The Ultimate Guide to BMW i3 Charging at Home And On the Go

By Mia Yamauchi

There is simply no comparison to a self-charging car

BMW i3 Charging Basics: What to Know & Why You Care

The Basics: Each level of charging delivers different charging speeds. Each EV has a maximum charge power it can accept. Choosing the right EV charger minimizes hassle and installation costs. And maximizes your enjoyment of electric driving. Keep reading to make charging levels as easy as 1, 2, 3.

An “EV Charger” Might Not Be What You Think It Is – Key Terms

  • Internal or “Onboard” Charger
    The onboard charger is a component inside the car. The OBC manages internal power flow to safely charge your EV battery.
  • External Charger or “EVSE”
    The box-and-cord device has a technical name. “Electric vehicle supply equipment,” or EVSE. The EVSE delivers power from the grid (or other source) to your EV’s onboard charger in the first place. Still, everyone tends to call the EVSE a “charger.” So it shall also be for the rest of this post.

EVSE = “Charger” In This Post


How Fast Can I Charge?

Depends on the charging level. There are 3 levels of chargers:

  • Level 1 (120 volt) charging
  • Level 2 (240 volt) charging
  • Level 3 (480 volt) DC fast charging

BMW i3 Charging Times Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 DC Fast Charge

What ARE Charging Levels, Exactly?

Levels 1, 2, and 3 chargers run on different levels of voltage.

level 1 2 3 ev charger comparison power time hours speed voltage amps current visual diagram

Think of electricity like water flowing through a pipe. Higher current (Amps) flowing through larger pipes (Volts) means a faster battery “fill-up.”

Ya dig?

water pipeline electricity analogy

Now let’s run through the topline information on all three levels of charging.

Why Is Level 1 BMW i3 Charging Called “Trickle Charging”?

Each new i3 comes from the dealership with a Level 1 charger, or “trickle charger.” It plugs into a standard 120V residential outlet. It’s nicknamed “trickle” charging because it’s really slow.

“Level 1 is nicknamed ‘trickle’ charging because it’s really slow.”


  • $0 Upfront Cost. A level 1 charging cord often comes with the car at no additional cost.
  • Charge virtually anywhere. Standard outlets are super convenient.


  • Snail status. The slow rate of charge can feel limiting.
  • Waking up under-charged sucks. Recharging an empty i3 battery can take over 15 hours with a trickle charger. That can make it impossible to fully recharge overnight.
  • Missing “time of use” discounts costs $$. Many electric utilities offer discounts when the grid would otherwise be idle. Usually in the middle of the night.

Why Is Level 2 Is Best for BMW i3 Home Charging?

240V level 2 chargers provide a bigger “pipeline” for electricity to flow to your i3. They can charge 2-4 times faster than trickle chargers.


Level 2 Is Best for You If Either of These Are True

  • You drive more than 30-40 miles in one day on a regular basis.
  • Your electric utility offers time of use discounts.

2 Factors that Determine Level 2 Charging Speed for BMW i3

  1. Maximum power output of the charger: Different chargers can pull different amounts of electrical current through their 240V circuit. More current = more power = faster charge. Most level 2 chargers deliver 3.3-10 kW of power to the i3.
  2. Maximum power intake of your i3: The 2017 BMW i3 accepts up to 7.7 kW of charging power from a Level 2 charger. That much power can recharge an empty i3 in just 4.5 hours. Plenty fast enough to recharge every night.

How Your i3 Can Charge Autonomously

  • Plug-in chargers must be manually connected to your charging port each time your charge. If you forget, you may have limited e-driving range.
  • Wireless chargers enable autonomous charging. They transfer energy over the air from a pad placed in your i3’s normal parking space. A Vehicle Adapter receives the energy and charges your battery.

“Wireless chargers enable autonomous charging.”

Hands-Free Level 2 Charging with Plugless for BMW i3

Plugless for BMW i3 EVSE inductive charger

Plugless chargers, like plugin chargers, deliver AC power the to i3’s internal onboard charger. The BMW i3 sees no difference between Plugless or plugin charging.

Also Read: How to Avoid Blowing Your Fuse or Your Budget on Level 2 Charger Installation

How to Get Crazy Fast Level 3 Charging for your BMW i3 for Free (And Why You Don’t Want It At Home)

Level 3 charging is the fastest and most powerful level of charging available. You may also hear it referred to as “DC fast charging.” It uses direct current instead of alternating current (AC). DC fast chargers bypass the i3’s onboard charging system to charge the battery directly.

BMW i3 DC Fast combo charger diagram

Level 3 DC fast chargers can recharge the i3 battery up to 80% in as little as 20 minutes. At the 80% point, charging slows to safeguard the battery from overcharging.

“DC fast chargers can recharge the i3 battery up to 80% in as little as 20 minutes.”

Why Level 3 DC Fast Charging Is Impractical At Home

DC Fast Chargers suck in more power than an entire average US residential neighborhood. Your zip code would not appreciate the lights going out every time you charged your car. They can also cost up to $100,000 each. DC fast charging is great for charging at public stations because of the high speeds. You probably shouldn’t to try it at home.

“DC Fast Chargers suck in more power than an entire average US residential neighborhood. And can cost up to $100,000 each.”

How BMW i3 Drivers Can Get Free Public DC Fast Charging

BMW’s ChargeNow partnership with the EvGo network provides 2 years of free 30-minute DC fast charging sessions. ChargeNow is available at participating EvGo chargers with the purchase or lease of a new BMW i3.

Map of Participating ChargeNow DC Fast and ChargeNow by EVgo Stations

BMW i3 Free DC Fast Chargers ChargeNow Network Map Locations(view interactive map at

Still Have BMW i3 Charging Questions?

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