• EV
  • Plug-In EVs
  • California
  • Vehicle Grid Integration

EV Ownership Ups Cool Status in California

Scott Shepard
Sep 03, 2019


In August 2019, German automaker BMW announced it would run a wireless charging pilot for lessees of the company’s 5-series plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV), the 530e, in California. The trial is a positive step for the wireless charging industry, and a sign that wireless commercial availability is steadily approaching. PHEV automakers are becoming keen to deploy wireless to increase PHEV owner utilization of electric drive—rumors that owners are not doing so has soured government perceptions of the technology and consequently subsidization. For non-Californians though, it is yet another example of how being an EV owner in California is uniquely cool.

As a reminder, this coolness is owed almost entirely to California placing itself at the forefront of the EV market through aggressive government policies to decarbonize and de-smog transportation. Policies include not only state-funded EV purchase incentives, but also standards for reducing vehicle emissions and enforcing fuel greenhouse gas intensities through credit trading schemes. The vehicle standards result in EV deployments being sent to California before the rest of the US. Meanwhile, the fuel standards result in additional EV incentives from the state’s utilities.

California Is an Innovation Center

Beyond the more direct impacts of the state’s policies, there are also a few unintended benefits—like getting to be the test bed for the latest and greatest from EV automakers. BMW is just one example. The company’s wireless charging trial is only the latest cool thing they have done in California. For example, BMW launched a trial in 2015 to pursue additional ways to reduce EV ownership costs by syncing EV charging with grid service markets. Known as vehicle grid integration (VGI), BMW paid participating EV owners up to $1,500 in the first phase of the trial, which ended in December 2016, and then up to $900 in the second phase, which ended in December 2018.

Similar VGI trials in California have been pushed by Honda, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Sonoma Clean Power. The state has also seen pilots and trials on deployments of EV carshare programs and workplace charging. As the state conceptualizes expanding some of its keynote policies to heavy vehicles, additional innovations for fleets should be expected.

Other EV Test Beds

California is not the only place to get cool EV tech early. After all, the BMW wireless trial did start in the automaker’s home country, Germany. But of late, the UK has been another particularly notable location for innovative EV tech. The country put significant funds toward vehicle-to-grid (V2G) development in early 2018 and the fruit of that funding is just starting to get realized. A collection of electricity retailers and charging service companies are now deploying bidirectional chargers to EV owner’s homes at a volume previously unseen by the V2G industry. These chargers enable companies to push power in and out of the vehicle, the latter amplifies the EV’s revenue generating potential significantly—making EV ownership rather cool indeed.

With an average annual global market growth rate of 70% since 2011, EVs are quickly becoming the future and the ride toward it looks quite nice in those places where governments are being aggressive and visionary.