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BMW Offers Fast Battery Chargers to Encourage i3’s Sales

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s biggest maker of luxury vehicles, is offering drivers of the i3 city car speedier and smaller auto-battery chargers in an effort to make driving electric vehicles more practical.

The units, developed in collaboration with component supplier Robert Bosch GmbH, can bring the battery up to 80 percent of power capacity in 30 minutes, Munich-based BMW said today in a statement. U.S. owners of the i3 can buy the charger, about half the size of a standard refrigerator, for $6,548. Customers in California will have the additional option of loading up their batteries using fast charging at no cost at NRG Energy Inc.’s eVgo charging stations through 2015.

BMW’s offer follows similar programs by electric-car producers Tesla Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. to overcome customers’ fears of being stranded by a dead battery. Tesla, the U.S. maker of the Model S sports car, established a network of free fast charging stations in Norway after covering California. Nissan offers customers of its Leaf hatchback two years of free charging at selected U.S. locations.

The BMW fast chargers are compatible with cabling setups provided by other carmakers, including Daimler AG, General Motors Co., Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co., the German company said.

Demand for the i3 compact, which was introduced in November, has exceeded production and the order book is stretching until the end of this year, Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of sales, said last month. Under current setups, the battery can reach an 80 percent charge in less than six hours, according to the i3 product website.

BMW added to the “i” alternative-power model lineup in June with the $135,700 i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, which can drive emission-free for 23 miles.

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