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GE unveils WattStation electric vehicle charger; design by Yves Behar

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GE's new WattStation, an electric vehicle charger designed by Yves Behar, intends to bring the smart grid to the family car.

General Electric on Tuesday unveiled the WattStation, an electric vehicle charger designed by Yves Behar that's intended to bring the smart grid to the family car.

GE says the WattStation both reduces the time needed for charging electric vehicles and allows utility companies to manage their impact on the power grid.

The value proposition: if we really want electric vehicles, we (read: cities, companies, individuals) are going to have to overhaul our infrastructure.

Specifically, the WattStation reduces EV charging time by more than half, from 12 to 18 hours to four to eight hours.

The device is the vision of industrial designer Yves Behar, best known for designing the OLPC XO low-cost laptop.

"Design is the way that we're going to be able to make [electric vehicles] tangible," Behar said at the launch event in San Francisco. "They're really going to be the physical way that people actualize their experience -- how they're contributing to saving energy; how they're participating."

"People want it to be easier. They want it to be simpler. A simple, great experience that changes their mind."

Behar said he designed it to feel "as far away as possible from the gas station."

"Instead of parking meters, you will have charging stations," he said. "This is easy to get along with, I think. Easy to see it appear on the streets."

Here's a video about it:

The GE WattStation will be available globally in 2011. GE says it will unveil a specialized home version of the charger later this year.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure