That's Not A Manhole Cover, It's An Electric Car Charger

October 21, 2013

Fully electric cars and range-extended vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and Chevrolet Volt have only been on the market a few years, but it's pretty clear that they're on the front line of an automotive revolution.

For that revolution to be successful, though, automakers need to overcome several significant hurdles. Battery capacity is perhaps the biggest obstacle of the bunch, but charging logistics are troublesome, too. Sure, you can find outlets for your plug-in vehicle at home and some stores -- even a few McDonald's outposts -- but those require cables, which are messy and inconvenient. Simplifying the process could lure in would-be buyers and speed up the rate of electric car adoption.

And that's where the folks at HEVO Power come in. They've designed a new system for wireless charging that they'll be testing next year in New York City. If all goes as planned, it could make life much easier for electric car drivers and fleets.

HEVO's system relies on charging plates embedded in the street, designed to look like manhole covers. When parked above them, electric car owners can power up their batteries with no muss and no fuss.

There are, of course, other wireless charging systems on the market, but HEVO's is designed to work faster and more efficiently than most of those. It uses resonance charging, a variation on conventional inductive charging in which the capacitors on the charging coils in the ground and on the vehicle resonate at the same frequency. Using identical frequencies facilitates the transfer of energy from one coil to the other, reducing energy loss and charge times.

In practice, it'll work like this: vehicle owners will have their cars outfitted with special receivers that can communicate with HEVO's in-ground chargers. HEVO, in turn, will work with the city to create special charging zones that look a bit like bus or loading zones.

Drivers can pull into one of those zones and open an app on their smartphones to initiate charging. While they're away from the vehicle, they can use that same app to see how fully their batteries have been charged. HEVO's business model includes not only revenue generated from charging fees, but also from advertisers who want to alert EV owners of sales and events near the charging stations. 

HEVO's prototype is expected to debut in early 2014, using two specially outfitted Smart fortwos owned by New York University. For an overview of how the system will work, check out the video above.


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