While the momentum behind electric vehicles keeps building, the electric car market has long suffered from its version of the chicken-and-egg problem. The public has been generally enthusiastic about EVs, but few people bought one because of their relatively short range, the lack of charging stations, and the long time it took to recharge the battery. Now GE Energy Industrial Solutions and CODA Automotive, a Los Angeles-based plug-in car and battery developer, are working together shift this perspective.
For EVs to take off, the critical infrastructure, like the smart and easy to use charging stations that link cars to the grid, has to be in place. GE has been a leader in the field. As part of the deal with CODA, the car developer will distribute and sell GE Energy’s innovative WattStation Wall Mount home charging units.
The WattStation is a sleek and efficient electric vehicle charger crafted by the industrial designer Yves Behar. It can be mounted on the wall in the garage. “All you have to do is to drive into your office garage or your home garage and just charge your car where you are,” Behar says. “It means that simply the power comes to us, rather than having to look for it.”
The advanced Level 2 charger can restore a drained car battery in four to six hours, compared with 12 to 18 hours with standard, Level 1 chargers. The WattStation achieves its charging speed by delivering four times the amount of power to the car battery, or up to 240 volts of power at 30 amps, than a standard charger.
A fully charged CODA five-person sedan equipped with a 36 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack can travel as far as 150 miles, or five times as far as the daily average commute.
The wall mounted units are manufactured at a GE plant in Mebane, North Carolina. The price varies. GE plans to sell the unit for $1,195 at the CODA retail outlets, but details are still being finalized.
GE also developed a second WattStation unit used for commercial charging of EVs at the roadside and within parking structures. This unit is scheduled to debut in 2012. The WattStation is part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio.
Industry analysts estimate that the number of charging stations globally will increase from 20,000 in 2010 to 3 million in 2015. The majority, or 54 percent, will be in the U.S., with the remainder split evenly between China and the rest of the world. The number of EV models will grow accordingly, from just a handful today to 36 in five years.
GE will play a key role in this growth. GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt spoke with CNBC about the WattStation last year. “We see that electric vehicles are going to grow,” he said. “The charging station is a place where GE could lead.”