Next quarter, the practice of charging an electric vehicle in the garage overnight should take a giant step forward. That's when GE and Juice Technologies will start selling their co-developed smart charging station that can be programmed to operate during off-peak hours when electricity rates are low.
Juice officials are mum on whether it will be bigger than a breadbox or what it will cost. "Unfortunately, I can't go into any detail at this time," said Juice spokesman Aaron Martlage. I am waiting to hear from a GE spokesperson to ask the same questions that probably won't get answered yet.
[Updated: A GE spokeswoman confirmed the GE name for the device will be the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment or EVSE for short. She said the price will be variable depending on volume and has not been set yet. Utilities as resellers will be among GE's primary customers for the EVSE.]
But one thing Martlage did say is that this is not an experiment. Smart charging stations are for real. "We plan on going into full production," he said.
He would not divulge what that means in terms for unit numbers, but with plug-in electric vehicles promised this year from GM (the Volt), Nissan (yet to be named...maybe the Leaf), Toyota (Prius) and Ford (Transit Connect small cargo van), there should be quite an array for early adopters to choose from.
The charging component of the product comes from Juice via its PlugSmart technology jointly developed with Ohio State University's Center for Automotive Research. GE is providing smart metering so the device can intelligently decide the best times to operate. It will be directly programmable and can sense the off peak times to charge, said Martlage.
"Information can go to the charger and intelligently turn it off or on [depending] on what the consumer decides is the acceptable cost of electricity," he explained.
The product will carry the badges of both companies, he added.
The smart charging station will use the J1772 connector, which is the Society of Automotive Engineers standard "Electric Vehicle Conductive Charge Coupler.” In other words, the charger should work with all EVs.
You won't be able to run out to Lowe's or Home Depot to buy one quite next quarter. Martlage says that while GE and Juice plan to use multiple distribution channels, the units will initially be sold by their internal sales forces. So my guess is fleet operators, industrial customers and parking garage/lot owners might get first crack.
While such charging stations would more or less emancipate EV owners from the gas pump, electricity, of course, isn't free.
Regardless, the prospect of plugging in instead of pumping is enticing. And next quarter, prospect, apparently, turns into reality.
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