Momentum is growing for fuss-free wireless EV charging

Thu, 2014-08-28 06:00 -- Doug Cooley

City officials hoping to see more electric vehicles quietly moving along their streets should take note of growing momentum behind wireless EV charging.

Car manufacturers are starting to show strong interest in the expedient method of powering up EV batteries. London-based Auto Express reports that two BMW cars used as safety vehicles for Formula E racing have been fitted with prototype versions of the Halo system developed by SCC Lead Partner Qualcomm.  And the system could be available to auto consumers in a couple years.

“We’re in discussions at some level with all of the major companies developing electric vehicles, and some requests for quotations have already gone out,” Anthony Thompson, vice president of business development and marketing for Qualcomm Halo, says in the Auto Express article. “We’d expect to see the system on a production car by 2017.”

Charging up the EV market

Like cordless power tools, wireless charging liberates the EV owner from the power cable that’s currently required to charge the standard plug-in electric vehicle (PEV). That added simplicity and convenience is significant. However, only a handful of aftermarket companies now make wireless charging systems available to EV owners. That’s why the emerging interest among automakers for built-in wireless charging systems is expected to spur EV interest and sales.

A recent Navigant Research report asserts that “within a decade, wireless charging could be the leading way of charging EVs.”

How it works

Wireless charging technology is fairly straightforward and been used in other industries and applications. Two components are necessary: a pad mounted on the ground and another on the electric vehicle. Wire coils in the ground pad create the magnetic field and, via induction, carry the energy to the pad on the car. That energy is then converted to DC power and used to charge the car’s batteries. A driver simply parks in a designated location over a charging coil to start the charging process.

Some critics suggest wireless EV charging may negatively impact the EV market because the systems are less efficient and more expensive to implement. There is some merit to both claims. Because of the added cost, built-in wireless systems are expected to initially debut on high-end vehicles. And some engineers acknowledge that wireless charging loses 5-10% more electricity than plug-in charging.