The momentum for electric vehicles just keeps growing: This week’s New York International Auto Show is featuring its first-ever Electric Vehicle Pavilion, where show-goers can test out zero-emission driving in either the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf. GE’s WattStation is also gaining traction on the road: After a four-city west coast tour last month, it made a successful appearancein Washington, DC last week for the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s annual conference.
So just how do you use the WattStation charging system? This week’s Txchnologist, an online magazine presented by GE, goes beneath the WattStation’s fetching exterior – crafted by industrial designer Yves Behar, creator of the Jawbone phone headset – to break it down.
Fill ‘er up
Ease your car up beside a WattStation with a glowing green ring around the face, which signifies that it’s ready to charge. Press the touchscreen, which will then prompt you through the steps. (If you’re at a private charging station, you may need to wave a radio frequency identification card, or RFID, provided by the station’s owner, to gain access.) Input your phone number or email address, and the machine will ping you when the charge is complete. Then, remove the connector from the station and plug it into your car.
The WattStation home charging system, which can sit on the wall of your garage, is even simpler. Just plug it in and go.
A handshake, then a negotiation
The EV and WattStation recognize each other through a five-pin connector that fits all standard electric vehicles.
The WattStation either accepts or negotiates a different standard of power and then begins the charge.
The WattStation accesses the grid’s power through a secure connection in the ground. The power moves through a “contactor,” which opens and closes to energize the connector. Fuses and ground fault monitoring ensure the device delivers reliable and safe power, Ciarcia says. The WattStation can provide a full charge in four to eight hours, compared with 12 to 18 hours at standard outlets.
Communication is key
The WattStation communicates with your car and your phone, but it can also talk to the smart grid, if the function is enabled, through advanced metering infrastructure, or AMI.
For example, if the grid is close to capacity and needs to shed some power load, it notifies the WattStation, which then responds by reducing its charging level. WattStation owners – for example, a city authority – can also receive data from their units to track usage and access.
The EV-charging market is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. Research indicates that there will be a demand of 1.4 charging stations for every EV sold and GE wants to make the WattStation the charger of choice.