Frog Design and ECOtality team up for smart EV charging solution
By Ben Coxworth
July 29, 2010
Well, it was only a matter of time. Electric vehicle charging stations aren’t even commonplace yet, but already someone has come up with a better-looking one. Frog Design, well-known for developing cool concepts such as an Intel Point-of-Sale kiosk and a range of wearable devices, has teamed up with clean energy company ECOtality to create the Blink EV charging station. There are two versions, one for homes and one for commercial use, and they’re both pretty snazzy.
The designers at Frog believe that early EV owners will appreciate familiar, hands-on technology, as opposed to intimating mega-high tech. That’s why one of the defining features of the Blink is its charging hose, that wraps around a spool much like a garden hose. It’s simple, it’s approachable, and won’t jam up. Heck, you can almost picture the thing in a Norman Rockwell painting. Almost.
The creators of the Blink also want it to become a recognizable icon for EV charging, hence its bold, simple square/circle, black and white design. Additionally, they don’t want to contribute to the public’s eco-fatigue, in which people become tired of electric cars always being associated with saving the environment. The Blink is therefore designed to look more like the electronics with which people are already familiar, and less like a tree, flower or dolphin – you know what I mean.
The residential version consists of two separate parts, the charger itself and the cable wrap. This is so that the cable can be placed in different parts of the owner’s garage, depending on where their vehicle’s charging outlet is located. If they change vehicles and the new car has the outlet on the other side, it’s relatively simple to just move the cable wrap to the other wall. The connector (or “nozzle”, if you will) doesn’t stick out from the wrap, plus both components have rounded edges, so users won’t snag themselves on it when squeezing past in a cramped garage.
The commercial Blinks will be part of ECOtality’s “robust public charging network,” designed to unobtrusively fit in at shopping malls, movie theaters, or other common destinations where cars are left to sit for a while. Lights on top of each charger will indicate whether or not the unit is free, although a car parked in front of it might also be a tip-off.
As with most other charging systems, the Blinks will all be hooked up to an online grid, so users can receive data on their energy consumption history, as well as the least expensive times to charge their vehicle. The home version can then be programmed to wait until such a time to charge the vehicle.
The first stations are scheduled to be installed this fall, with approximately 15,000 units going into 16 U.S. cities.