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Trying to wrap your head around what, exactly, Evatran is offering with its proximity charging system isn't easy for someone without a good grasp of plug-in vehicle charging technology. Even then, the company's wireless charging system, on display at at the Plug-In 2010 Conference in San Jose, CA this week, isn't the easiest thing to understand. On the one hand, we can just say the Plugless Power devices is a way to charge your electric vehicle without bothering with a cord and a plug. On the other hand, this isn't traditional inductive charging. The technology uses induction theory along with wireless technology but, since it's unlike anything else on the market, Evatran calls it "proximity charging."

The Plugless Power system uses a parking block and a shoebox-sized vehicle adapter that needs to be installed under the car ahead of the front wheels. The block contains a transmitter that can move within the box and and thus get as close as possible to the receiver on the car. The distance should be around two inches max in order to send the electricity to the vehicle. If it's out of range, the system's tower – tall and visible from inside the vehicle – will warn the driver to repark before it will power up the vehicle. It won't send out a low-efficiency charge if the transmitters are, say, six inches apart. You can compare it to digital radio that just cuts out when it's out of range instead of a traditional FM signal that gets weaker and weaker the further away the tower is.

This December, the company will release its first-generation model, which, kind of ironically, uses a cord. This unit will provide Level 2 (240 volt, 32 amp) charge through a J1772 connector. These units will cost around $3,000 and can be upgraded to the wireless units for another $800 when those become available in April 2011 (installation fees extra). Installing the receiver in the vehicle will cost around $500, but that's not officially set, yet, so this isn't a cheap set-up. Thankfully, if you like the idea of wireless charging, it is eligible for the $2,000 in government incentives. Evatran is taking orders for the first-gen units now, but the price to just straight-up buy a plugless unit was not announced. Evatran will offer a one-year warranty on the units.

While recharging without any extra work is appealing, there's a big problem with Plugless Power's unit. Specifically, it's not 100 percent effective. Evatran's Rebecca Hough said that the company is targeting a 90 percent efficiency rate before releasing the product (right now, they're around 80 percent). While that's pretty amazing considering you're sending energy through the air, it also means that your electric vehicle automatically becomes less efficient with proximity charging than it would be with a cord. Yes, there are transmission losses along the grid, but when you take 10 percent away right before the energy gets to the car, that's a real shame.

Still, wireless recharging is a technology that bears watching, whether it comes from Evatran or Intel or whoever. Evatran looks like it'll be a player – it is working on getting UL listed and is talking with OEMs and niche players to have wireless chargers being an option at the time you buy a vehicle. The company started researching the idea 18 months ago, came to Plug In 2009 and, two months ago, got $1.25 million from the state of Virginia's Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization program. So, things are moving fast, and we'll try to keep up.

[Source: Plugless Power]


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  • 15 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I wonder if they're actually getting 80%. Proximity chargers for gadgets get far, far less efficiency than this.

      Nice idea.. guess i'd be a little nervous about basically a tesla coil running underneath my car at all times :P
      • 4 Years Ago
      jesus h christ does everything have to look like an ipod?
      • 4 Years Ago
      They are talking about the unit being able to move a little bit in order to align it with the car. That seems to be an area of development that might lead to better improvements in the efficiency of transmission. What if the unit has the ability to move up and down, side to side, and front to back? What will be the efficiency if the floor unit can always come in direct contact with the car's charging unit?

      IF they can get charging efficiency into to 95% or better range, this becomes a pretty spiffy little feature.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I always find this a bit silly. Proximity charging will never be as efficient as a simple conductive contact. If you're too lazy to plug the car in, why not design a simple robot to do it. They are already half way there with this:

      "The block contains a transmitter that can move within the box and and thus get as close as possible to the receiver on the car."

      Ok, now stick a plug on the end of it and have it make actual contact.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A "simple" robot? Really?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I see wireless charging the only way for EV's to go. Drive up and authorize a message on your nav display/cluster (or even sent to your smart phone) to debit your account for the charge time. Nothing else to do by the consumer.

      People are going to quickly get tired of fooling around with cords or having their vehicle charging and risk tampering while unattended.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Now that's something what I have been thinking. I wonder though if that close proximity is really necessary. Tesla coil tuned in right frequency can be used at over 70% efficiency up to one meter away (about 40 inches to you Americans). Maybe "weak efficiency" is not quite as weak as I would believe.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wireless charging means high levels of radiation.
      High levels of radiation means cancer.
      Cancer means death.
      Save the planet, not yourself, how ironic.

      Everything is impermanent, why bother saving either one.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I would rather have small areas of magnetic fields that would only affect me if I were laying under the car, than to breath all the gas fumes all day where-ever I go throughout the city I live in.

        If you are that afraid of electric fields, I would suggest not using a computer anymore.
        Brian H
        • 3 Years Ago
        One of the all-time dumbest petty scaremongering statements I've ever read. 'Grats!
        • 4 Years Ago
        There's no radiation, only electric/magnetic field. Completely different thing. Electric field doesn't do squat to humans or other animals. Definitely way less than those fumes from gasoline.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've wondered for a while now why nobody has cooked up a scheme to put connectors underneath a car for charging then have "smart parking spots" which can reach up to plug into the car. The biggest hurdle would be waterproofing the system. But you'd suffer no losses from transmission, and I can imagine the ease of just parking your EV somewhere to have it charged would be a huge boon to their desirability. Imagine that, a car in which you never have to touch a fuel line of any sort again. Such a thing would be a popular addition to newly built garages in homes and driveways as well.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This coming from the people who say that Hydrogen has impossibly high infrastructure costs. Just plug the car into the wall and hope that some kids prank you and disconnect it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Why wouldn't they just have a system that would act as 'landing gear' for your EV and drop a positive & negative wire down to touch two pads? Or for safety, one would have to be exposed only in certain conditions.

        The trams here use above head wires that do the same thing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, Better Place but using connectors instead of swapping batteries.
        The problem seems to be that if you wanted to be able to do it by hand too, you would need two sets of connectors.
        It might be easier in a couple of years to have more intelligent robotic control, so that the robot hand could use the regular charge point!
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