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Fancy Having A Wireless Electric Car?

Most People's Grievances About Electric Cars Are Related To The Vehicle's Range, But What If Electric Vehicles Could Charge Wirelessly?

Sep 26, 2014

Over recent years, more and more drivers have been turning to electric cars. Offering huge cost savings as well as being environmentally friendly, the future of motoring looks to be increasingly electric with models such as the Nissan Leaf becoming increasingly popular.

One of the problems facing electric car owners is in the charging of their vehicle. Now, a number of manufacturers have announced that they are developing electric vehicles that can be charged wirelessly. Keep reading to find out how this technology could be on your next new car.

How does wireless charging work?

Charging an electric car wirelessly uses technology that goes back more than 100 years.

The system works through two charging pads, one of which is on the ground and one which is attached to the vehicle. By sending a current through coiled wires in the ground the pad creates a strong magnetic field, which carries the energy to the second pad on the car. The resulting power is then converted to DC and used to recharge the batteries.

This technology is already used in the home for charging small household items such as electric toothbrushes and, increasingly, mobile phones.

Dr Anthony Thompson, vice president of business development and marketing for Qualcomm Halo, says: “The technology is easy to conceive, but difficult to implement on the scale necessary to recharge an electric car. It’s only really become possible in the last 20 years.”

The system can transfer power over a gap of around 15cm, and is currently about 90 per cent efficient. Auto Express reports that the system still works if the pad is wet from rainfall or even if it is covered in snow.​

Wireless charging expected to be available within three years

The company developing wireless electric technology alongside car manufacturers believes that wirelessly charged electric cars could be available to buy as soon as 2017.

Manufacturers including Toyota and Volvo have been working on the wireless charging system while Qualcomm Halo recently unveiled a BMW i8 and i3 fitted with a version of the system. These cars will be used as safety and medical response vehicles for the new Formula E electric racing championship.

Dr Thompson from Qualcomm Halo added: “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. We’d expect to see the system on a production car by 2017.”

The technology is likely to be adopted by luxury and high-end electric vehicles first before arriving on mainstream electric cars in the next few years. In addition, the infrastructure associated with the system will have to catch up as commercial property owners such as offices and supermarkets will have to offer charging points in their car parks.

“A member of senior management at one of the carmakers we’re talking to told me that they see EVs as a 10-year game,” added Thompson. They expect that 50 per cent of the cars they sell will be EVs or hybrids by then – and almost all of them will be using wireless charging by that point, too.”

Wireless buses already running in UK

While wireless electric cars may be a few years away, the technology has already been introduced in the UK. The city of Milton Keynes launched a full-scale electric bus service earlier in 2014 over a 24-kilometre route. Eight buses now run from the city centre to Bletchley, charged using wireless pads.

Some of the bus stops have power coils embedded in the ground and covered by 3-metre-square toughened pads. Using markings on the road and the kerb, the driver aligns the bus, with its pickup coil fitted underneath, over the pad to establish a magnetically coupled link.

A built-in timetable stop means that once the vehicle has been identified, the bus’ battery gets a ten minute charge.

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