Here Now: The World's First Portable, Self-Contained Solar EV Charging Station

By · August 15, 2013

Envision Solar EV ARC

The EV ARC: park it wherever you want, and move it when you have a better idea. (Envision Solar photo)

Every so often you come across a “why didn’t I think of that?” idea. Such is the case with Envision Solar’s new EV ARC, which is a portable, stand-alone solar parking space. You don’t need trenching, foundations, building permits or grid connections. If you decide to move the space, all you need is a forklift.

Envision has had some good ideas for solar “trees” and “groves” in corporate lots and parking garages. EV ARC is a somewhat logical extension of those products.

Lots of Options

The car charges on a ballasted pad (able to keep the unit upright in 120-mph winds) that fits within a standard parking space. The 10,000-pound charger takes minutes to set up, has a 22-kilowatt-hour battery back-up, and can store 16 kwh per day. With stored power, you should still be able to charge on cloudy days. Also aiding in that effort is a tracking system that rotates the array to grab up to 25 percent more sunlight. The only sticking point is the, gulp, $40,000 price.

The EV ARC uses batteries from All-Cell in Chicago, and solar modules from Mage. The company is agnostic on the actual EV charging technology—early units have Eaton chargers. Given the system’s capacity, the solar unit can fully charge one EV a day, but parked in a store parking lot, for instance, it’s more likely to give four cars quarter charges.

Will the Cost Pencil Out?

Desmond Wheatley, president and CEO of Envision, agreed in an interview that some may find the price point off-putting at first, but he argues that over time his units pencil out as on par with standard grid-connected chargers.

“We believe the cost points will end up being incredibly competitive,” he said. “First, you will get half the cost off your federal tax liability, and there’s no need to dig a trench, install a transformer, face demand charges or, indeed, any bills from the utility—it’s instant EV charging.”

Wheatley also says that he can halve the cost with the big orders that could allow a city to have an overnight electric vehicle infrastructure. If there’s demand, he also said that cheaper versions could be built for sunny regions like Arizona without the battery backup. Wireless charging is also being investigated, and a model with that enabled is likely in the near term.

Wireless is Coming

“Wireless charging makes the full circle,” Wheatley said. “Now you’re charging from a sustainable platform, and you’re not even plugging in—just driving onto the pad.”

Thinking about the EV ARC brings up all kinds of intriguing issues. Might the units, portable as they are, be stolen? Envision has thought of that, and there is both tracking telemetry and hard-core anchoring options available. “People could show up with a flatbed and steal the EV ARC, yes,” Wheatley said. “But it’s so big, where would they hide it? It’s not a small theft. And with a forklift or something like that, you can just as easily steal a car.”

Desmond Wheatley's TED talk on video here delves into this theories about EV charging. "We are living in one of the most exciting eras in human history," he says:

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