Is Plug-In Recharging a 'Non-Starter' for Electric Vehicles?

Is Plug-In Recharging a 'Non-Starter' for Electric Vehicles?

CEO of startup says wireless recharging is the key to mainstream adoption.

A Deloitte study concluded that two of the biggest barriers to adoption of electric vehicles are range anxiety -- concerns that EVs will not be able to meet consumers' travel requirements on a single charge -- and questions about where and how to recharge EV batteries.

Andrew Daga, principal founder and CEO of Malvern, Pa.-based Momentum Dynamics, says his company has a solution for both. Momentum Dynamics is developing proprietary technology that will enable electric vehicles to recharge wirelessly. With the system, Daga emphasizes that "no plug-in cable or conductor is required, and no physical or human activity is required to make a connection between the grid and the vehicle."

Andrew Daga, CEO of startup Momentum Dynamics, sees plug-in recharging as a "major impediment to adoption" of electric vehicles
The Momentum Dynamics system incorporates software that enables its wireless recharging stations to automatically identify vehicles and then bill vehicle owners for their power consumption, in much the same way that E-ZPass technology used by some turnpike systems automatically deducts fares from drivers' checking accounts when they pass through toll areas. "The vehicle, which could be a commercial vehicle, is automatically recognized, and the charging sequence is initiated without the driving having to do anything," Daga explains. The wireless recharging system is a mat that can be laid on a surface or embedded into pavement. The mats are "immune to any weather," Daga says, adding, "You can plow snow over them."

Momentum Dynamics envisions the mats being placed in a variety of public places, from supermarket and hotel parking lots to driveways and city streets, Daga explains. "Anywhere people go as a destination or as a workplace opportunity can be a place where they charge their vehicle," Daga says. 'Opportunity Charges' The fully automated recharging process sets the stage for EV drivers to pick up small "opportunity charges" throughout the day simply by parking their vehicles, Daga explains. "You can stop for literally 30 seconds and pick up a 30-second charge and add power to your battery merely by waiting for a traffic signal to change," Daga says. Picking up small charges throughout the day -- rather than recharging overnight after the battery is nearly fully drained -- "extends the life of the battery by prohibiting deep discharging of the lithium-ion battery," Daga adds. "A lithium-ion battery, or any battery for that matter, that is totally discharged and repeatedly so will have a much shorter lifetime than a battery that's kept above a 20% or 25% charge," he says. Compare that scenario with plug-in charging, and Daga believes there's a compelling value proposition for wireless recharging. "If you are to consider the idea of plugging in an electric vehicle and leaving it to charge overnight, what you're proposing is that you'll plug your vehicle into a publicly available charger and leave it unattended for some number of hours -- two, four, maybe even eight hours -- without anyone watching it," Daga says. "And we see that as a nonstarter. We just don't see people doing that on a large scale. That is a major impediment to adoption." He argues that "human behavior is such that most people will resist the idea of plugging in." "People already don't like the idea of stopping for three minutes to fill up their tank with gasoline, and three minutes is very convenient compared to what you have to do with an electric vehicle." Will Commercial Fleets Provide Momentum? Daga believes commercial-vehicle fleets offer the greatest near-term opportunity to demonstrate the viability of electric vehicles. "One of the things we're doing to promote adoption is to show people that these can be heavy-duty, robust vehicles with extensive range and a lot of capability, and you do that by putting people in buses, in shuttles, in taxis, that are fully electric -- not hybrids -- that can be charged as they go, and kept in service all day without taking them out for eight hours of charging," Daga says.
Momentum Dynamics will unveil its wireless recharging system this summer through two pilot programs for all-electric buses.
When Momentum Dynamics rolls out its wireless recharging system this summer, it will be through two pilot programs for all-electric buses. One of those programs will be in Palm Springs, Calif., where an 18-passenger airport shuttle bus operated by Enterprise Rent-A-Car will be charged wirelessly throughout the day at various points along its route. The thinking behind the strategy is that "there is much more of a reason for fleet operators to make the switch to EVs sooner because of the high cost of fuel," Daga says. At the same time, Momentum Dynamics hopes that when people see the technology being applied by commercial fleets, they'll become believers. "Imagine taking a business trip. You rent a car, you stand outside baggage claim after you're done, you need to be picked up by the rental car agency, and they stop with their bus," Daga says. "You get on this bus that makes no noise, and on flashes an LCD panel that says, 'Welcome to Enterprise Rent-A-Car. This is not only an electric vehicle, but it's recharged wirelessly, and here's how it works.'" "On this little trip to their depot, you get a briefing on how the system works. And that teaches you No. 1 that this is happening now, and this bus has 18 people on it, and all of this heavy luggage. It's quiet, and it's making no emissions whatsoever." If all goes as planned, people will come away from the experience with an epiphany: That this technology could work on their personal vehicles. "It teaches people that change is possible," Daga says. See Also:

Follow IndustryWeek senior editor Josh Cable on Twitter at @JCable_IW .
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