Are you too busy texting to bother plugging in and charging up your electric car? Not a problem! Now, there’s a hands-free, wireless electric vehicle (EV) charging technology called Plugless Power, and it is already in trials on some Nissan LEAF vehicles.
Wytheville, Virginia-based Evatran, a subsidiary of MTC Transformers, has successfully completed the first three installations of its Plugless Power technology with its partners, The Hertz Corporation, Duke Energy (News - Alert), and the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). These installations, on Nissan LEAF vehicles, have created the first passenger electric vehicles in the world with full wireless charging capability.
Through what is ambitiously being called the “Apollo Launch Program,” launched in early 2012, six commercial partners in total will test wireless charging technology installed on either Nissan LEAFs or on Chevrolet VOLTs, in a variety of real-world applications. Installations on the LEAFs began in early June, and the systems will be tested over the next three months. An additional three installations will be completed in July with partners from California to Washington, D.C.
The Evatran solution relays a charge to an EV through a device mounted on a parking space. When positioned directly over the charger, a receiver mounted to the underside of the vehicle receives electricity across a span of several inches.
"Our goal in launching this one-of-a-kind initiative was two-fold," commented Tom Hough, Evatran's CEO and an electric vehicle driver. "We wanted to get this game-changing technology into the hands of real electric vehicle drivers and we wanted to show the market that convenient, wireless charging technology can encourage electric vehicle adoption on a large scale. With these first installations, we're well on our way to leading the wireless charging market."
The Plugless Power technology is based on electromagnetic induction, a technology that has been understood for over 100 years. This fundamental technology was enhanced by Evatran engineers with proprietary control software and coil designs in order to extend the efficient transfer of power over an air gap of as much as seven inches.
The start-up company now claims to lead the industry in providing a low-cost system with robust alignment tolerance at a fraction of the on-board weight as competitors. The prototypes installed with Apollo Program partners require absolutely zero user interaction; charge the vehicles as quickly as traditional, corded chargers; and function at over 90 percent efficiency.
Plugs from Partners
Partners already have started providing feedback on the system, which Evatran will collect throughout the program. The results of the program will be compiled in a case study that will be released at the end of the summer, to help expand the industry's understanding of wireless charging technology.
At Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy, the Plugless Power technology has been installed on a 2011 Nissan LEAF in a Duke employee’s garage. The employee will drive the vehicle on his daily commute from his home to Duke’s headquarters. The driver will provide direct feedback on his daily experiences with the wireless charging equipment. The individual has previously been plugging the vehicle in to recharge.
“As we prepare for the adoption of EVs by our customers, it is important for us to understand the infrastructure options that may be available in the future. As we evaluate infrastructure options and programs for our company and our customers, we need to keep an eye on potential next generation technologies so we can make better decisions today,” commented Mike Rowand, director of Advanced Customer Technology, for the major utility.
At the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in Greenville, South Carolina —an advanced-technology research campus where academia, industry and government organizations engage in synergistic collaboration—students and faculty will test-drive the 2011 Nissan LEAF, as well as research potential future applications for the wireless technology."The Apollo Program fits perfectly with CU-ICAR’s efforts in a holistic view of alternative power train solutions and their infrastructure implications. We are very pleased to be part of the trial and are confident the Program will lead to significant advances in understanding key aspects of wireless infrastructure," remarked Research Professor, Dr. Joachim Taiber.
An individual Hertz team member will drive a 2011 Nissan LEAG on a weekly basis from the Hertz headquarters in Park Ridge, New Jersey. The system will be installed in an EV restricted parking space at Hertz’s headquarters.
Chairman and CEO, Mark P. Frissora stated, “Hertz is committed to its Global EV program, introducing electric vehicles into our rental fleet on three continents—North America, Asia and Europe. We’re excited to participate in Plugless Power’s pilot program so that we can be on the ground floor of this new technology; learning key findings about EV wireless charging. As we move forward our goal is to have a variety of charging options for EV customer use, aligned with the charging equipment installed by EV manufacturers.”
Brian Normann, Evatran's CTO, added, "We're already learning how users interact with the system, the confidence it gives them in recharging their electric vehicles, and what we need to update for our production aftermarket systems. Our partners, through their daily use of the system, are supplying us with invaluable feedback to utilize as we update our design and make it available to electric vehicle drivers across the country."
Evatran is now accepting partners for the second phase of the Apollo Program set to launch in the next six months. Partners must have Nissan LEAF or Chevrolet Volt vehicles in their fleet and be willing to drive the equipped vehicles on a daily basis
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Edited by Brooke Neuman