Cars Evatran wins DOE contract for affordable wireless charging

Published on March 18th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Affordable, Wireless EV Charging A-Go-Go

March 18th, 2013 by  

Wireless electric vehicle charging systems have started to seep into the EV market, and little wonder. All you have to do is park your EV over a special pad and science does the rest. It’s far more convenient than using a plug-in electric charger, and it’s almost comically more convenient than pumping your own gas at a gas station, especially when you consider the potential for wirelessly charging an EV while it’s in motion. The only hitch, as is often the case with new technology, is that wireless charging is a pricey premium. Hey, we can fix that…

Evatran wins DOE contract for affordable wireless charging

Wireless EV charger courtesy of Evatran

Wireless EV Charging Is Here

Wireless EV charging is based on the transfer of power between magnetic fields, from a small transmitting pad on the ground to a converter in the vehicle. Since the system converts energy to electricity only inside the vehicle, there is no danger of shock from touching the charging pad.

The basic phenomenon is called inductive power transfer, and though it sounds pretty futuristic, it has been in the tech lexicon since the heyday of Nikola Tesla. Today it is widely used in electrical transformers and it is coming into use for charging smart phones and other household products.

Affordable Wireless EV Charging

EV manufacturers have started to introduce wireless charging within the past couple of years, but in the form of a premium that adds another good chunk of change to an already hefty price tag (Nissan’s forthcoming 2014 Infiniti LE EV is one example).

However, mainstream EV buyers might not have long to wait before an affordable wireless EV charging system hits the market.

The wireless EV charging pioneer company Evatran has just announced that it has won a contract under a Department of Energy project called “Wireless Power Transfer and Charging of Plug-In Electric Vehicles.”

The contract pairs Evatran with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other partners in a three-year effort to develop an “efficient, low cost production design” for integrating wireless charging systems into EVs.

If you’re wondering why the U.S. Department of Energy is interested, it’s part of President Obama’s EV Everywhere initiative, which aims at making EV ownership just as affordable and convenient as owning a gasoline vehicle.

For potential new car buyers who are on the fence between gas and electricity, the convenience issue is really the only obstacle, and that’s where wireless charging could be the deciding factor.

As for why federal dollars should go into wireless EV charging research, EV Everywhere is part of the Obama Administration’s broader goal of transitioning the entire U.S. transportation sector out of petroleum and into electricity and biofuels, and that’s not just for fun. National security, climate change management and a more stable, predictable fuel pricing structure for U.S. businesses and consumers are the end games.

What Could Be More Convenient Than Wireless EV Charging?

But wait, there’s more. In addition to demonstrating low cost EV wireless charging systems from a fixed position, the DOE project also calls for Evatran and its partners to demonstrate the capability for wireless systems to charge while the vehicle is in motion.

If that sounds pretty wild, consider that Evatran already has a huge jump on the project through its Plugless Power™ fixed wireless charging system, which is already undergoing trial launches through partnerships with Duke Energy, Clemson University, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Google, the City of Sacramento, EDTA (Electric Drive Transportation Association), DTE Energy, the City of Raleigh and the Hertz Corporation

Evatran is already poised to launch Plugless Power into the mass market, and they do mean mass. The company has already signed agreements with Sears Home Services as well as Bosch Automotive Service Solutions for national installation and distribution services.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • So Long as Wireless Charging is a Car option that goes along with, and extra to Plug-In Level 2 and Level 3 Charging of Completely Electric Vehicles – this would be a great addition. It still means another type of infrastructure would need to be installed – and in some ways – means another item competing for your dollars as an investment to be built. If it happens – I will happily add news about it on my daily PlugShare Blog Posts –

    It could also benefit the PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) as they have an even shorter All Battery Range (Or All Electric Range, as it is often called), giving them in some situations – a boost of their battery energy in an easy format.

  • WorkZen

    We need the equivalent of Total Revolution! How we get there, I don’t know, but essentially, we need every vehicle to be electric and charging every time you stop the vehicle, in other words, a completely reworked infrastructure. Why? Because health concerns of emission vehicles, along with global changes in atmospheric chemistry require us to stop burning. Transportation is key. Too many cars!

    • Bob_Wallace

      I agree that we need to move very close to 100% electric. (Leave a little room for very special needs as they might be.)

      But I don’t think we need charging every time we stop. We need EVs with a minimum range of roughly 180 miles and 90%, <20 minute charging. That would let people drive all day long (500 miles) with two moderate length stops. That would cover the long trips.

      A 200 mile range would be far more than most need on a daily basis. They could charge overnight. They wouldn't need to charge every night, if the winds were light the grid could give them a pass for a couple of nights until more electricity was available.

      We don't need a lot of reworking of the infrastructure. The grid is almost everywhere and at least 40% of all drivers already have a place to plug in at night. We just need to add outlets for the rest and more rapid charging points.

      • WorkZen

        Bob: Thanks for the reply. Please take a look at the 2-minute presentation from the link above. I like your take and agree. My comment represents the extreme (I think its important for someone to state “the extreme” to allow the consensus to back off to “the practical”). I am appalled, just moved to Southern California (where air quality has improved since 1970s, hooray) at the lack of solar arrays and the gargantuan transmission towers. I’m for grid revolution and clean transportation! All the best to you.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I understand the concept of overstate and back off, but I don’t think it’s the best route.

          I think we have to acknowledge that a very significant portion of the population will not make significant lifestyle changes in order to avoid the worst of climate change. People live too much in the present and do little to prepare for the future. We can scare them, but that is about as likely to change their behavior as is telling people that they need to loose weight, stop smoking, cut back on their drinking, etc. Many won’t and many others will only after they harm themselves.

          The difference between climate change and smoking/over eating/etc. is that the some are taking the rest of us along with them. We need to find painless ways to change people’s carbon footprint.

          We can do that with renewable electricity generation. People see no difference between the electricity which comes from coal plants or solar panels as long as it’s available when they want it.

          I think we have to do the same with vehicles. We have to give people cars that are as cheap or cheaper to own and drive and are as convenient or more convenient to operate. Wireless charging, while somewhat inefficient may help some decide to switch to an electric. Standing in the driving rain or blazing Sun while pumping gas is going to get some to question whether their next car should dodge the pumps.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You might want to take a look at the Green Highway project. It is creating an electric corridor from Mexico to into Canada along Interstate 5 (and parts of Highways 101 and 99).

          The Washington and Oregon parts are, I think, finished or at least largely so. When the entire corridor is finished there will be at least a level 1 (slow) charger every 35 miles minimum and a string of level 2 and level 3 fast chargers spaced a bit further apart.

          Similar electric corridors are under construction in other parts of the country.

  • Otis11

    I’d pick a plug in over wireless as it’s notably more effient, although to be fair it’s something like $1.07/gallon equivalent instead of $1…

    And as much as I would like to see EVs everywhere, there are much more efficient and economical ways to accomplish that goal than by putting wireless charging stations everywhere… But if implemented correctly, can’t say I’m completely against this.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I suspect there is a significant group of people who will be swayed to purchase an EV partially because they can simply park and charge rather than have to stop at a gas station.

      Even though the process of plugging in is minimal I suspect some will find it off-putting. They’ll gladly pay the extra penny or two a day (plus the cost of the charging unit) for the convenience. And since the extra power they buy will help install more wind turbines, which will bring more wind capacity to daytime hours, that would seem to be a good thing.

      • Otis11

        Yeah, that extra power-use is simply inefficiency… Not a huge deal as it is during off peak times, but once we get EVs to be normal, will overnight really be off peak?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I suspect night will be when our electricity is the cheapest.

          Second cheapest, sunny days.

          Most expensive, mornings before the Sun kicks in and late afternoon/evening when demand is still high and the night time winds haven’t picked up. And cloudy mid-days.

          Of course adding offshore wind to the mix will change all that, as will stuff like wave and hot rock geothermal if it proves out.

          But, since we won’t be burning fossil fuels to make that power and the extra money spent will cause more capacity to be installed I’m not sure we should worry about it. If it takes a few more turbines to cover the <10% loss they will be paid for by the people creating the loss.

          • Otis11

            Well, actually if we think about that, I would venture to guess that solar power will actually be cheaper than wind soon enough.

            Wind is starting to approach it’s theoretical efficiency in a physical science that has been fairly well studied (from electric generators and aerospace industries). So while we have some costs we can drop in manufacturing, materials and maintenance, I think we can only cut the cost about in half from current costs.

            But solar on the other hand is only 10-30% efficient unless you go into space grade panels – which are prohibitively expensive. So not only can we triple to quadruple their efficiencies based on the theoretical maximum of 76%, but we can also severely drop costs as manufacturing methods improve. There’s reason to believe that we can cut costs 70% or more. Combine these and you have some mighty cheap power! Also, in such a “young” industry that we are still truly learning the science, there’s a fair probability that the theoretical maximum of 76% is actually an underestimate – and I believe it is.

            I’d suspect that we’ll see solar reach price parity with wind sometime around 2030 or 2035…

            And I would also, at the risk of being called a loon, venture to say that battery technology will smooth the cost out across the day more than we think. As more and more EV/HEVs get retired and we turn their “old” batteries into grid storage for another decade of use before we recycle them, we will have very, very cheap storage. Not to mention the improvements we will see in batteries over the years! – that’s the main reason I think efficiency will matter.

            But overall, I agree. 10% losses are more than worth it if it causes more people to switch to electric transportation. You’re already doubling the efficiency of the transportation…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Installed solar at Germany’s current price of $2/watt would mean electricity at 8 cents (the sunny Southwest) to 10 cents (upper Northeast) per kWh. Secretary Chu has talked about getting solar down to $1/watt. That would make solar competitive with the current price of wind, And wind is expected to fall to from the current median price of 6 cents to 3.

            Of course that’s “phony math” because it’s a 20 year calculation that assumes no generation post the 20 year pay off period. Older wind turbines have lasted 30 years, new ones should be good for 40. Our oldest solar panels are now 40 years old and still producing at about 80% of original output. So what we’re really looking at is a future in which the price of electricity is considerably less than it is today. Take those 20 year pennies and divide by at least two.

            We just need to figure out the best storage solution….

  • tibi stibi

    is there any info about efficiency??

    • Bob_Wallace

      What I’ve seen from other wireless chargers is something above 90% efficiency., One company claimed 96% efficiency,

      Given that most charging is likely to be done late at night when there is lots of spare capacity (and generally lots of wind) that small loss shouldn’t be problematic. If it gets people to switch off of fossil fuels faster then it’s very tolerable.

      Just think about these little puppies installed along the side of streets and equipped with the ability to identify the vehicle, its need for a charge, and the owners billing account. Park and charge. If it’s a limited parking zone, get a message on your phone that you need to move your car in x minutes.

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