Plugless Power – Click above for high-res image gallery
's Plugless Power wireless/proximity charging system continues to evolve. In the photo gallery below, you can see that the new circular sensor is quite different from the large rectangle that was on display at the Plug-In 2010 Conference
. It's not only the shape that's changing. From the wall to the car, Plugless Power's system is around 90-91 percent efficient, and the efficiency across the gap is an astonishing 97 percent. A year ago, the overall efficiency was just 80 percent.
Co-Founder and CEO Tom Hough told AutoblogGreen at the Plug-In 2011 Conference
that the new system is even easier to use than it was. Once a plug-in car has been upgraded with the charge receiver, the driver just needs to be close to the sending unit to get power. The discs can be a half-radius off and still charge. Hough told us that, "even the die-hards said plugging in was a pain the rear." If you're not sold on the convenience angle, then how about the idea that there is nothing mechanical to break with this system? In the old model, a part inside the rectangle moved back and forth to find the in-car receiver. It worked, but it wasn't as elegant as the new device.
Things aren't done quite yet. To get the product from the testing phase into customer hands, a trial phase is now starting, and the company is looking for 8-12 fleet Chevy Volts
to have their cars converted by the end of the year. This will expand to 20-30 more units in January with the target for production units some time later in 2012.
Photos copyright ©2011 Sebastian Blanco / AOL
Even though only fleets are being considered for this first phase of tests, Evatran was showing off its new home version of the wireless EVSE
at this year's conference. These home stations will cost around $2,000, or $3,000 for an outdoor unit. To retrofit your EV costs another $2,000, but Hough said he expects that to come down at some point. He was mum on details, but did say that the business plan shows the costs dropping "a fair amount" for each of the next five years.
One potential problem is that UL doesn't have a standard for wireless charging, so the unit is obviously not yet UL certified. The solution could come in the form of a new standard that Plugless Power will help develop with UL. There's another thing that this technology might engender: ways to dynamically charge vehicles as they move down the road. Hough made it clear that people within the company are only thinking about this option – i.e., writing papers, not doing any actual work yet – at this point. We saw another example of this from Utah State University
the other day, and if there is already some sort of competition for this sort of super-futuristic technology happening today, then the next 10 years are going to be very interesting indeed.
In the meantime, Evatran and its partner Yazaki are working with big automakers
to maybe make a plug-less option for your new plug-in vehicle available as an OEM-installed option at some point, Hough said that nothing can be announced yet. We'll be waiting for that news and, until then, we just have to admit that it was kind of neat to see a Volt charging without a cord hanging from its left front corner.