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New Hands-Free Inductive Charging at Google

Google makes innovative use of electric vehicles and charging stations. For employees, Google took an early lead in converting Toyota Prii (yep that’s the official plural of Prius) to be plug-in hybrids. Then Google installed beautiful solar covered parking including charge stations so that electric cars can be charged with sunlight.

At its headquarters, Google is now showing us how to charge hands-free.  No plug. No cord. Using Evatran Plugless Power’s inductive charging system, one of Google’s maintenance short-range EVs parks in close proximity of the charger and charging begins. The Evatran unit is Level 2 (7.7 kW, 240V at 32A). The light EV was converted to use the inductive charging.

Google is also conducting other important pilots including testing the new Toyota Prius Plug-in, not a conversion, but the 2012 model from Toyota. Soon, Google will be testing the Honda Fit Electric and other plug-in cars. Several Google founders drive Tesla Roadsters. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Stanford University grad student “drop-outs” as is Telsa CEO and Founder, Elon Musk.  None regret the decision to change the world a priority over getting their PhDs.

Google is even approved by FERC to be an electric utility. Cloud services will be at the heart of the smart grid and smart charging.  Early electric car drivers use Google Maps to find the nearest charging station. Will Google charge your electric cars?

How Inductive Electric Car Charging Works

Historically, inductive charging has been too inefficient, wasting valuable electricity and charging hours. Evatran thinks that they can get to 90 percent efficient; they’re not there yet. How does it work? A Plugless Power vehicle adapter is permanently mounted onto the vehicle. A fixed Plugless Power station, including both a floor-mounted parking block and a separate control tower, is installed in the garage or parking space.

Evatran states that its technology is safe. When the equipped vehicle pulls up to the parking space, the parking block automatically positions itself to align with the vehicle adapter and begins charging. With their electromagnetic induction, no actual flow of electricity occurs between the vehicle adapter and the parking block.

Will inductive charging catch-on? In the late 1990s, inductive charging competed with conductive. Multiple incompatible systems helped kill major electric car success. GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and all the automakers have devoted years working with utilities to have a common Level 2 J1772 smart charging standard. Now they are going thru the pain of trying to get consumers to install wall-mounted chargers, only to be frustrated with obsolete building codes, over worked city inspectors, and electric utility frontline employees who find reasons to say “No to EV charging.” Adding inductive charging would compound the issues.

General Motors puts Inductive Charging Inside

Automakers are interested in proximity charging inside the car when we fill the cars with collegues or kids with their iPhones, Droids, iPads, games, and other mobile electronics. Powermat is not only receiving a $5 million investment from GM Ventures, Powermat will be offered in many 2012 GM cars to give customers proximity charging of mobile devices inside the car.

What about America’s 14 million fleet vehicles? Inductive charging could be a winner. Fleets can install their own systems without needing a universal standard. Think about taxis that wait in queues. Consider millions of delivery vehicles. Light utility vehicles are popular on university, government, and corporate campuses. These are also good candidates for inductive charging, as Google is demonstrating.

BlogRoll Review: Space Beams, Leaded Batteries, and Sins

This seems like something out of a James Bond movie. There is a startup, Solaren, which is trying to build panels in space that converts sunlight into a radio frequency beam aimed at a receiving station near Fresno. The station then converts the radio waves into electricity.

Megan Treacy at EcoGeek says:

“If everything goes according to plan, this will be the first real-world application of space solar power, with power delivery starting in 2016. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this works out. The technology has been experimented with for a while and has a lot of potential and, let’s face it, running your home on “space power” would be really cool.”

If anyone is worried that the beam is gonna fry birds or planes that fly into its path, apparently the company has done analysis to show that radiation is not intense enough to cause harm.

Still, the thought of fried chicken falling out of the sky is kind of cool. :)

In other news…

While not the most attractive of technologies, lead acid batteries are certainly robust…and they may still have a promising future. On CleanBreak, Tyler discussed Axion’s lead battery technology that lasts three times longer than conventional ones.

* It looks like the folks at Google think lead is the way to go, too. AltEnergy Stocks agrees.

* I don’t remember how many ways you can sin, but Joel Makower talked about the Seven Sins of Greenwashing.

* Maria talked about Cap-and-Trade on TV.

* Simon says efficiency is still promising.

* Is natural gas a better standard than oil? Rob Day ponders.

Blogroll Review: Beers, Cars, & Responsibility

Less Filling?
Back in the 80’s, there was a great movie called “Back to the Future.” It was about a car that could time travel. There was also something about a boy and scientist trying to change the past …but they not succeed in preventing the Kennedy Assassination! At the end of the film, we realize the car is really from the future. It runs on beer and the future has just arrived.

On this week’s Energy Blog: “Australian beer maker Foster’s is going to generate clean energy and clean water from brewery waste water by using a fuel cell in which bacteria consume the sugar, starch and alcohol in the waste. The fuel cell is expected to produce 2 kilowatts of power — enough to power a household — and the technology would eventually be applied in other breweries and wineries owned by Foster’s. The cell should be operating at the brewery by September.”

All I ever wanted was a car that could talk. :)

Go Go Google
Speaking of cars, would anyone drive a car built by Microsoft? Perhaps the software giant has a secret Xbox racer somewhere but it looks like Google is betting on the plug-in.

On this week’s Venture Beat, Matt Marshall writes about Google’s grant to Calcars:

“Google’s for-profit foundation Google.org has given a $200,000 grant to CalCars.org, a group that advocates the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric cars.”

There’s always Ctrl-Alt-Del before you cra…..

Applicious
This next story has nothing to do with cars or beer or cars that drink beer but about responsibility. Some environmental groups have pointed out that Apple is not socially responsible when it comes to the environment. Apple responded.

So does the company get a pass? Greenpeace says sort of:

“It’s not everything we asked for. Apple has declared a phase out of the worst chemicals in its product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) by 2008. That beats Dell and other computer manufactures’ pledge to phase them out by 2009. Way to go Steve!

But while customers in the US will be able to return their Apple products for recycling knowing that their gear won’t end up in the e-waste mountains of Asia and India, Apple isn’t making that promise to anyone but customers in the USA.”

What about a computer that drinks beer?

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.