[UPDATED]
[UPDATED] GE's WattStation Charger
Power player: General Electric Rollout: Pilots at Purdue University and UC San Diego by the end of this year. Public stations worldwide next year. Design: Über-hip stations fashioned by Yves Béhar in a variety of bright colors. Includes retractable cord, an ergonomically angled screen, and a glowing LED status ring. A built-in heater defrosts the screen in snowy weather. Station owners can add upgrades such as a credit-card payment system and smartgrid connectivity. Cost to fill ’er up: To be determined, but initially $3.50 to $4 per charge. Charge time: Four to eight hours. Developing a fast charger with Nissan. Misfire: With a design that looks more like a giant iPod than a street structure, GE may have some trouble convincing station owners that its WattStation will be robust enough to withstand the elements—and that it won’t get stolen as urban art. [Original] Unveiled earlier this month, GE's WattStation charger is designed specifically for city streets. The Yves Behar-designed Level II charger is designed to be sleek, weather-resistant, and visible from the street.
GE's WattStation Charger
Behar elaborated on his design in a recent interview with FastCompany.com: ""One of the ideas I'm excited about is the ability for different cities to customize the finish of the [WattStation's] materials depending on their identity, on the street, and on their look. There are many different versions of streetlights and benches. I think in the future, electric vehicle chargers will be so commonly available that people will be able to fashion them after the environment they want to live in."
GE's WattStation Charger
A green LED ring around the top of the charger indicates that it is available, a red ring signals that the charger is out of service, and a blue ring indicates that it is in use. The charger will be available in 2011, with home versions coming out soon after.
[UPDATED] ECOtality's Blink Charger
Power player: BP Rollout: Partner Ecotality is using its $115 million Department of Energy grant to install 15,085 Blink charging stations by July 2011 between Seattle and San Diego on the West Coast, as well as in Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. Design: Slick black-and-white style developed in partnership with Frog Design. Quick chargers include 32- to 40-inch screens; slow ones have a 7-inch. All will be able to stream TV, advertising, or other content. Cost to fill ’er up: Wireless-plan-style subscriptions, with prepaid minutes and unlimited options. Approximately $20 to $50 a month, with the average charge $1.50 to $2.50. Charge time: Two to six hours with a slow charger; 20 minutes with a fast one (expected to debut in October). Frequent charger: Members will get exclusive and highly targeted locationbased coupons and offers on the Blink screens or on their smartphones. “We know who you are, where you are, and when you’re there,” and can change the ads accordingly, Read says. Misfires: No on-the-go offering for nonmembers and no credit-card machine to sign up at the pump. [Original] Designed by frog design for ECOtality, the black-and-white Blink charging station comes in both public and home versions. The just-unveiled Level II charger is designed squarely for retail locations--i.e. grocery store parking lots, movie theater lots, etc. The chargers will begin to roll out this Fall.
ECOtality's Blink Charger
ECOtality already has partnerships with a number of retailers. "We've had a huge number of handraisers," says ECOtality CEO Jonathan Read. "There are certain brands that want to be associated."
ECOtality's Blink Charger
ECOtality also has another advantage: a $114 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that will allow the company to deploy almost 15,000 charging stations in 16 cities across 6 U.S. states (and Washington D.C.). The grant lets ECOtality hand off its chargers for free to some of the first purchasers of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf EVs, as well as select retailers.
ECOtality's Blink Charger
The home version of ECOtality's charger consists of two separate units intended to be installed at eye level. The adaptable charger lies close to the wall and contains no sharp edges--it's designed, in other words, to be as non-intrusive as possible.
ECOtality's Blink Charger
The public version of ECOtality's charger shares some of the same parts and maintains the same look and feel, but with an added nuance: a light at the top signals that a parking spot/charging station is available. The light goes off when a patron parks their EV in the spot. According to ECOtality, shops will also have the option of "rebranding" the charging stations to suit their needs.

Eventually, ECOtality will unveil ultra fast-charging Level III stations. But for now, the company is trying to roll out the Level II stations strategically. "We want to identify where [electric] cars will be in 10 years and serve some of those retailers," Read says.

[UPDATED] Electric Vehicle Chargers
Power players: Nissan and Renault Rollout: First North American charge spots coming out in California this year; dozens more and “several” battery-swap stations expected in the next 12 to 18 months in California, Hawaii, and Ontario, to be in place when compatible cars become available in 2012. Already has hundreds of public charge spots in Israel. Design: Blue and silver triangular shape developed by Gadi Amit and NewDeal- Design to stand out in the urban landscape. Smart-grid capabilities let them share information with utilities. An LED light indicates charging status. Drivers also get route planning and navigation assistance to find the most convenient charging and swapping stations. Cost to fill ’er up: Drivers will lease their batteries, signing up for mileage plans. Charging and battery swapping will be included in the price, which has not yet been determined. Charge time: Four to eight hours; one to five minutes (switch station). Misfire: Better Place has not clarified whether it will offer alternative-payment options for EV owners who don’t have swappable batteries. [Original] If you pay attention at all to automotive news, you've probably noticed a spate of announcements in recent months regarding electric vehicle chargers--the car chargers that make sure EVs have enough power stored in their batteries to take us from point A to point B.

Like the vehicles that they charge, EV chargers aren't uniform. A number of established companies (and startups) have revealed unique charger designs intended for both home and commercial use. Pictured here is the charger created for EV startup Better Place
by designer Gadi Amit.

Better Place Charger
The charger is, according to Amit, designed to appeal to customers used to working with electronics that are chock full of LEDs and blinking lights.The Level II charger can juice up a vehicle completely in 4 to 8 hours.
Better Place Charger
Unlike many of its competitors, Better Place already has charge spots on city streets in countries including Denmark and Israel. The chargers are designed to work in tandem with Better Place's switch stations, which allow drivers to swap out used EV batteries for fresh ones in a matter of minutes.
[UPDATED] Coulomb ChargePoint Charger
Power player: Coulomb Technologies Rollout: Chargers already in 14 countries, with major operations in Dallas, London, and Hong Kong. Raised $15 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and plans to supply 2,600 public stations by October 2011. Design: Most reminiscent of a gas pump, but ChargePoint, by Interform, won a spot in the Cooper-Hewitt design museum in New York. Internet-enabled, with a billing system that allows users to register on the spot with a phone. Stations will text-message drivers with status updates. Cost to fill ’er up: Free, because station owners such as high-tech companies (Netflix, Dell) and retailers (McDonald’s, Starwood Hotels) are using chargers to build loyalty. But that won’t last, says CEO Richard Lowenthal. He thinks consumers will pay up to $2 per day, or half the price of gasoline per mile. Charge time: Three to eight hours (slow); 26 minutes to power a Leaf to 80% (fast). Misfires: No retractable cord. Having trouble meeting demand, delaying Coulomb's chargers are perhaps the most functional-looking (and intimidating) of the lot, with seemingly no thought put towards design whatsoever. Coulomb does have a number of available models, however: the free-standing Bollard, the Pole Mount, the Wall Mount, and the Home/Residential stations all come with an on-board computer, a fluorescent display, a RFID reader, and a utility-grade meter.
Coulomb ChargePoint Charger
Like Better Place, Coulomb has already begun to roll out its Level II chargers. Last week, the company unveiled networked commercial stations in New York. The company also has $3.4 million from the California Energy Commission to install chargers in the state.
AeroViroment
Power players: Nissan and Think EV Rollout: Seven cities in South Carolina this fall. Design: Simple, futuristic design for single-car commercial chargers; functional mini-gas-pump design for multiplecar chargers—both developed with Lunar Design. Breakaway cord protects the charger from being ripped out of the wall in case something bumps a charging car. Internet-enabled, both wired and wireless. Payment options as well as RFID technology to recognize users. Cost to fill ’er up: Probably free at first, at least for slow chargers. Quick-charge pricing is not set, but it’s expected to run somewhere between $5 and $15. Charge time: Six to eight hours (slow); 26 minutes to charge a Leaf to 80% (fast). Misfires: Detachable cord is not as neatly stored as a retractable one. Also, more likely to be stolen.
AeroVironment Leaf Home Charger
This charger, designed by AeroVironment for the upcoming Nissan Leaf, will cost customers $2,200 when it is released next year. The design pictured is not likely the final version--Nissan will, for example, rebrand the charger to match the Leaf. AeroVironment's charger will also be compatible with other EVs, including the Chevy Volt and Ford Focus.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations of the Future

The electric vehicle revolution is coming. These are the car chargers that will take us there.

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