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Google Trials Plug-Free Electric Vehicle Charging; Invests in “Carbon Negative” Biofuels

Google is trialing the Plugless Power electric vehicle charging station at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

The search company will host the first public release of the charging station developed and manufactured by Evatran LLC. The station is based on inductive technology, and charges electric vehicles and extended-range hybrids without the need for a cord or plug.

The Plugless Power system uses electromagnetic fields to transfer electricity between two coils – one installed in the car and the other at the charging station. This is the same technology used in an electric toothbrush, Evatran says.

Most EV models can use the Plugless Power system after a simple retrofit process, the manufacturer says. It is also working with auto manufacturers to integrate its technology into their cars.

“The interest shown by Google and the cooperation we’ve received to retrofit their EV provides evidence that a simple, convenient charging process is needed for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles,” Plugless Power CEO Tom Hough said.

Google has several low-speed electric vehicles for travel around its campus, and the company also includes plug-in vehicles in its on-campus employee car-sharing program. The company will initially use the Plugless Power station to charge a retrofitted short-range electric vehicle.

Recently Google added information on 600 electric vehicle charging stations to its Google Maps service, through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and using data from the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center.

In other Google news, the company’s venture capital arm, Google Ventures, has led a $20 million investment into California-based biofuels company CoolPlanetBioFuels. The start-up is developing what it calls a “carbon negative” process to make high-octane fuel out of low-grade biomass.

The process turns excess carbon into a solid that can be buried, not only improving soil but also sequestering the carbon for hundreds of years, CoolPlanetBioFuels says.

Other investors include North Bridge Venture Partners and Energy Technology Ventures, a collaboration between GE, NRG Energy Inc. and ConocoPhillips.

Google has previously invested in wind farms and, with Japanese trading house Marubeni, last year announced a joint venture to build an undersea power cable network that would deliver the electricity from 6,000 MW of offshore wind turbines.

In 2008 Google unveiled a $4.4 trillion plan to help America kick its fossil fuel habits by 2030, and announced a partnership with GE to lobby for renewable energy and collaborate on smart grid development.

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