Biofuels DOE funds $4 million for wireless EV charging systems

Published on April 7th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Wireless EV Charging Gets a $4 Million Charge from DOE

April 7th, 2012 by  

DOE funds $4 million for wireless EV charging systemsHappy days for electric vehicle owners are just around the corner: the U.S. Department of Energy is revving up wireless EV charging systems with a new round of $4 million in funding through its Vehicle Technologies Program. The initial goal is to get a wireless EV charging system for parked cars into the mass market within the next ten years, but DOE isn’t stopping there. Ultimately, the agency expects to accelerate the development of road-based wireless systems that will enable you to grab a charge while cruising down the highway.

The ripple effect of wireless EV charging

The immediate goal of the funding program is to raise the consumer attraction level of EV’s. Charging up an EV while parked at home or at a workplace is convenient enough but on the road the experience is pretty similar to gassing up: no matter what the weather, you have to get out of the car (unless you live in a no self-serve state). For most drivers, a wireless, hands-free charging system would mark a truly major difference between EV technology and conventional gasoline vehicles.

In terms of national energy and environmental policies, when coupled with the adoption of solar power and other forms of renewable energy more EV’s on the road will mean less reliance on fossil fuels, lower greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner air for metro areas.

Wireless charging, especially road-integrated charging, also helps to reduce the need for bulky on-board energy storage equipment. That in turn will help manufacturers develop lighter, less expensive and more efficient vehicles with a smaller lifecycle footprint.

Closer than you think to wireless charging

Wireless charging is already in development for small devices, and last year GM announced that the Volt EV will be equipped with wireless charging capability for portable electronics.

Charging an entire vehicle without a plug and socket is a much taller order, but Hertz for one is already testing wireless EV charging in the U.S., and a wireless charging test has been under way in London for the past few months.

Grab-n-go EV charging

For a nation on the go, being able to “refuel” your car while cruising down the highway is a nifty piece of multitasking. Unfortunately that’s some time off in the future, but on the positive side a team of researchers at Stanford recently announced that they have found a workable path to nonstop wireless charging based on magnetic fields.

Under that system, depending on the length of the trip, the vehicle’s speed and road conditions you could begin a journey with less than a full charge, and reach your destination with more juice in the tank than when you started.

Aside from working out technological issues, the expense of embedding the system in roadways is a major obstacle, but cost-effectiveness could be

enhanced by focusing the system on the most heavily traveled corridors and installing it in the course of routine road resurfacing projects.

Image: Courtesy of U.S. DOE

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Dr_Erickson

    Another application / feature to include in the solar roadway concept.

  • Embedded rail systems should increase highway speeds fantastically to double or triple current highway speeds.
    Power lines in highways would mean fewer new high voltage power line towers.
    Presumably, the electric “rail” embedded into the pavement will involve a steering feedback system to hold the car on the rail–allowing drivers to snooze, with safety releases into rest areas.
    Assuming more aerodynamically stable vehicles, speeds could be increased to double or triple current highway speeds. High voltage lines drop 10% to heat losses on average, so this heat inefficiency could be turned into automotive movement.
    Now four million will not allow high voltage experiments, but, like I say pound foolish.
    Cars are large metal objects moving over an electric field, so some losses move the other way as well and might be captured–but not if nobody thinks of it.

  • “The initial goal is to get a wireless EV charging system for parked cars into the mass market within the next ten years, but DOE isn’t stopping there. Ultimately, the agency expects to accelerate the development of road-based wireless systems that will enable you to grab a charge while cruising down the highway.”

    $4,000,000.00? Surely such low funding of such a high priority technology is penny wise and pound foolish. America should be funding transportation technology national laboratories and buying ONLY electric vehicle fleets.

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  • Why not use an intermodal system like Recharge while being transported by high speed trains.

  • RobS

    On a semi related note I had an idea for a different take on the EV tax credit. Instead of cash why not give new EV buyers a free 2kw solar system. Make their purchase a net energy positive to the grid, completely carbon neutral and with bulk buy discounts the government could achieve they could probably get it cheaper than the current $7,500 credit.

  • RobS

    I see this as a solution without a problem, EV chargers in public will be at road houses restaurants malls etc. all places where you get out and do something else whilst topping off. I can’t see a scenario where someone is going to use a public charger but stay in their car the whole time. Especially when you consider the losses associated with wireless inductive charging are up to 50% so by not getting out even for ten seconds our charge time doubles as does the power consumed to charge.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Wireless charging is more like 10% lossy. And might be reduced even further by decreasing the area between sender and receiver.

      (Imagine a self-parking EV that centers itself right over the outlet and lowers its receiver to where it sits on top of the sending unit.)

      Convenience is going to be one of the selling points for EVs. I think a lot of people will spend extra and waste a little electricity just to avoid the plug-in stuff. And I can see people sitting in their cars for 20 minutes while they charge up. Check your email, twit, do all that sort of stuff we spend so much of our time on….

      That said, I’m pretty much certain that we’re going to see Level 3 and Level 2 chargers surrounded by opportunities to spend money.

      Wiring highways – that isn’t making sense to me….

      • RobS

        If you motorise it to lift the plates together you may as well just have the two things robotically dock a connector, it wouldn’t be that much harder and to save 10% of the power used to charge well worth a tiny bit of extra complexity.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I agree that a robotic charger makes sense, especially for Lev3 charging. But the simplicity of gluing a sender to the parking spot surface and wiring it up is likely to be attractive.

          (BTW, there are already robotic gas pumps, it’s not like it would be a big technological challenge to do the job with a plug.)

          • RobS

            It seems to be a self defeating invention, if you use it for level 2 charging then the slow rate of charging means people would be very unlikely to stay in the vehicle long enough to get much benefit from it and the convenience factor is made redundant. if you use it for level 3 charging then the increased power losses probably make the extra complexity of robotic connector docking worthwhile.

  • Bob_Wallace

    I want to see some numbers for installing in-road charging. It hits me as an idea that could work, but also as an idea that isn’t economically feasible.

    Copper is expensive. How much would it cost to put in thousands of miles of wire?

    Here’s the competition: Affordable EVs with 175 mile minimum range and an adequate number of rapid charge systems along our travel corridors.

    We’re likely going to have those EVs within the next five years. We’re installing the charge systems right now.

  • Hope

    Cue sticky knickers from hauliers everywhere.

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