Wireless electric vehicle charging systems have started to seep into the EV market, and little wonder. All you have to do is park your EV over a special pad and science does the rest. It’s far more convenient than using a plug-in electric charger, and it’s almost comically more convenient than pumping your own gas at a gas station, especially when you consider the potential for wirelessly charging an EV while it’s in motion. The only hitch, as is often the case with new technology, is that wireless charging is a pricey premium. Hey, we can fix that…
Wireless EV Charging Is Here
Wireless EV charging is based on the transfer of power between magnetic fields, from a small transmitting pad on the ground to a converter in the vehicle. Since the system converts energy to electricity only inside the vehicle, there is no danger of shock from touching the charging pad.
The basic phenomenon is called inductive power transfer, and though it sounds pretty futuristic, it has been in the tech lexicon since the heyday of Nikola Tesla. Today it is widely used in electrical transformers and it is coming into use for charging smart phones and other household products.
Affordable Wireless EV Charging
EV manufacturers have started to introduce wireless charging within the past couple of years, but in the form of a premium that adds another good chunk of change to an already hefty price tag (Nissan’s forthcoming 2014 Infiniti LE EV is one example).
However, mainstream EV buyers might not have long to wait before an affordable wireless EV charging system hits the market.
The wireless EV charging pioneer company Evatran has just announced that it has won a contract under a Department of Energy project called “Wireless Power Transfer and Charging of Plug-In Electric Vehicles.”
The contract pairs Evatran with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other partners in a three-year effort to develop an “efficient, low cost production design” for integrating wireless charging systems into EVs.
If you’re wondering why the U.S. Department of Energy is interested, it’s part of President Obama’s EV Everywhere initiative, which aims at making EV ownership just as affordable and convenient as owning a gasoline vehicle.
For potential new car buyers who are on the fence between gas and electricity, the convenience issue is really the only obstacle, and that’s where wireless charging could be the deciding factor.
As for why federal dollars should go into wireless EV charging research, EV Everywhere is part of the Obama Administration’s broader goal of transitioning the entire U.S. transportation sector out of petroleum and into electricity and biofuels, and that’s not just for fun. National security, climate change management and a more stable, predictable fuel pricing structure for U.S. businesses and consumers are the end games.
What Could Be More Convenient Than Wireless EV Charging?
But wait, there’s more. In addition to demonstrating low cost EV wireless charging systems from a fixed position, the DOE project also calls for Evatran and its partners to demonstrate the capability for wireless systems to charge while the vehicle is in motion.
If that sounds pretty wild, consider that Evatran already has a huge jump on the project through its Plugless Power™ fixed wireless charging system, which is already undergoing trial launches through partnerships with Duke Energy, Clemson University, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Google, the City of Sacramento, EDTA (Electric Drive Transportation Association), DTE Energy, the City of Raleigh and the Hertz Corporation
Evatran is already poised to launch Plugless Power into the mass market, and they do mean mass. The company has already signed agreements with Sears Home Services as well as Bosch Automotive Service Solutions for national installation and distribution services.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.