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Google installs wireless E.V. chargers from Evatran at its headquarters

10/04/2011
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A developer of a wireless electric vehicle charging device has found a partner in Google for testing its advanced charging technology as it aims for commercialization this year.

Evatran L.L.C. said Google installed its wireless electric car charger at the internet giant’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The installation begins the first public trial of Evatran’s wireless electric vehicle charger, dubbed Plugless Power, which the company unveiled last year.

Instead of using an electrical outlet, the product features a charging pad where vehicles can park for a recharge.

Google will initially use the charging device with an unnamed brand of a retrofitted short-range E.V. Google has a fleet of low-speed electric cars used for moving around its headquarters. This includes plug-in vehicles in its on-campus employee car-sharing program.

Evatran said the demonstration is an opportunity for testing the product’s features.

Wytheville, Virginia-based company Evatran started in April 2009 and is a spinoff of MTC Transformers, a company founded in 1985 that makes specialized electrical transformers for niche markets.

Google, meanwhile, has a significant portfolio in green transportation for a company that does not have a core business in automobiles.

Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, has a RechargeIT program that collects vehicle usage data from plug-in cars and connected vehicles on the headquarters.

Google Ventures has also invested in car sharing company RelayRides, efficient vehicles company Next Auto Networks and biofuel company CoolPlanetBiofuels.

Inductive charging

The technology, called inductive charging, uses the principle of magnetic induction, where the two magnetic coils that make up an electrical transformer is split between the vehicle and a charger, which in Evatran’s case is installed on the floor of a garage or parking space.

Also known as proximity charging, the concept has been used for charging cell phones, gadgets and laptops, on which the focus of much of its development and market had been in recent years.

But automakers and plug-in vehicle charging companies have been increasingly working on the technology.

The disadvantage lies in efficiency. The technology is not as efficient as copper wire in transferring power, a big roadblock for commercialization.

The Wireless Power Consortium, an industry group formed to create standards around wireless power, said careful design can achieve at least 70 percent transfer efficiency, a mark that can go up further if manufacturers are willing to spend more on high-quality components.

Current electrical transformers attain efficiency ratings of above 90 percent, a rating Evatran is expecting with their products.

Evatran said it will offer the system to other corporations and municipalities in the third quarter and hit the mass market by 2012 by working with carmakers.

Plugs still dominant

One of Evatran’s competitors in the wireless power market is Halo IPT. The New Zealand-based startup is pursuing the same charging pad concept – for cars in motion. They said that the technology could be embedded in roads in the future.

Electric car charging is currently dominated by plug-in chargers. California-based Coulomb Technologies is said to have the largest established base of networked charging stations worldwide with more than 700 units shipped to over 130 customers in 2009, all using the traditional plug and cord.

Coulumb’s chargers can be hooked together in a network which can be managed by special software. Station owners can set billing rates depending on the time of day or temporarily suspend subscribers’ charging sessions based on utilities’ commands, among some of its functions.

Another major player in the market is Better Place. Also from California, the company takes on a different approach by completely replacing empty batteries with new ones, which is much faster than recharging at charging stations. Israel, Denmark, Australia and Japan have showed interest in their product.

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