Electric Car Charging Goes Wireless
Just like CDs, VHS players and cell phones without internet, are the days of pumping our cars with dirty fossil fuel bound to become obsolete? You have to admit, it's a bit inconvenient and prices of oil aren't exactly cheap. The rate at which the iPod generation is experiencing technology advance is so unprecedented that electric vehicles are embarking on a modern renaissance as battery technologies rapidly improve along with transportation infrastructure and charging systems. Plugging E.V.s in at night may even become a thing of the past. Soon, EV owners will be able to drive to work everyday without ever having to stop at a gas station or think twice about recharging when pulling back into the garage at night.
Wireless charging for EV's is becoming a hot space as the conveniency factor weighs in. Some products on the market include WiTricity from MIT and HaloIPT from the University of Aukland, New Zealand (now under Qualcomm). A company called Evatran is also deploying its own Plugless Power technology, with a heavier focus on commercialization of the technology. Compared to the universities, Evatran believes its system has a few advantages coming from the industry side of development.
“We have what we believe to be the most lightweight components that go on board the vehicle, which is very important for integration for automotive manufacturers,” says Evatran's energetic 20-something Chief Operating Officer, Rebecca Hough. “We have full intention of bringing this product to market, so we believe we should have first market advantage.”
Of course, as with anything, the price of conveniency does come at a slightly higher premium. However, Hough says the difference is comparable to about the price of a cup of coffee once a month, or just a few bucks.
“You're still paying just about four cents per mile for electricity versus about 12 cents for a gasoline-powered car, so the monthly costs of charging your EV remains very low by comparison,” says Hough.
Charge time is not affected with Plugless Power, but there is a small drop in efficiency compared to plug-in systems. Traditional systems before installation typically range in price from $700-$2,500 (uninstalled), Plugless Power coming somewhere in that higher price range. As the company scales up, however, those prices will drop.
Evatran plans to start production of the system by the end of 2012 after going over the feedback it gets from a few trial phases underway with the likes of Google, Hertz rent-a-car and Duke Energy. Because the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are the market's hottest E.V.s in terms of production quantity, they'll be the first adopters.
The waiting lists are open and EV advocates are excited for the new technology that is sure to also help the case for going electric.
“Just like the customers that jump onto every new Apple product, a lot of early adopters of E.V.s just want to be the first with the technology,” says Hough. “We believe this is another product that will bring back a lot of excitement to electrical vehicle ownership.”
Of course, plug-in charge systems will still have a place in the public space, whereas wireless systems are more intended for residential use initially. For those owners, gas stations and having to remember to recharge at night will become so oldschool.
“You're simply using your vehicle without have to do anything at all,” says Hough.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly