How soon is wireless electric vehicle charging coming?
Wireless vehicle charging is one of the many cutting-edge technologies that is being fiercely developed and it could be a game changer for the electric car industry. It’s estimated that by 2040 up to 50% of new car sales will be electric vehicles. Consequently, the demand for revolutionary technologies like wireless electric vehicle charging will grow.
What is wireless electric vehicle charging?
The technology is based on inductive charging, which involves electricity being transferred via an air gap between two magnetic coils. It’s similar to how wireless phone chargers work, but here the scale is significantly larger.
Therefore, the car has to be in proximity to the charging coil and the energy transfer process can begin. The technology is still being developed because the efficiency of the energy transfer and distance between magnetic coils needs to be increased.
Potential use cases are that the charging coils can be located in strategic parking spots or even on the roads to allow for charging while the vehicle is moving. This could reduce the need for charging stations, which is the primary way we currently charge our electric vehicles.
Benefits of wireless charging
When wireless charging is implemented to its full potential a number of benefits will be offered, which includes:
- Full autonomy: The application of autonomous vehicles is yet to be fully realized because they are still being developed. However, if there is no need to stop in order to charge autonomous vehicles, they can move indefinitely – or at least until repairs are needed. This may increase the scope and efficiency with which they can be utilized.
- Charging station not required: There is no need to insert a cable with wireless charging, which means it’s a more user-friendly approach. You can go about your day without even thinking about charging the car and it will automatically take care of itself.
- Smaller battery units: The increase in charging points means the size of the battery pack can be reduced. This reduces the cost and weight of the vehicle.
Drawbacks of wireless charging
It’s important to have a balanced overview of any technology, and wireless electric vehicle charging is going to have teething problems just like the majority of new technologies – here are a few potential drawbacks:
- Energy loss: There is the potential for 90-93% energy efficiency, but there will still be energy loss during the transfer. Over a larger scale, this leads to a lot of wasted energy that increases the total amount of electricity required to run the vehicles – this is especially true if the efficiency numbers are under 90%.
- Building the infrastructure: When considering adding wireless charging to roadways, implementing the infrastructure may not make economic sense. To start, it might be restricted to densely populated urban areas, which will limit the user to predefined locations.
- Health effects: The magnetic fields created may be harmful or they may not – more investigation is required to ensure that long-term exposure to weak magnetic fields isn’t going to be a problem.
Who is offering wireless electric vehicle charging?
Currently, there are a limited number of companies offering the wireless charging technology, but there are a few. Since 2012 Qualcomm Halo has been developing their charging system that’s currently used by the Formula E electric race series. They can transfer up to 22kW of power, which is in line with what rapid public chargers are offering.
BMW plans to sell a wireless charging pad for the 530e iPerformance hybrid. It will take 3.5 hours to fully charge the car and works by connecting your home’s power outlet. Drivers can simply park the vehicle when they are home – no need to plug it in.
Another major player is Plugless, the most advanced wireless charging system for public use to date. A unit needs to be installed on the underside of your car that receives power from a Plugless Parking Pad. These pads are sprinkled all around the states to take advantage of.
Companies working on wireless charging
Nissan is currently working on “future technology” for the Nissan LEAF and that includes wireless charging. According to Nissan, this system frees an EV of the need for a cable when charging, further advancing the convenience of EVs for charging at home or work. As the car can be parked always in a designated location, the steering can be operated automatically, greatly reducing the hassle of parking.
Qualcomm is looking to develop their technology for charging while driving on the road with their Dynamic Electric Vehicle Charing technology. They have proved that they can charge vehicles traveling up to 70mph on a 100-meter test track using Kangoo electric vans. Bad weather has no effect on the system and works equally well when the surface is covered by water.
At the Paris Motor Show, Mercedes Benz announced that wireless charging will be available in some of their 2018 models. This would not be a standard feature, rather an add-on consumers could purchase.
BMW has a number of car models in the Formula E series, which allows for recharging while driving. They want to make the transition to provide the same technology for all their consumers.
It’s exciting times for the automotive industry with the array of new technologies being developed by the leading manufacturers. Wireless electric vehicle charging is not a gimmick, but a useful feature that will transform the way we use road-based transportation.
A few challenges still need to be overcome, such as developing the infrastructure and improving energy efficiency. However, the benefits of wireless charging have so much appeal that it’s only a matter of time until it becomes the most popular method of charging your electric vehicle.