driven in Monterey, February 2012
2012 BMW ActiveE - Driven in Monterey, February 2012Enlarge Photo
The unit fully supports the smart-grid concept and can be remotely upgraded by Coulomb Technologies to accommodate future rate plans specific to electric-car charging.
But why would you take the ChargePoint unit over an existing product--or even the AeroVironment unit that BMW insists all ActiveE lessees install?
It's about the network; the ChargePoint unit is connected to a nationwide support system over a cellular phone network. If the charging station experiences any kind of problem, it will phone home and report itself.
The electricity it uses is also tracked on the myChargePoint.net website, so drivers can keep a close eye on their power consumption.
We recently heard of one Chevy Volt driver, Mike Memat, who lives in a condominium complex. The condo officials refused to let him plug in his car for fear of him bankrupting the association with outlandish electricity usage!
A station that shows the (relatively small) amount of electricity used each night to recharge a Volt would be just the answer--if only Memat, who lives in Ottawa, Ontario--could move into one of the qualifying regions!
As for BMW ActiveE drivers, wouldn't it be a waste to have two units?
Maybe, but maybe not if they plan to pick up a second electric car, want better tracking than their current setup, or want to install a charging station at a family member's house.
This is a limited-time offer, as they say, so if you think you qualify--snap one up while you can.