Cars Evatran demonstrates wireless EV charging system.

Published on July 30th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Smooth Sailing For Evatran’s Wireless EV Charging Demo

July 30th, 2013 by  

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 demonstrates wireless EV charging system.

Image Credit: Wireless EV fleet charging courtesy of Evatran (cropped).

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.

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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+.

  • Wayne Williamson

    Just a couple of thoughts on this.
    1. It would really simplify charging your vehicle.
    2. Again standards are very important. I’m assuming that the charger and the car talk to each other. The car needs to tell you or move its self the last few feet to get the best alignment/most efficient coupling.
    3. This could probably be used to power the vehicle while in motion…

    • Bob_Wallace

      1. Absolutely. The ease of ‘park and charge’ is likely to be a big selling feature that moves some people to EVs because it lets them avoid gas stations.

      2. IIRC the exact positioning is not critical. But to the extent that it is, it wouldn’t take much to install a “left front tire guide” that gets glued to the parking space and funnels your tire into the right spot with a stop-bump at the end.

      3. People are working on it. I believe there is a research program ongoing at Standford among other places.

      Wireless charging does waste a bit of electricity. Something less than 10%. But I don’t think that’s a big deal.

      Users will pay for the extra electricity. Those additional sales will bring more money to install more solar panels and wind turbines. It’s not like sunshine and wind are limited in any practical sense.

      But the important thing is that wireless charging is likely to get people to switch from fossil fuels to electricity faster. Wasting a bit of electricity to get rid of a lot of fossil fuel is a bargain we can live with.

  • Marion Meads

    I was hoping to get some info about the charging efficiency using the wireless induction system in this article. That is one of the most important things to know. The larger the gap, the poorer the efficiency. In toothbrushes, the plates are literally next to each other. If the efficiency is poor, with the wide gaps, then you have to close the gap. The charging plate would be able to sense the parked EV and then it will automatically latch itself after the car is powered down after parking. And when the car is activated, it will automatically unlatch itself. This way, the losses are minimized. An additional 15-30% loss on the efficiency from wireless charging is very bad for EV technology, it increases the load on the grid, and increases the cost per EV mile.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “The Plugless Power technology has achieved over 90% efficiency as
      measured from your home’s 208/240V electrical outlet to your vehicle’s
      existing on-board battery charger.”

      • Marion Meads

        Well, 90.000000000001% efficiency is over 90% efficiency. I hope they can show real average efficiency data, not only the best optimal charging efficiency they have ever recorded.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You had your bloomers in a bunch over potential 15% to 30% loses. And you stated that if the loses were over 10% then “then they really have to build the automatic latching system”.

          It’s less than 10%. Relax. Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.

          • Jeff May

            You need to learn how to read technical statements from people trying to sell you a product.

            “The Plugless Power technology *has achieved* over 90% efficiency.” Notice the passive past tense. This comment is careful to promise absolutely nothing for future performance.

            In other words, in the real world it will get less than 90% efficiency. And since they won’t be up-front and tell us the actual efficiency that it WILL get, it makes me suspect it will be quite a bit below 90%.

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