Google has become the first customer for a new wireless EV charging station.
The charging station, installed at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, was developed by Virginia-based Plugless Power. It replaces an electrical outlet with a charging pad that a specially equipped demonstrator vehicle can simply park over to charge up.
Instead of a direct connection with a cord and an outlet, the system uses a principle known as inductive charging where an electrical transformer is “split” between the vehicle and charger. When the two come together, current flows and charges the EV’s battery.
Inductive charging, also known as proximity charging, has been around for more than 100 years and is already in widespread use charging phones and electric toothbrushes. Plugless Power unveiled the first prototype wireless charging station in 2009; the station at Google is the first public release of the technology.
While it’s true the oft-lamented EV1 had a similar system, with an inductive charging paddle that fit into a “plug” on the vehicle, this system is still an improvement, as it allows vehicles to simply drive up to a charging station without any direct contact. Google and Plugless Power outfitted one of the cars in Google’s EV fleet to work with the wireless setup.
Ditching the cord certainly makes charging easier, and at least one entrepreneur thinks it could keep EVs charging while driving. Halo IPT, a New Zealand startup, is pursuing exactly that with tech that could charge vehicles while they are in motion.
There’s no word from Plugless as to how much their system costs or when it will be more widely available, but the company says to expect more installations throughout 2011.
Photo: Plugless Power. A demonstration of the technology at a trade show in London.
This diagram shows how the setup works — simply drive your electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid, fitted with an adapter, over the “parking block” and leave it there. In a nutshell, inductive charging separates two halves of the electric transformer. One is in the car, the other on the floor. Bring them together and current from the charging station flows into the adapter in the car.