What happens when the humble charging station gets a makeover courtesy of a top San Francisco design firm, a choice of colors and an TV advert full of young, happy, carefree friends making an EV road trip?
The GE WattStation.
Developed by General Electric as its answer to the demand for electric vehicle charging points for the ever-increasing number of EVs set to launch in the next few years, the WattStation has now become the subject of a 30 second television commercial.
Aired last night for the first time, and evocative of something Apple’s ad executives may have commissioned for the latest line of Jony Ive-designed consumer electronics, the advert has the ultimate feel-good consumer vibe.
And it’s all surrounding the charging up of your electric car.
With music by English indie duo The Boy Least Likely To, the advert shows a group of young friends taking an electric car on a road-trip, taking in the funfair, a beach party and an overnight stop at a motel.
What does this have to do with charging an EV?
Every time they stop, an in-car shot shows one of the party plug the car in at a WattStation before rushing off to have fun with their friends.
Along with the carefree visuals and upbeat music, the voice-over cuts directly to the matter at hand.
“While the world’s been waiting for the electric car maybe the whole time the electric car has been waiting for this: The WattStation From GE. It’s going to change the way we’re going to get to where we all want to go”
Ending with an Appleesque line up of colored WattStations, the advert is beautifully simple, understated, and leaves the viewer wanting more.
Designed by Yves Béar, the founder of San Francisco design firm fuseproject - whose previous clients have included Coca-Cola, Mini, Birkenstock, Kodak and Microsoft - the WattStation is part power point, part consumer gadget.
Featuring gentle curves and a large, flat top the WattStation follows clean user interface design. With another passing nod to Apple, the WattStation displays a friendly “Hello” on it’s touch screen display, reminiscent of Apple’s 1984 Macintosh and 1998 iMac adverts.
The Wattstation also features a giant LED ring around its top, allowing the user to see if the station is in use, free, or faulty from a distance.
The charging cable, which supports level 2 charging at 208-240Volts using the J1772 connector, is stowed inside the base when not in use.
In addition to providing a full charge in under four hours, the WattStation boasts modular upgradability, enabling it to remain current with the latest charging specifications.
And smart-grid support means that as smart grid technology is rolled out the stations will be able to communicate with one another, the utility company and car. This will allow consumers the ability to charge their EVs away from home, but to have the cost of charging added to their domestic utility bill, for example.
Available in a range of colors, GE’s WattStation is certainly more pleasing to the eye than some of the charging stations we’ve seen in the past.
While GE is currently targeting the WattStation at retail and commercial locations keen to become EV ready, it expects the WattStation to be available at a yet undiscoled price for private purchase early in 2011.
For private EV owners, the WattStation will offer EV owners without a parking garage the chance to install EV charging points outside their home.
Don’t expect it to be the only option, however. Just like EVs, we're expecting a whole range of elegant EV charging solutions to hit the market in the coming months. They may not look the same or offter the same features, but they will compete for market share and drive the cost of EV infrastructure down.
The EV Price War may be well under way, but the Charger Price War is just starting.