Designer Charging: Colorful "Skins" for GE's WattStation
Any visitor to the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas knows that making “skins” for cellphones, music players, tablets, even headphone, is a huge emerging business. People like to personalize their gadgets.
General Electric is one of the first companies to offer its customers the option of applying skins to their electric vehicle stations. It makes sense, because the WattStation was always a designer product, created by Yves Behar of fuseproject (the man behind the $100 laptop). Behar described it to me in 2010 as “a soft-looking shape with no angular elements,” friendly and tilted toward the user. A row of LED lights changes color to indicate whether it’s free or in use.
Gelaskins, a big player in this burgeoning field, will make what GE calls “custom wrap accessories” for the WattStation, and thousands are available for $29.99. For $39.99, you can upload a photo or artwork of your own and get that attached to your WattStation.
According to Seth Cutler, GE’s lead product manager for electric vehicle infrastructure and software, the skins aren’t permanently attached and “you can take one off and replace it with another for the holidays.” He said that GE was responding to “the growing interest in personalization and customization. What we’re offering is similar to what people are doing with their iPhones or tablets.”
Cutler declined to say how many residential WattStations are now in use, but he said that the company is working to service a growing market, with 136,000 plug-in cars now on the road in the U.S. The principal outlets for the WattStation are Amazon, Lowe’s and Home Depot. The Gelaskin is not a point-of-purchase option; buyers get a 3X5 card directing them to the company’s website.
There are images for every taste, from fantasy stuff that could be spray painted on a van to lovely art-deco and trompe l’oeil creations.
It probably should be considered flattering that the charging station has gone from a utilitarian device used by geeks to a sleek designer product with custom skins. Charging isn’t an oddity anymore, but a part of modern life.
GE wasn't first to market with a charger skin. Check out this EVlink video from last year—there are 600 designs!
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