Monday, October 28, 2013

Low Cost Electric Fast Charging

I am excited about the Chevy Spark EV and the BMW i3 for one simple reason: they will use the new "SAE combo" standard for charging, that allows for standard AC charging as well as fast DC charging. But as I have mentioned in many posts, this transition from fossil fuels to electricity is a complex and messy process with multiple variables and changes in infrastructure, car technology and not least, consumer behavior and perceptions. So what is new in the complex chicken-and-egg story?

A Repurposed Inverter?

As the market for fast charging is in its inception, the cost of the charging stations has been extremely high, leading many to wonder how any fast-charging business model would survive scrutiny. Fast charging has to be ubiquitous in shopping areas, restaurants and movie theaters for people to change their idea of what "range" means and where they can drive without any stress.

So I was pleasantly surprised to come across Ideal Power at the Solar Power Conference that I attended last week. In essence the inverter can take 3-phase 480Vac and deliver it as DC to any car with an "SAE combo" socket, namely the two cars mentioned, and hopefully a lot more. Combined with the proper network connection to notify availability, this could prove to be the affordable solution for many small businesses.

So will this change the landscape for electric car fast charging? It is certainly a step in the right direction.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Community and Personal Safety

With smartphones displacing conventional applications and tools, it was only a matter of time before new mechanisms for calling for help would emerge. I have been a big proponent of ways to augment public safety infrastructure, but nothing as simple as 911 had surfaced so far. This is changing, however.

A Perfect Storm

The power of crowds and technological innovation are the two forces converging to create a new model for personal safety. We have seen crowd sourcing, crowd funding and even crowd voting, so crowd- or more correctly, community safety would happen with the right ingredients. The technological force in this storm is Bluetooth Low Energy, a recent evolution of the Bluetooth standard that allows for devices that can stay on for up to a year.


At the forefront of this wave is, one that I have a personal connection as CTO.

I am convinced that making safety as simple as pressing a key-fob is a game changer in how we view our personal safety. There have been many niche solutions for the elderly for quite a while, but nothing that had such broad applicability. Consider the panic button on your car key fob, which we are all familiar with, but rarely, if ever, gets used. Now imagine the fob pictured on the right that can be used anytime and anywhere, that transmits your location via your smartphone to friends, family and the authorities. This is the promise of SafetyLINK, and I think it looks very promising.

A New Public Safety Model?

The idea of private-public partnerships is not new, and I think services like SafetyLINK will accelerate them. Location services was the sole purview of the FCC when they started looking at ways to integrate cellphone GPS into the 911 infrastructure more than 10 years ago. It didn't quite turn out that way!