The next time you see a manhole near a New York City sidewalk, look again–it may actually be an electric car charger. In early 2014, the city’s Washington Square Park will get a small network of discreet, wireless charging stations for hybrid and electric vehicles, Wired reports.
The charging stations, developed by the New York-based startup Hevo Power, are cords-free, double as parking spots and unloading stations for both consumer and commercial drivers, and come with a smartphone app that can help drivers find vacant chargers (similar to Citi Bike’s app), assist with parking, support wireless bill pay, and serve ads from nearby businesses.
New York University, Hevo’s initial launch partner, will operate two of Smart‘s ForTwo electric vehicles that will use Hevo’s chargers. But Hevo CEO and founder Jeremy McCool tells Wired the company is talking to PepsiCo, Walgreens, and the food rescue organization City Harvest, all of which could make use of a charging system designed for fleets of cars.
For all the promise of the electric car‘s future, a lack of adequate charging station infrastructure remains a critical barrier to widespread adoption in the U.S. And although electric-vehicle owners made up only 0.05% of New York’s car-owning population last year, the city has long held potential as a possible epicenter of electric vehicle adoption. This is partly due to Mayor Bloomberg’s aggressive advocacy of green driving, and partly due to the work of private companies like Coulomb Technologies, which has been installing curbside electric charging stations across the city for years.