GE solves electric vehicle charging question

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
GE solves electric vehicle charging question

With plug-in electric vehicles hitting the market, the big question has been how drivers will recharge their cars. GE has an early answer with the WattStation electric vehicle charger.

The commercial model, designed by industrial designer Yves Behar, will launch in 2011 for use by cities, commercial building managers, and other locations where groups of cars congregate. GE recently announced the residential version of the charger suitable for home installation.

“The residential GE WattStation is designed to help accelerate the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles by significantly decreasing time needed for vehicle charging and, using smart grid technology, allowing utility companies to manage the impact of electric vehicles on the local and regional grids,” said Michael Mahan, global product manager for GE WattStation.

The commercial charger is designed to charge the car in four to eight hours, according to GE rep Lisa Bagwell, who presented a prototype unit at the GreenBuild International Conference and Expo.

The WattStation is a Level II charger. With a Level I system, the vehicle recharges overnight; while with a Level III system the battery recharges in about 30 minutes.  However, faster charging shortens the life of the battery, so it’s not an attractive option for most electric vehicle drivers, Bagwell said.

The commercial model will be mounted on a pedestal. The residential model will be suitable to install on the wall of a garage, Bagwell noted.

The WattStation requires a dedicated 240-volt, 40 amp service, so home installation will require the services of a qualified electrician. GE has partnered with ServiceMagic, the nation’s leading website connecting consumers with service professionals, to provide a network of certified electricians for reliable installation of the residential WattStation in the consumers’ home. In addition, GE Capital, working with ServiceMagic, will provide financing options, enabling consumers to pay for the charger and installation costs over time.

Colorful lights that surround the center dial give indications of the operations. A central display gives information about the charging session, such as the charge state and how much time remains until a full charge.

Bagwell said the auto industry has settled on a standard plug configuration, so it should fit any electric vehicle on the market regardless of brand. The units will have a 20-foot-long retractable charging cord.

The charger plugs will have a breakaway or detachable feature so if someone forgets to unplug it before driving away the unit won’t be damaged.

Firm pricing for the units has not been established, but Bagwell estimates the WattStation will sell for $3,000-$3,500 when it becomes widely available in 2011.

Other electric vehicle options are entering the market to help drivers overcome range anxiety, or the fear they will run out of juice in their electric car. In Houston, the NRG company plans to install up to 50 charging stations and offer packages for $49 to $79 a month. The company plans to offer a mix of home and public charging stations.

Topics: Garage, Vehicle

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

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