Coulomb Technologies Introduces New Smart Charging Infrastructure for Plug-In Vehicles

21 July 2008
 The ChargePoint Network. Click to enlarge.

Coulomb Technologies is introducing a new smart charging infrastructure for plug-in vehicles, including Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs such as the Volt), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs).

Coulomb’s ChargePoint Network includes public charging stations, a consumer subscription plan and utility grid management technology for electric utility companies to smooth electrical demands on the grid. The infrastructure solution will be showcased with GM’s Saturn Vue Plug-in Hybrid at the Plug-In 2008 Conference & Exposition 22-24 July in San Jose, California.

Coulomb’s ChargePoint Network integrates three components:

• Smartlet Charging Stations. Smartlet Charging Stations are at the edge of the ChargePoint network. They perform bi-directional energy metering and control, user authentication, and apply 802.15.4 wireless local area network technology, enabling a subscription model through communication with a data center.

• Smartlet Communications Network. The network is a high reliability meshed network using 802.15.4 technology and GSM/GRPS technology to communicate with the Network Operating System for user authentication, access control, energy flow control and energy metering.

• ChargePoint Network Operating System (NOS). The NOS manages the Smartlet Charging Stations through the Smartlet Communications Network. The ChargePoint Network also provides web portals for subscribers, hosts and utilities. Functions include user authentication, access control, energy flow control, location management, utility company policy administration, user portal, host property portal, utility portal and GPS system interface.

There are currently three configurations of the CT1000 Smartlet Charging Stations:

• Smartlet CT1000 110V Pole Mount Model. This model straps onto a streetlight. Since conduit is already available at a streetlight pole, the installation cost associated with this model is greatly reduced. The Smartlet Pole Mount model only supports 110V/15A charging.

• Smartlet CT1000 110V Bollard Model. This model stands on its own and is designed for curbside and parking structure installation. It supports 110V/15A charging.

• Smartlet CT1000 Dual Mode (110V and 220V) Bollard Model: This model is also a bollard and supports 110V 15 Amp and 220V 15A charging.

Coulomb is developing a Level 2 Smartlet family of charging stations for charging rates up to 220V 70 AMPs for release in 2009. Future Smartlet Charging Stations will share the same Smartlet Communications Network and ChargePoint Network Operating System.

Coulomb envisions that most users will subscribe to the ChargePoint Network, although drivers will be able to purchase a single use via cell phone or credit card payment stations.

A typical use scenario is that a subscriber finds the nearest available charging station using a navigation system. He or she parks next to the Smartlet Charging Station. For 110V charging, the subscriber will swipe a key fob to be authenticated at the station, unlocking the Smartlet access door. After plugging in the cord, the door will lock in a partially open position to secure the cord and begin charging. After charging is complete, the subscriber will scan the key fob again to deactivate the charging station and unlock the access door. The cost of the transaction will be displayed on the charging station. The driver will replace the cord into its original position and can then drive away.

For 220V charging, the cable is attached to the Smartlet Charging Station and the driver need only connect the 220V pistol grip connector to the car and then swipe the ChargePoint key fob at the Smartlet to enable charging.

The subscriber concept allows for regional roaming and for charging at any charging station that is part of the ChargePoint Network.

We have developed a scalable, smart charging infrastructure that provides municipalities and parking lot owners a recurring income stream through public charging stations that are easy to install and maintain. Our complete technology solution also provides electric utility companies a means to control the load that plug-in vehicles put on the grid and a means to compute and implement taxes on electricity as a transportation fuel.

—Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies

Coulomb Technologies has two inter-related businesses: a product sales business and a service business. Smartlet Charging Stations are sold to municipalities and parking lot owners as capital equipment in a business-to-business model. Charging access is sold to drivers of plug-in vehicles as a subscription service in a business-to-consumer model. Both the Smartlet Charging Stations and ChargePoint Network Operating System will be available in Q4 2008.

Why the user shd scan the key fob again to deactivate ?
Why cant it be deactivated as soon as the electric load on the charging system is zero. That means as soon as the consumer removes the plug from the car, charging system can be deactivated, it will make life easy.

This sounds great - but we need more assurances that the risk of electrocution will not occur at the charging stations. Are these cords that will plug into the vehicles super-tough? Are there emergency shut-down mechanisms/circuits built into the system in case of a malfunction or accident like flooding? Also, can we be sure that there won't be any accidental ignition of fuel if these systems will be co-located at gas stations?

This approach requires a vehicle charging standard across the entire electrical car industry. This standard would need to coexist with the onboard charging capabilities of the various auto products, Also, sensitivity to the differing battery technologies would need to be addressed: i.e. eestor vs. li battery.

They have a long way to go but at lease it’s a start.

Great to see someone jumping into this. This is exactly the kind of infrastructure items needed to make EV's possible.

I've seen this idea before, it was called V2G or Vehicle to Grid. Is somebody trying to reinvent the wheel here?

This is like putting the cart in front of the horse. Let's see how much and how fast the battery industry can ram up production of batteries for tens of millions of BEVs and PHEVs before one should bother with costly infrastructure. Furthermore, slow charge is not that advantageous, and fast charge is out of the question, due to the huge amount of current required.

The main advantage of BEVs and PHEVs is that no new infrastructure will be needed. "Read my lips: No new infrastructure!"

The guy who comes in first with the most always has the advantage when the standard is determined. The guy who determines the standard controls the market and the infrastructure; and that means big profits.(i.e. remember Microsoft)

This isn't reinventing the V2G wheel, this is developing a reference implementation of a V2G wheel infrastructure system...

Good stuff. Hopefully the various industry standards bodies can work together (SAE, ANSI, IEEE, etc.) so all brand cars can use the same charge points.

I prefer a system where you plug in, then swipe your credit card (or pay the cashier) to activate. Zero possibility of electrocution, user friendly, non-proprietary, and available cheaply for all brands of cars.

Charging users a 'subscription fee' is just a little bit of robbery on the side.

The Gore plan will change the business model for the power utilities. Now, they relay on highly concentrated power generation that they directly control. The smart grid will provide varying levels of remote power that the local utility will have to smooth out to avoid brown outs. This V2G development is another complication. The power utilities are up for big changes.

It might be smart but it sure ain't fast. 220V @ 15 amps?
Not sure how much grid stabilization this will provide either. Still it's something.

It leaves the fast charge station with true grid stabilization open for fiscal exploitation. In a station environment it may make more sense to have a service attendant charge your EV in 5 minutes whilst you purchase lottery tickets or whatever it is people do in convenience stores.

My first question is why bother? If the system is only able to provide 15A @120VAC, then its delivering 1.8 kW, which means that you can charge at a rate of about 7 miles range per hour. Not worth nothing, but is it worth the cost of installing all the infrastructure, or worth the cost of a subscription fee?

If this system is capable of "bi-directional energy metering and control" then the vehicle owner should be PAID for plugging in, rather than having to pay a subscription fee and a fee for charging. If you have bi-directional control, then the vehicle batteries could be (should be) providing regulation service to the utility or to the ISO/RTO, which has a value of ~$40 per MW per hour. Why would I pay extra to have my battery cycled while I shop? The assumption behind the design is that you top off you LI battery so you won’t need to use your gen set on the way back home. It is a mistake to invest in infrastructure until the electric car technology stabilizes and is found to be effective. Roger: Our garage is already equipped qith 115/220 VAC @ 20+ Amps and our electricity is plentiful and is from 100% clean hydro & wind. No additional infrastructure is required for our (near) future PHEV and/or BEV. I may add an optional$30, 4000-Watt programmable thermostat, to use as a low cost electronic timer, to restrict charging to lower cost night hours.

Let us not panic or amplify a very simple task.

At \$40 per MWh, a full discharge of a Chevy Volt battery would be worth a few cents. In reality, they'd only pull a tiny fraction of that from any single car at a time, something that is going to effectively have no impact on battery cycle life.

Still, one of these charge points at my office would cut my gas usage with a Volt to about 15 gallons a year (and about 85 gallons of ethanol - make mine from MSW please!). That would be a 98% reduction for me.

With recent developments it is rapidly becoming apparent that the "grid" as we know it - is going to change dramatically. As is the entire energy field. Rather astonishing changes for the good.

While people have been waiting for the latest greatest LiIon batteries to be developed and made, it turns out that lead acid batteries will allow for useful plug-in-hybrids at lower costs. Competant engineers will realise that heavy batteries to get long distance do not make economic sense if they are seldom used to capacity, and a small engine-generator with only a hundred pounds of fuel will have a car go several hundred miles. AC Propulsion and others have developed lighweight generators that can be coupled to light weight engines that develop high power because they run at high speeds. Because the operation mode of such engine-generators is very simple, the pollution controlls can eliminate all smog forming and particulate emissions.

It would be easier and cheaper to build a zero emissions diesel burning car that dropped off water and CO2 at the service station than it would be to build a long range hydrogen fuel cell car.

There are already invented methods of electrifying freeways, so that the car is picking up energy all the time. Even stopping in a "charging" lane for a few seconds to automatically pick up a fully charged sodium sulphur cell would not be a great burden. But it would still be cautious to have a fuel powered generator. The fuel could be what ever your particular form of environmental cult allows.

Ammonia can be kept liquid at relatively low pressures like propane and has a lot of hydrogen in it; It takes some effort to use it but it can be done. And see, only nitrogen and water are released to the air.

There should be super-performance, extra fee, charging stations that have very large lead or sodium-sulphur batteries that will give you a lot of energy in a few minutes. Regular power lines cannot do this. Lightweight lithium batteries are not needed for stationary purposes. Pollution free large natural gas fueled generators might even be used for fast charging instead of batteries.

Axil the battery charging smarts will need to be built into each vehicle as they will be charged at home and from various plant. I wouldn't want the utility deciding whats best for my model.
A single standard will be as important as standard gas filler Vis unleaded smaller to prevent leaded fills when there was a choice. A supplementary key ay trip a voltage signal to the on board smarts.
If possible the same plug should be used even though the supplies would be at different voltages and currents are likely to suit the charging infrastructure better for instance 12v dc @) say 20v all the way to 1000vac with a series of excluding keys (lock outs) built on .. realistically a number of plugs and a few charging standards may be the only practical option.

Al_vin, V2g is about leaving the vehicle connected while not in use for instance in the home, garage etc and helps stabilize the grid peaks and losses by being bidirectional and taking charge when the grid is running in surplus.

And for those who did not see it in GCC - GM has their 2009 plug-in Saturn Vue - providing a clue to how they visualize the power connector:

This buggy may be the first production vehicle on the market.

V2G systems will also need to credit owners of parked vehicles feeding surplus electric power into the grid. Particularly when the grid needs draw on extra peak load power, parked vehicles could provide it. There will be massive numbers of solar roof panels installed on plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, cars and trucks, including long haul trailer roofs. Theses would interface with localized V2G parking systems that would either charge the vehicle or produce peak load power for the grid while parked. The vehicle owners local electric power account would be electronically debited or credited accordingly. Solar roofed vehicles in mass, parked in the sun all day long, would generate a sizeable amount of peak load power, which would generate energy credits or even revenue for the vehicle owner. This combined with the rapid development of next generation translucent solarvoltaic window panels and entire vehicle bodies covered with hi-tech solar paint, with high surface area long haul trailers generating a significant amount of solar power. Again, no land or transmission lines needed and no National Grid needed.

@ Henry, et al:

"Pollution free large natural gas fueled generators..."

Don't let T Boone or the oil guys fool you about CNG. It is NOT pollution free - albeit much less so than coal or petro fuels. And the methane portion of NG comes at a distinct environmental cost as it is drilled and pumped from coal-bed methane wells often in pristine wilderness.

The current play is to sucker y'all into domestic NG drilling in exchange for Boone's big wind farm. Don't believe it. He wants to put 22% of the NG toward transportation. In what vehicles? At what cost? And why delay PHEVs when they are already in production?

IMO, CNG is being touted by oilmen as transitional to EVs - BUT why do we need to build/convert to another fossil fuel when we have cellulosic and 2nd gen biodiesel renwables as the transitional liquid fuel?

ANSWER: Because big oil does not control renewables - they DO control CNG and petroleum. We like Boone's wind farm. We are not sold on his CNG plan.

Ho hum.
We have ATMs all over. We have pay at the gas pump all over. We have auto checkout at the food and lumber stores. We already have bi-directional electric service for those with PV solar roof panels.
We have subscription satellite TV. We have subscription satellite radio.
This is probably interesting to accountants. - I hope so.

EV Network Operations Center: EvNOC or system EvNos
Grid Network Operations Center: GridNOC or GridNos
These center points of electrification of transportation will be ubiquitous and global.
GridNoc.com EvNoc.com
GridNos.com EvNos.com

What V2g? It's EV2g stupid!
Ev2G.com
ps.- Altairnano(Alti) is emerging as the leader in Grid Stabilization and Energy Storage from Wind/Solar etc.... together with AES.

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