Plugless charging: The wave of the future?

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Plugless charging: The wave of the future?
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Drivers of electric cars know that getting anywhere requires plugging in to charge the batteries. Those with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) know that getting the most efficient driving out of their cars requires plugging them in to charge the batteries to reduce the amount of gasoline used. In the case of a PHEV, forgetting to plug in results in the car running as a hybrid and consuming gasoline as a result. In the case of a pure electric, it’s likely the car isn’t going anywhere if the battery charge was expended when it was parked. That situation can radically change the day’s schedule if you own an EV.

Now a company called Evatran has a charging solution for those who drive the Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Volt or Cadillac ELR. Their system allows the car to charge without ever having to plug it in. Currently these three are the only vehicles supported by Evatran, but others makes and models are in the works and should be available to consumers in the not-too-distant future.

Normally, charging an electric car at home requires plugging in to a 110 or 240-volt connection. This is known as conductive charging. With this new technology, all a driver needs to do in park a car equipped with an adapter over a special device that wirelessly charges the battery. This is known as inductive charging.

Read more: Will your next SUV be a plug-in?

How does inductive charging work?

It’s actually quite simple.  All that’s required for this to work is a control panel that mounts to the wall in front of the parking space. A cable from the control panel runs to a floor-mounted pad on the parking spot. The wall panel acts as the housing for the power control system and it also has a display that acts as a visual guide for the driver to use to orient the vehicle over the floor pad.

In order for this to work, a 240V/30amp circuit is required to power the device. Another requirement is that the car must have a vehicle adapter installed.  This system can be installed either inside a garage or outside so long as there is a wall in front of the parking space to mount the control panel.

In a nutshell, the way plugless charging works is that a vehicle with an adapter installed pulls into a parking space with a plugless set-up installed.  Once the car is properly parked over the parking pad, the flow of electricity to the car’s battery begins.  This is done by the parking pad converting the electric current fed to it into a magnetic field, which, in turn, travels through the air to the vehicle adapter that is attached to the car.  The vehicle adapter then turns the magnetic field back into electric current, which is then used to charge the car’s battery.

Why plugless? 

Evatran CEO Rebecca Hough says plugless charging will help speed up the adoption of electric cars by “consumers not having to learn a new routine of plugging in the car.” She also says that manufacturers are interested in plugless charging because of the positive impact on battery life over the lifetime of the vehicle. Constantly charging to 100% and then almost depleting the battery charge puts added stress on the battery pack and reduces the overall lifespan.  The idea that a driver can recharge what they’ve used between trips without pushing the battery to extremes will significantly increase the battery life of an electric car or plug-in hybrid.  And, what’s so convenient about this system is that it works seamlessly without the driver having to wrestle a cable to plug the car in manually.

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Who is using plugless charging?

Plugless charging is in use by companies such as Google, Hertz, SAP and Duke Energy.  In the case of Hertz, they offer the Nissan LEAF as a rental and by having plugless charging, they insure that each time one of the electric cars are parked in their assigned spot, they immediately start to charge so they’ll be ready for the next customer.  No one needs to remember to plug in the car.

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Early adopters are also incorporating plugless charging into their homes.  Lawrenceville, Ga. resident Jason Bass has the system installed in his home and on his Chevrolet Volt.  Jason says that part of the appeal of plugless charging for him was giving his home “the house of the future feeling” and that it the system makes the experience of owning an EV easier.  He also said that it’s terrific for “forgetful types” and he advises those siting on the fence to “go for it!”

When asked what people should know about plugless charging, Rebecca Hough said, “Either a customer instantly understands the idea of plugless charging or is comfortable with the idea of plugging in.  But any convenience that encourages the adoption of EVs is important.”

What’s the cost?

The plugless system varies in cost from model to model. The Chevrolet Volt’s system costs $1,260.  The Nissan LEAF is priced at $1,540 and the Cadillac ELR comes in at $1,940.  This cost does include the installation of the adapter on the customer’s car. 

The installation of this system does not void a car’s warranty and the standard plug-in still works for conventional charging so the driver really has the best of both worlds.

The bottom line

As it stands now, Evatran is the lone provider of this technology but competitors are sure to come along. And, while this technology seems new and futuristic, it’s predicted that within the next five years, systems like this will be commonplace within the electric car and PHEV market.

Driving an electric car does present new routines and anything that makes the experience more fluid and simpler will be a great benefit for those who are new to EVs. Even those who are experienced with plugging in can benefit from the simplicity brought about by the plugless system. In the case of a PHEV, the system makes it simpler to keep the car’s smaller battery pack fully charged. And, because of the smaller battery pack, PHEVs typically have a shorter all-electric range than do pure EVs so more frequent charging is required for optimal efficiency.

Wireless charging offers drivers ease, simplicity and the opportunity to lessen wear and tear on the battery pack. It also brings a feeling that the driver truly is experiencing the technology of the future today!

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