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Wireless EV Charging: But It Still Won’t Fit in Your Pocket

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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One of my first posts for Plugged In involved the electric car. Now, remember: it’s hard to get too worked up about electric cars. They’re better than gas burners, to be sure, but that’s setting the bar pretty low: electric cars are basically coal-burners that continue to enable sprawl and all its problems while being less-rotten for the planet than their oil-burning forebears.

So two cheers and all that. Just the same, since they’re an improvement, it’s fun to see what’s up. And today what’s up is wireless charging. I was agog over wireless charging of buses at Plugin 2011, the EV lovefest in Raleigh, so I’m excited to see them available for consumers only a little more than a year later.

Seriously. EV users call the various plug-in cords “the leash,” and it makes sense. You may remember to unhook the gas handle every time you drive out of a gas station, but if your car is charging overnight, how often are you going to rush out, late for work, cradling coffee, toast, and briefcase, jump in the car, and make a mistake you really wish you hadn’t? (Okay, there are also automatically disengaging plugs. Cool!) Plus let’s not even think about forgetting to plug the damn thing in overnight.

So that’s why it’s so cool that Raleigh – my own little town! – is the first municipality in the nation to try out free wireless charging for EVs, through the Apollo Program. Raleigh’s pilot program will allow only city-owned vehicles to wirelessly charge (at special spots in municipal-vehicle-only lots). So it will be a while before Raleigh’s drivers, already used to free charging as part of  Project Get Ready (a nonprofit project of the Rocky Mountain Institute figuring out how things like public charging stations will work and be paid for) will pull up to one of their usual spots and find that they’re already behind the times.

Launched by Evatran, a company whose technical and sales office is just outside Raleigh, the system is simple. It uses plain old induction, basically planting one loop of a transformer in your garage floor and the other loop in your car, thus generating the current that recharges your battery. You scarcely need me to tell you that the thing figures out when you’re home, starts charging on its own, and stops when it’s done.  Works with the Leaf and the Volt, et al., and can even be ordered as an option.

Again: Evatran’s video calls this game-changing, though if your butt is still in a car seat that’s almost the definition of NOT game-changing. Still: cheaper power, somewhat cleaner power, another thing that might help you wake up. That’s all good.

And it’s nice to see Raleigh still ahead of the game on car-energy forwardness.

Scott Huler About the Author: A writer who commonly explores science, culture, and the relationship between the two. Follow on Twitter @huler.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Bryllars 7:29 pm 12/11/2012

    What the hell is EV. Don’t use Initials without defining them. It’s snotty and blocks communication.

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  2. 2. Trafalgar 6:17 am 12/12/2012

    Obviously electric vehicle.

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  3. 3. huntershoptaw 9:32 am 12/12/2012

    Seriously, if you don’t know what EV is in an article on cars, then I don’t think anything can help you. We might have to define what electric is to.

    Link to this
  4. 4. huler 12:16 pm 12/12/2012

    Thanks for the backup, folks. Seriously, @Bryllars: it’s fine to note that the use of EV without a spellout tripped you, and you’ve got a point. I took my cue from Evatran’s logo, which does the same. Given that they’re in business to sell their technology and would have more reason than anyone to make sure they’re understood. So I figured we had reached the point with EV. Just the same, it’s a general rule to spell out first and you have a point. But between you, me, and my two defenders, the only “snotty” comments were yours. No need for that, right? Thanks.

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  5. 5. jerryd 9:40 pm 12/12/2012

    One shoould have a clue when one writes articles. There is this thing called Google. You might want to give it a try. EV’s are not basically coal burners and only shows the ignorance of those that say it.

    Yes some do use coal but they are few. If you ckech the US average over the last 6 months you’ll find that coal is about 1/3 of US electric production and dropping fast.

    Now consider most EV’s charge overnight off peak and most of that is nuke, hydro or NG now with coal mostly being used for peak power when few EV’s are charged.

    Next many if not most EVers either buy or make RE to charge their EV’s. Taken together that means EV’s are under 20% powered by coal, hardly basically coal burners.

    Next induction charging is ineff wasting usually 20% more power than conductive charging does and anyone who cares enough buy an EV wouldn’t want to waste energy like that.

    People who can’t handle plugging in an EV probably can’t handle driving. Just how hard is it? How lazy that one spends 20% more to charge just to avoid plugging in? Sorry but EV driver are more resposible than that.

    One also has to carry, pay for the induction coil which likely cuts range a % or 2 depending on how it’s done.

    And these have been available for 100 yrs and few are ever used because of the problems, costs.

    It’s a poor article and Huler you need to do a better job than such sloppy writing for SA especially.

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  6. 6. THebb 11:33 pm 12/29/2012

    SA should be embarrassed by this yokel’s clueless rant; namely, “electric cars are basically coal-burners that continue to enable sprawl and all its problems…”

    In this dummy’s neck of the backwoods, that’s more or less true, but it varies dramatically by region. Here in California coal accounts for a small sliver of electric energy production, and even that is diminishing rapidly. Moreover, quite a number of EV owners have their own solar PV production which makes their EV driving purely on light – no fossil fuels at all.

    Time for this SA blogger to buy a clue….

    Link to this

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