ASHLAND — In a bunker-like laboratory on East Main Street, Apparent Energy is revolutionizing the way energy is delivered.
From eliminating copper wiring from transformers to advancing Nikola Tesla's technology, the research and development firm has created patented instruments that extend the life of golf carts and rickshaw batteries. Even more intriguing are the possibilities for automobiles and buses.
The core idea goes back to Nikola Tesla, and the Tesla Switch — a way to throw electricity around from one bank of batteries to another, said electronic design engineer Adam Reed.
"The idea is that electricity flows in ways traditional electricians don't really observe," Reed said. "Tesla saw things with the huge generators he made at Niagara Falls. When they were making and breaking contacts, they had huge pulses — huge pulses — of energy that would electrocute electricians, it was astonishing."
Applying Tesla Switch technology, Apparent Energy created a next-generation battery charger.
"We realized to make a battery charger we could literally use half the circuit and use the same principles and use that to more efficiently charge batteries and get more energy into them," Reed said.
To date, the monumental shift to solar energy and electric vehicles has relied on repackaged century-old technology. Apparent Energy's creations reduce both the size of the components and the energy output. During a two-year period, the engineers developed a unique motor. Traditional electric motors are designed to kill back electromotive force — the voltage opposing the change in current that induced it, Reed said. The idea here is to harness the wasted voltage.
"We're going to exploit it and feed it back into the motor," Reed said.
While developing a motor capable of powering vehicles, Apparent Energy's staff created a way to move power without coils, the way electricity has moved for the past century.
"We went as far as we could without getting into the power circuit to run the motor," said Baida, product development vice president. "That's where the new idea came from of how to move power on electronic circuitry without coils or transformers. It took two and half years until we stumbled on to this invention."
"A traditional motor runs positive and negative charges to the motor." Baida said. "In our system we take a positive and negative and run it from one battery to the other battery. As the power goes from one side to the other, it spins the motor. Then we switch real quick back to the original battery and back and forth — a hundred-thousand times a second."
Apparent Energy has developed parameter mount coils that can be mass produced and snapped together, eliminating the hand winding.
"In traditional motors, the copper windings are labor intensive, done by hand and have to be weaved in and out of the stator, making for a very expensive manufacturing cost," Baida said.
Patents were obtained about a year ago.
"A traditional electric motor is a torque machine," Reed said. "An electric motor like the ones used in electric vehicles generate the maximum torque at zero RPM, which is why you can take a Tesla and press people back in the seats. But the horsepower goes down with speed. This is a horsepower machine, the faster it spins, the more horsepower it makes. So that's completely opposite of conventional motors, so for vehicles it's going to be incredible, and it will run more like a gasoline engine in that sense because it's going to need to go up in RPMs before you let the clutch out. But once you do, it takes off.
One of the company's first clients is an India company serving the rickshaw market. Apparent Energy's Hybrid Boost Charge Controller 48V is less than a tenth the size of an existing Indian solar battery charger and inverter, whose transformer weighs 50 pounds, and requires a specific kind of solar panel. Battery life on rickshaws is only six months, and Apparent Energy's booster can extend range by 33 percent and double battery life.
"Our device has exactly the same specifications," Reed said. "But we have much better performance and we can work over a much wider range of solar panels."
Traditional transformers, such as the ones on overhead power lines, are rigid and bulky.
"We've replaced the inductors, a 100-year-old, inefficient device," Baida said. "Ours can be built in many different shapes and sizes to raise or lower voltage very efficiently and invariably. That's the revolutionary part, and we can put that into motors or solar panel chargers, computers, or shrink it down to a little tiny package and use it as a voltage regulator."
CEO and President Bill Patridge said units will be built in the country they are sold.
Golf courses and communities and homeowners with solar panels on their roofs will be the initial market in the U.S., and White City tech firm Ascentron will manufacture the American models.
"It's a grind to come in and create something from nothing every day and try to come up with something new that somebody hasn't thought of," Baida said. "You think you've got it new, and you start doing all your research and found out it didn't work; or it did work and they couldn't make it viable."
— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.