Although established electric vehicle manufacturer Th!nk was in financial trouble for the fourth time in its existence at midyear, the big guns are forging ahead in their quest for alternative automotive energy sources. This month, a smart charging system for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids was due to go on sale to dealers in Japan.
Toyota’s model 200 G-Station charger features contactless smart-card recognition. The technology was co-developed by Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) and TMC's customer-service IT company Toyota Media Service. It’s able to connect via the Internet with the Toyota Smart Centre, which uses a global cloud platform recently announced as a codevelopment project with Microsoft Corporation.
The relevance of the Microsoft tie-up and the cloud connection becomes obvious with the announcement that users will be able to receive e-mail updates of charging status. They will also be able to check location and availability of chargers by means of a mobile phone.
Smart card verifi cation will make provision for charger operators to gain access to user history, carry out billing and award points according to use time. It will also allow remote monitoring and the administrator can attach supplementary information to the G-station location information it sends.
In addition, the location of chargers can be displayed and set as a destination on G-BOOK2 compatible navigation systems and Smart G-BOOK, an information service for smartphones. What’s interesting for the wider world out there is that this is not a closed system: information from the Toyota Smart Centre about charger location and availability will be in an open format – meaning that it may be displayed on maps on the Internet and on navigation systems produced by other manufacturers.
G-Station is said to be compatible with the proposed Japanese EV and PHV charging methods and usable with both Toyota and non-Toyota vehicles. It will be sold in two versions: Type A (standard) and Type B (advanced). Type A, priced at about R24 000 for the main unit, will be the industry's most affordably priced charger with a telecommunications function.
Besides selling G-Station to its dealers, Toyota also plans to branch out to shopping malls and family-style restaurants. They’re predicting cumulative sales of around 3 000 G-Station units by the end of 2012.