I recently discovered the company, Evatran, which makes Plugless, a wireless charging system for electric vehicles. I got a chance to chat with Steve Cummings, a spokesperson at Evatran, and he gave me some great background on the company and the technology, which you can read below.
How long has this technology been around?
Technically speaking, Nikola Tesla invented the basis for all inductive EV charging when he demonstrated inductive power transfer, wait for it, back in 1894. (As I understand it, he illuminated NYC street lights wirelessly for the demo). Fast forward to the founding of our company, Evatran, the maker of Plugless. In 2009, we were essentially a spin off from the industrial
electrical transformer company of founder co-founder Tom Hough, the other co-founder is our CEO (and Tom’s daughter)
Rebecca Hough. Our patented technology was tested, refined, and released for a large-scale trial program (we called it our Apollo Program) in 2011. Our trial partners include: Google, Hertz, Bosch, Argonne National Labs, Idaho National Labs, UC Davis, Clemson,
SAP…among others. During the trial, from 2011 to 2013, we tested more than 15,000 charge hours on LEAF and Volt installations across the country. Using that data, we made a few product refinements and began selling Plugless to Volt and LEAF owners in the U.S. and Canada in March of 2014 and later in the year to Cadillac ELR owners.
Has this been deployed in any commercial buildings, or is it more targeted towards consumers?
It has been deployed in a variety of commercial installations – L.A. Department of Public Works, Duke Energy, Clemson University and the City of Raleigh to cite a few. However, we are largely marketing toward and selling to consumers at this point.
What are the barriers to integrating this tech with more EVs?
I can tackle that (great) question in two ways. The first, in terms of EV model to EV model and in terms of Plugless (as opposed to generally speaking, which I tackle below). Plugless is integrated into the EV to be safe, to maintain all functionality of the EV, to be installed in a way that doesn’t damage the EV (no drilling, cutting or breaking the EV in anyway), and in a way that places the vehicle adapter (receiving coil) where it can be easily and consistently aligned with the power pad (the coil that transmits the energy) all for optimum efficiency. In addition, all of this must be accomplished in a way that keeps the systems affordable and relatively easy to install. Like all technologies that make life simple, “under the hood” there is huge amount of complexity to get it right. Given that each new EV we support represents a tremendous amount of engineering, design, testing, and manufacturing work to bring a safe, easy-to-use, and well priced product to market.
With that being written, we very much look forward to any competition to see how they solve for these things. That leads to the second way to answer your question – in the sense of for ANY company or OEM, what are the barriers to integrating this tech? We are the only company in this space that has moved from being a technology company into being a product company, and so we have a unique perspective. All Wireless EV Charging (WEVC) companies, when they move from bench models in the lab to production models out in the world, as Evatran has with Plugless, will have to balance safety, vehicle integration, ease of use, power level (read: speed of charging – I.e. 3.3kW, 6.6kW, 10kW etc.), logistics of shipping the units (where weight and size matter), installation of the systems, and efficiency – all against the cost to the consumer. Our sense is that the majority of the market is waiting on a WEVC standard, which will push some of the costs onto the EV manufacturers and, by extension, their customers as optional equipment. We are involved in those discussions, and they are moving along.
Do you intend to integrate with cars like Tesla?
We are months away from selling Plugless for Tesla S models and the BMW i3. Those systems will be 6.6kW systems.
Does weather affect charging time?
Not for the vast majority of conditions. The operating temperatures we list on our tech specs are 0° to 122° F. We know that above or below that range charging might slow down a bit, and as the temperatures get more extreme, stop charging altogether (or not initiate charging). On the cold end of the spectrum, if it begins charging, the warmth of the charging would bring the speed of charging back to normal quickly.
Where can I buy Plugless?
You can go to https://www.pluglesspower.com/shop/ and buy a wireless electric vehical charger for your electric vehicle. If you don’t see your vehicle, you can sign up to be notified when it is available.