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Plugged In

Plugged In

More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives

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

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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.

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

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