Co.Design

GE and Yves Behar Unveil Charge-Stations for Electric Cars

The stations will drop the time required to charge a car down to as little as four hours.

Today, GE has unveiled its long-awaited scheme for electric-car charging points, complete with a design by Yves Béhar's Fuseproject.

Outwardly, the GE Wattstation charge point resembles the award winning work by FastCompany.com contributor Gadi Amit and NewDeal Design, for Better Place. And indeed, the Better Place design and the Wattstation are both usable by any city interested in building EV infrastructure.

The design, according to Béhar, is meant to be easily seen and used—An LED indicator ring around the top edge is green when the charging point is available, red when it's not, and blue when it's in use. In addition, the pillar is designed with a sloping top meant to shed rain and snow, and in the future, the design will be customizable, so that the charge points can blend in with a city's street furniture. What's more, the Wattstation is smart-grid enabled, so that it can respond to the loads on the power grid. It also has, potentially, a greater power output, able to charge a car in as little as 4-8 hours, rather than the 12-16 hours it takes with today's "Level 1" chargers.

But, from a design standpoint, perhaps the subtlest things are the proportions and orientation of the charge point—they're meant to tell you exactly how to approach them for use, with the forward slant of the interface; and they're also sized to be substantial but unobtrusive, so that they feel friendly and approachable.

The stations will be rolled out commercially in 2011, and a smaller, at-home version will be unveiled later this year.

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3 Comments

  • Taylor Lightfoot

    Also, what about three phase 440 volt charging like the Nissan Leaf has? It's my understanding that these GE charge stations are only 220 volt and take 4 to 8 hours to charge up your car vs. 0 to 80% in just 30 minutes using the larger 440 volt fast charge connection.

  • Taylor Lightfoot

    While this is a good idea, I have a difficult time believing cities will be willing to buy and install these for public use.

    If you were a city, would you buy these chargers, hire electricians and workers to cut up sidewalks and install the power for them and then provide this power free of charge to the public? I certainly would not.

    If I were a city considering these, I would want these charging stations to be able to accept credit cards and I would want them to double as parking meters.

    The screen could have two options: Parking only and parking with charging. It would display the rates and the user selects their desired option and time and then swipes a credit card that has a Mag Strip or RFID chip.

    A receipt printer would be nice, or the ability to E-Mail a receipt to avoid having to buy and reload paper.

    Also a separate indicator light so parking enforcement can see expired meters.

  • Brian Ward

    Nice output Yves! Was there any vandal testing on these? It would have been nice to see a round screen as to keep with the Design language of the overall form- but manufacturing constraints hamper this.