Inductively Charging the BMW 530e

Contactless inductive charging via a paddle and chargeport was championed by GM’s EV1 in the 1990s. Now BMW is giving inductive charging a modern twist with its wireless charging system that simply requires parking over a ChargePad on the ground.

Many of us use inductive wireless charging to recharge our cellphones and other electronic devices. Now, some lessees of new BMW 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrids will be able to recharge their batteries using inductive charging as well. Initially, 200 BMW 530e lessees are participating in a global Induction Charging Pilot Program that began in Germany and is expanding to include 13 California counties.

BMW Wireless Charging consists of a GroundPad and the CarPad affixed to the vehicle’s underside. A contactless transfer of energy from a home’s power supply occurs between the GroundPad and CarPad through induction over a distance of about three inches. The GroundPad generates a magnetic field that induces electrical current in the CarPad, which then charges the car’s high-voltage lithium-ion batteries.

The system helps a driver maneuver the 530e into the correct position over the GroundPad with the help of a WiFi connection between the charging station and the vehicle. An overhead view of the car and its surroundings is displayed in the car’s center Control Display with colored lines that help guide the driver into the correct spot. Charging starts as soon as the 530e is in position over the GroundPad and a Start/Stop button is pressed. The system’s 3.7 kW output can charge the batteries in about 3 1/2 hours with about 85 percent efficiency. It switches off automatically once the car is fully charged.

All components that conduct electricity are protected from rain and snow. Driving over the GroundPad will not damage it in any way. During charging, ambient electromagnetic radiation is limited to the vehicle undercarriage.  Foreign Object Detection and Living Object Detection are part of the certified induction charging system. If something is detected within the gap between the GroundPad and CarPad, charging will be turned off.

To participate in the Induction Charging Pilot Program, participants must lease their 530e from 33 participating dealers in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Sonoma, Orange, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Ventura, Riverside, or San Bernardino counties. An online questionnaire is submitted to help determine location suitability, which includes the ability to charge inside an enclosed garage space. A 530e Readiness Survey determines garage and local electric grid suitability. All costs associated with the initial installation, maintenance and deinstallation of the Ground Pad are covered by BMW.