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BMW’s Wireless Charger is Coming, But Good Luck Buying It

Only particular markets will be able to score one of BMW's newest pieces of tech.

The future of cars is headed down the path of electrification. As more EVs begin to hit the streets, the challenge of charging convenience will become paramount to the consumer, and BMW is ready to deliver the easiest way to charge; by simply parking your car. Soon, BMW 530e owners will be able to charge their luxury sedans without a cable, but according to Car Magazine, they won’t exactly be able to call it their own, at least not at first.

Starting in July 2018, BMW will begin producing its wireless inductive charging system aimed at its latest plug-in hybrid vehicles. We know this includes the 530e, but no word if the automaker’s flagship electric cars, the i3 and i8, will be able to make use of inductive charging. BMW had previously mentioned that the 530e was its target vehicle for the wireless charging system, and sources have indeed confirmed to Car Magazine that BMW is readying a deal to first push these new chargers to owners of the 530e iPerformance models.

However, there are a few caveats that might upset some owners looking to painlessly charge their cars. BMW will reportedly be launching its charging mat exclusively as a lease-only option, as the majority of its customers who have splurged for the PHEV have chosen to lease instead of buy. This means that those who have purchased the 530e will need to decide if the additional charging mat will be worth the additional monthly cost for convenience. Other sources have reportedly confirmed with BMW that the charging mat will be launching full-scale exclusively in Europe; U.S. customers will be limited to a pilot program in California only. We have reached out to BMW for comment on this decision, but have not received a response at the time of writing.

Logistics aside, the wireless induction charging method is a very convenient way for customers to charge their cars. The owner simply needs to plug that mat into a 220-volt outlet once and go about their day. When returning home, the owner will simply drive over the small 31.5-inch wide mat to begin charging. To ensure that the driver always is positioned correctly to charge while parked, the 530e’s infotainment display makes use of the car’s forward-facing cameras to guide the owner over the mat to start charging. As another failsafe, BMW has added proximity sensors to the mat to prevent harm from coming to household pets who decide that the charger is a good place to take a nap.

Don’t get too excited if you’re expecting convenience to be fast, because inductive charging isn’t as quick as plugging the car into the wall. It takes around 3.5 hours to charge the 530e’s very small 9.2 kWh battery, about 15 percent longer than plugging it in. Regardless, the convenience that the charging mat presents may be more attractive to 530e owners than the wired alternative.

As more automakers begin to produce wireless charging systems for their vehicles, it makes charging at home seem not too bad after all. But before a plethora of standards is created, it may be wise for a regulatory organization to step in and help to maintain the industry. BMW just so happens to be the first major manufacturer up to bay.