Published on July 30th, 2013 | by Tina Casey7
Smooth Sailing For Evatran’s Wireless EV Charging Demo
We’ve been following the company Evatran as it road-tests its wireless EV charging system, and the latest report has just come in. With more than 1500 hours of charging time logged so far, a multi-site demonstration of the wireless system has been free of bugs and is ready to move on to the next stage. Evatran’s system, which is designed as a relatively affordable retrofit for existing vehicles, is so far available only on Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt EVs. However, the company has signed deals with Sears and Bosch in preparation for entering the mass market, which bodes well for the introduction of wireless charging retrofits in other EV models.
The Wireless EV Charging Project
Evatran’s wireless EV charging project is relatively modest, with only 15 installations completed so far, but if it continues to go smoothly the implications will be huge for the EV market. EV ownership is already focused on home charging, workplace charging and other high-convenience locations, and wireless charging piles another significant layer of convenience on top of that.
One key aspect of the Evatran project is that it involves ordinary EV drivers, who are participating in the demo through their employers. That impressive roster includes Google, Hertz Rent-a-Car, Duke Energy, Clemson University, SAP, SPX Service Solutions (now Bosch), the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, DTE Energy, the City of Raleigh, Idaho National Laboratory, and Argonne Laboratories. By the end of the summer, UC Davis and the City of Sacramento will join in.
Testimonials from ordinary drivers will help provide Evatran with an effective weapon against one major stumbling block, which is that consumers appear to be apprehensive about the safety of the technology. Evatran CEO Rebecca Hough explained in an open letter earlier this month:
“…there have been many questions about the safety of the system. As we were developing Plugless, safety was our first concern. To begin with, no “live” electricity flows between the Vehicle Adapter and the Parking Pad. Our system uses the same inductive power transfer technology that charges eclectic toothbrushes. Furthermore, the Plugless L2 System features best-in-class safety interlocks to ensure the system will shut itself off if anything interferes with the system.”
Evatran’s Wireless EV Charging Technology
Part of the obstacle for consumers is wrapping your head around the idea that a powerful charging system can be partly embedded in the ground, in the form of Evatran’s “Parking Pad,” where it can be easily stepped upon, without posing a safety issue.
When we first took note of the Evatran wireless EV project earlier this spring, that was our question, too. The answer is relatively simple: inductive power transfer. Inductive power transfer is a Nikola Tesla-era phenomenon based on the transfer of power between magnetic fields. It is in wide use already, primarily for charging smart phones and other common consumer devices, including the aforementioned electric toothbrush.
Weather being one key difference between indoor and outdoor use of inductive power transfer, the Evatran system was designed to be precipitation-proof and functional in temperature ranges from 0 degrees Fahrenheit to 122 degrees. It is also designed with durability in mind and will hold up if you run over it with your EV.
A Warning Shot For Tesla And The Fuel Cell Market, Too
Just a short time ago we mentioned that Tesla Motors’ vision of a five-minute EV charge could run up against new low cost fuel cell technology, and wireless charging adds yet a third dimension to the competition.
In addition to partnering with the Department of Energy’s Idaho and Argonne labs on the demonstration driving project, there is an over-arching, three-year partnership between the company and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop an affordable wireless retrofit not only for stationary charging, but also for charging on the move.
That’s the “electric highway” we’ve been dreaming of, and it’s not too far away in the future. Stanford University, for example, has been working on an in-road EV charging system, and Evatran partner Nissan has been drooling over the possibilities for several years now, as has Audi.
Road-embedded charging would work on the same inductive power transfer system as stationary charging, so the obstacles between dream and reality are not all that daunting.
In fact, charging on the go is the ultimate goal of a $4 million round of Energy Department funding that went through last year, under the Obama Administration’s Electric Vehicle Technologies program.
One last note: whether stationary or on-the-go, a truly affordable wireless charging system would be yet another nail in the coffin of conventional gas stations. As with any mature industry, consolidation in the retail gasoline market has been running a steady course over the past generation, with the result that there are far fewer gas stations in the U.S. now than in the recent past.
As EV charging availability expands from stationary to mobile, conventional gas stations will be about as relevant to modern life as the manual typewriter and the rotary phone.