By on April 20, 2017

Yosemite national park mountains

It’s looking like some sites just might not be feasible. Still, BMW, in partnership with the National Park Foundation, National Park Service and Department of Energy, has hatched a plan to lure electric vehicles out of their safe urban confines and into the wilderness.

It’s starting in New Jersey, about 12 miles west of New York City. (Hey, you have to begin somewhere.)

While the first EV charging station installed by the group can be found, fittingly, at Thomas Edison’s Glenmont laboratory in Llewellyn Park, NJ, plans are afoot to add up to 100 stations in or near national parks in the near future.

You might not see any in the Dry Tortugas, and Denali seems a little remote, but the advent of longer-ranged EVs has made emissions-free road trips possible (at least, with some planning). The current crop of low-cost, Interstate-happy electrics, led by the Chevrolet Bolt, should fuel some demand for the stations, despite EVs making up less than one percent of the U.S. vehicle market.

In a joint news release, the partners said that a team will identify appropriate locations for charging stations. Some could be in towns close to national parks, allowing an EV to slip into the wilderness and back. The site’s proximity to EV-heavy markets is just one of the considerations being looked at.

While the parks people imply that there won’t be a BMW-branded hookup spoiling anyone’s scenic photo, enough opportunities exist to make the initiative worthwhile.

“Dozens of parks have already expressed interest and are exploring site options,” the release states. The Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program and BMW will handle the technical side of things.

As of late, there’s no shortage of automakers teaming up with various levels of government to bring electrification to consumers. In its home continent, BMW has already joined with Ford, Daimler and Volkswagen Group to proliferate a high-speed charging network across Europe.

Distances are far greater in the U.S., and national parks are often well off the beaten path. It will be interesting to see if BMW uses its longest ranged electric vehicle — the 114-mile i3 — as a yardstick when it comes to measuring station-to-station distances.

[Image: Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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6 Comments on “Take This Park and Wire It: BMW Wants to Get Your EV to the Hills...”

  • avatar

    I live in the valley pictured at the top of the post. I have a cow-orker who drives a 500e around, but he had to stop once in a small town just outside the park to charge it before he got it all the way into Yosemite Village.

    I see lots of Teslas around, but had never seen an i3 in the park until just a few days ago.

  • avatar

    I get the impression that the majority of these National Parks are readily accessible by vehicle.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    How many EV charging standards are there? I know Tesla is different but what about the rest? Can different makes use different chargers? I honestly don’t know as my EV experience is limited to an 08 Club Car. Anyway seems that needs to get sorted somewhat.

    • 0 avatar

      In the US, everyone but Tesla is gravitating toward the SAE J1772 connector for Level 2 charging. Even Tesla provides an adapter with their cars to plug into a J1772 service. I presume these will be DC fast chargers, though, as Level 2 is not fast enough for long distance travel.

      Currently, there are 3 common connectors for DC fast charging in the US: Tesla’s connector (which supports Level 1 all the way up to DC fast charging), CCS (a variant of the J1772), and CHAdeMO (mostly used by the Nissan Leaf, I believe). Tesla’s Supercharger network and destination chargers represent by far the biggest and most complete charging network, but other manufacturers have so far not supported it.

      I think CCS will be the connector of choice in the future for general purpose charging networks. More manufacturers seem to be on board with it and it integrates more nicely with the already ubiquitous J1772 socket. Two large pins are added immediately underneath it as opposed to requiring another full (and large) CHAdeMO socket. Tesla already offers an adapter between their connector and CHAdeMO and are expected to provide a CCS version assuming they catch on. Most DC fast chargers in my state of Minnesota seem to be CCS with some supporting both CCS and CHAdeMO.

      • 0 avatar

        Some of us also have portable level 2 EVSEs along with a set of adapters so that we can hook into various types of 240v and 120v outlets to charge. This way, if you’re headed into an area without a level 2 charger, you might be able to find a campground with NEMA 14-50 RV hookups and make your own level 2 charging station at your camp site.

      • 0 avatar

        CCS does seem to be the future. TESLA is a member of the committee that does the CCS standard, so I assume they will be compatible for DC charging on CCS with the model 3. There currently are more CCS points then Tesla superchargers in the US, but most are not the high current versions so they won’t charge as fast as a supercharger, they also tend to not be ideally located.
        So really you have CCS as the larger but right now inferior network. Tesla, FCA, Ford, GM, VW, BMW, MB, and Hyundai are all using or planning to use CCS. Which leaves the Japanese brands as the only ones on Chademo. For the near future I have read that the CCS standard and Chademo standard are close enough that many new charge points have both connectors with common hardware in the charging box.

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