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N.C. Company Creates Plugless Charging System for EVs; Google, Duke Energy Take Notice

published: 2012-04-20 14:24

Electric vehicle (EV) charging may go wireless in the near future thanks to a North Carolina company, which has already grabbed the attention of big names like Google and Duke Energy.

Evatran, a clean technology subsidiary of MTC Transformers founded in 2009, has created a method of Plugless Power for EVs. Plugless Power is a charging system for electric vehicles that is based on inductive charging, and works by connecting the on-board EV battery charger inductively to the electrical power source without a physical connection.

To break it down a bit further, two halves of the electrical transformer are separated, where one is installed on the EV and the other is placed on the concrete of a parking lot, for example. When both halves are brought close together, electrical current from the station connected to the grid causes current to flow wirelessly into the EV adapter.

This is precisely what Evatran has accomplished. Its Plugless Power system works by placing an adapter on an EV and another in a charging pad mounted on the ground. When an EV parks over the charging pad, which is typically a 6-inch gap between the car and ground, Plugless Power works to wirelessly charge an owner's EV while at home or out in public.

"Fundamentally, what we're selling here is convenience," said Rebecca Hough, Evatran co-founder. "The cord gets really dirty. People run over the cord. And nobody wants to be using a cord in a rainstorm."

Evatran is already catching the attention of big companies and universities who are interested in testing Evatran's charging pad system this spring, such as Google, Duke Energy, Hertz Rent-A-Car and Clemson University. Sears has also signed up to be an authorized installer of the garage-based charging pads around the country.

As far as the outdoor version of the Evatran EV charging pad, Raleigh, North Carolina officials will be placing them in select locations for testing. The charging pads can be embedded in concrete or asphalt so that thieves cannot steal or vandalize the equipment.

An issue with Evatran's system is that it strictly works with the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf only. However, Evatran said it would be compatible with other EVs soon. Also, Evatran said its system would raise the cost of recharging from $1.35 (using a plug-in recharger) to $1.45 (using Plugless Power).

It seems Evatran has entered the EV scene with its product just in time. The U.S. Department of Energy announced just last week that it is offering $4 million for the development of wireless EV chargers. DOE is looking for as many as four projects for research and development, which could eventually be integrated into a production vehicle and tested. According to DOE, it hopes to have this technology on the road within this decade.

But it looks like Evatran is blazing ahead with its charging system, which is already ready for testing this spring. Evatran already has 180 online reservations for Plugless Power, where a unit costs about $3,000 without installation costs included. The company expects to sell 2,000 Evatran units this year.

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