MTC Transformers adheres to the theory that there is nothing new under the sun. The 24-year-old Wytheville-based company is repurposing its transformer technology to create a convenient, hands-free charging system for electric cars.
The new product, known as Plugless Power, will be produced and marketed by Evatran LLC, a recently launched clean-technology subsidiary of MTC.
Tom Hough, the CEO of MTC and co-founder of Evatran, says that Plugless Power fills a critical need in the electric car market. “In order to charge up full-speed, highway-rated, fully electric cars in any kind of fast period of time, you’ve got to have a higher voltage and a higher current than is available on a regular, conventional plug,” he says. “To do that now, people have to use a big industrial-size plug, which are heavy, awkward and unsafe.”
A wired electric plug is a conductive connection, meaning the charge moves through a transmission medium. By contrast, Plugless Power relies on inductive technology, just like a transformer, which produces voltage across a conductor situated in a changing magnetic field. In other words, electrical current flowing into a primary source causes current to flow into a secondary source.
Here’s how the system works:
Charging stations, to be located at homes, stores, restaurants and parking garages, will contain half of what is essentially a transformer, while the other half will be mounted as an adapter on the front of the electric vehicle. When the car is parked near the charging station, the two halves work together to induce the electro-magnetic force that produces the electric current needed to charge the battery.
“It’s not wireless, but the word ‘wireless’ is often used to try to describe how the product works,” Hough say. “The important features that electric car buyers will be interested in are that it’s convenient, it’s safe and it’s universal. You don’t have to get out in the rain to plug in your car battery, and you don’t have to worry about finding the right plug connection for your vehicle. Our product will work with any electric car battery.”
Evatran is scheduled to finalize its product design this fall. Then it plans to conduct a field test, in which volunteers will drive electric cars around Wytheville and “refuel” them at local charging stations.
“By the first quarter of 2010, we’ll probably have an offering that’s ready to go on a nationwide basis,” Hough explains, noting that Evatran’s success will be fully contingent on the degree to which electric cars succeed over the next few years. “We could have the best idea in the world, but if people aren’t buying the car, there’s no market, so part of our effort will be promoting the electric car, along with our own product.”