Troubleshooting the BMW i3 “Unable to Charge” Message

The BMW i3, a revolutionary electric vehicle known for its sleek design and eco-friendly features, occasionally encounters issues that can leave drivers scratching their heads.

One of the more perplexing problems is the “Unable to Charge” message, which can be a cause for concern and inconvenience. In this article, we will delve into the possible reasons behind this error and provide a comprehensive guide on how to troubleshoot and resolve the issue.

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The “Unable to Charge” message typically surfaces when there’s a problem in the charging process. It can manifest after various scenarios, such as a drained 12V battery, charging post malfunctions, or issues with the high-voltage system.

To better understand and address the problem, let’s explore common user experiences and the advice provided by the BMW i3 community.

Drained 12V Battery

One prevalent cause of the “Unable to Charge” message is a drained 12V battery. Users have reported instances where leaving headlights on overnight resulted in a completely unresponsive vehicle.

To resolve this, the first step is to charge the 12V battery using a plain old battery charger. Users recommend doing this immediately and replacing the 12V battery as soon as possible to prevent reoccurrence.

After charging the 12V battery, it’s essential to clear any faults that may have arisen. A dead 12V battery can cause numerous faults in the high-voltage system, potentially hindering the charging process. Using a scan tool is recommended to diagnose and clear these faults, allowing for a clean restart.

Before reinstalling the 12V battery, measure its voltage. For optimal performance, the reading should be 12.7 or higher. Additionally, let the battery sit for a couple of hours before reinserting it.

If the 12V battery is more than 3-4 years old, consider replacing it, as older batteries may not function optimally after being drained.

To ensure a clean restart, users suggest pulling the high-voltage disconnect plug before charging the 12V battery and disconnecting the 12V battery itself. This procedure is part of the 12V battery replacement process.

After resolving the 12V battery issue, it might take some time for the car to regain full functionality. Leaving the high-voltage charging overnight, even on a standard 120v outlet, has been reported to clear the issue over time.

Important: EV battery replacement can cost $1000s. To avoid high-voltage battery replacement, there are some things you can do. Read this article to find out the 10 best ways to maximize EV battery life and save tons of money!

Charging Post Malfunctions

Some users have noted that issues with specific charging posts, especially older rapid chargers like Ecotricity, Polar, and CYC chargers, can trigger the error.

If you encounter the message, try charging your BMW i3 elsewhere, as the problem may lie with the charger or charging post rather than the vehicle itself.

Opt for more modern and well-maintained charging posts to rule out issues with specific stations. This step can help identify whether the error persists across various locations.

Verify that the charging posts you are attempting to use are compatible with your BMW i3 model. Some older chargers may have software issues, particularly with CCS charging, leading to the abrupt termination of the charging process and triggering the “Unable to Charge” message.

Also read: BMW Battery Warranty (i Models): Everything You Need to Know


Encountering the “Unable to Charge” message on your BMW i3 can be a source of frustration, but with the right troubleshooting steps, it’s a challenge that can be overcome.

Whether dealing with a drained 12V battery, charging post malfunctions, or clearing faults, following these guidelines should help you get back on the road with your eco-friendly BMW i3. If the issue persists, consulting with a BMW service professional is always a prudent next step.