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Published on August 30th, 2012 | by Guest Contributor


Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging — Will it Work?

August 30th, 2012 by  

It’s intended to take the hassle out of electric vehicle charging, and, according to its designers, Qualcomm, is a simple but effective alternative to cumbersome plug-in charging stations. Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC) is designed to eliminate unsightly charging stations and unnecessary cables, and with just about everything else we use today incorporating wireless technology, it seems like the next logical step for the plight of the eco-friendly car. Here we look at how plausible the innovative idea is before it goes on trial in London in November.

How would it work?

Wireless charging makes use of an electromagnetic field which transfers energy between two objects. The idea is that drivers will be able to park up at a charging station and have their vehicle recharged without even leaving their seat. Those who struggle to remember the basics of parallel parking from their driving lessons need not worry, as perfect pad and vehicle alignment won’t be necessary.

The technology, named Qualcomm Halo, will incorporate smaller batteries than are currently used at charging stations, but Qualcomm explains that drivers will be able to charge their car little and often, with increasing convenience. As these spaces will remain reserved for electric vehicle owners, there will hopefully be an increase in those converting from fuel cars.

The London experiment

The main vehicle test will be carried out using a specially adapted Delta Motorsport E4 Coupe. The Formula 1 car designer was required to add the pad to the vehicle in order to connect it to the road unit, as well as a touch screen interface to let the driver know when he or she is aligned with the charging pad.

Throughout the trial, charging pads stationed at Qualcomm’s West London office and at minicab company Addison Lee, will be put into practice. The initiative, supported by Prime Minister David Cameron is designed to demonstrate how WEVC can work in busy cities, such as London.

Time, or rather the lack of it, is everything in the city, so the option of quick, easy, and readily available charging is particularly appealing. With many making short but frequent trips, presumably the need for more charging pads will grow, as, hopefully, will the market for eco-friendly vehicles. As an added incentive, drivers of electric cars can expect to avoid the daily cost of London’s congestion charge.

So, is it plausible?

In short, yes. Technology is ever advancing, and Qualcomm Halo not only recognizes this, but also promotes the needed reduction of fuel emissions.

It’s not, however, alone in its wireless charging quest, with a similar trial already underway in Germany. Concept vehicles have also emerged from both Rolls-Royce, Delphi, and Infiniti/Nissan that include wireless charging technology. Google, Hertz, and Plugless Power are also testing out wireless charging technology. And researchers in Tokyo have created an electric roadway demo that wirelessly charges EVs.

Although wireless charging is designed, first and foremost, for city driving, it remains to be seen if it could ever work outside of the city. The fact that motorists may well require a car for both urban and rural driving, therefore, poses a problem.

Eco-friendly driving constantly comes up against questions of how practical it is, and Qualcomm’s idea is no exception. Certainly, the short-term vision has a lot of promise, but the long-term success of WEVC remains to be seen.

This guest post was written by an eco-friendly driver and blogger, Isabelle Guarella, on behalf of PassSmart.com.

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  • tibi stibi

    10% can be avoided when charging at home but not when driving. in the end charges could be setup in the roads! charging while driving. thats with a cable a bit difficult 😉

  • Bob_Wallace

    Evatran has made some interesting claim about their wireless charge system.
    ” (Evatran’s) charge block is only slightly larger than an average hubcap, boasts a 97 percent charging efficiency, and is less picky about your car missing the wireless charger’s “sweet spot.”

    On their web site they have soft-peddled the claim as “greater than 90%” efficiency.

    Since the energy loss is not at the vehicle level I expect most people will opt for wireless charging and pay the very small cost. For a 12k annual mile driver charging with 8 cent electricity the cost for a 10% loss would be about $2.50 a month. Just eliminating ‘parked and forgot to plug in’ would be of some value. Not having to deal with a cable in the rain/hot sun would be attractive.

    If someone can make the loss 5% then it’s the cost of a ‘value soda’.

    Then, think of how easy this would make turning our city street parking spots into charge points. Cut a once inch slit trench down the middle of the parking lane. Slip in a cable with charge turtles attached into the trench. Fill.

    The charge turtles will need some sort of ability to talk to the car parked over them in order to know when to turn on/off and whom to bill. And they would need to be removable for future paving. (All simple engineering.)

    We quickly get to having places to charge for most of the ~40% who currently don’t have an accessible outlet. (Easy enough to install these in business/apartment/school/parking garages as well.) Let apartment complexes and parking garages make a couple pennies profit to pay off the system.

    It would make EVs much more usable if you could grab a few extra miles when you stopped for groceries, ate a meal, went to class.

  • Nicolas Zart

    Will it work? It already works. What you didn’t mention is the Qualcomm Halo’s trick up their sleeves, this wireless charging system is unique in that it has three coils below and one above. This way, the Halo system does away with tricky perfect alignment and allows some leeway to the side. I was impressed when I saw it, even more when I saw onboard the Drayson racing Lola B12/69EV and even more when I saw the schematics. I covered it back when EVS26 was showing. This not only works but is the best system for EV drivers.

  • Ronald Brak

    Let’s see, Australian workers get paid about 1 cent a second on average, so basing people’s value of time on that, it makes sense for most people to plug in than to use wireless any time they are charging more than a few kilowatt-hours.

  • bussdriver78

    no. it is not. Sure, when things are cheap it might have a go but so did our waste of gasoline. These technologies waste at least 10% of the energy. Nissan has one and they can’t break 90% still. Losing 10% might not seem like much but you are talking about kilowatts of power and many many frequent recharges. Plugging in a car is NOT difficult; it is less complex than refueling with gas. I have zero sympathy for lazy people complaining they have to plug something in.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You may have zero sympathy, but a lot of people are going to pay the extra nine cents per day to avoid the plug.

      (13,000 miles per year / 365 days * 0.31kWh per mile * $0.08/kWh * 10%)

      As long as people are willing to pay for the extra convenience and as long as the price of electricity pays for the cost of generation and as long as the electricity has a very low CO2 footprint, where’s the problem?

      Plugging in would save electricity, but if plug-less charging gets people to move into EVs/PHEVs faster then we get a huge net CO2 reduction gain.

      • bussdriver78

        large amounts power especially initially as we try to transition to
        what is going to be really high demand on the power grid is not a good
        move and power demand will raise power pricing (which is good since
        alternatives then become more attractive.) The idea that people NEED
        such a feature to convert over I do not see as significant. The main
        reasons holding people back from electric cars is not the plug, not by
        far; one could make that minor feature argument over any minor feature
        just to gain a couple (as in low number like 2) more converts.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It’s not the idea that people need (you don’t need to shout) plug-less charging, it’s the likely fact that eliminating the plug will make some people move to EVs faster.

          There’s a much larger energy savings by getting people to move to EVs + 10% extra than staying with oil. Since most charging will happen at night when demand is low it’s not likely that the loss will cause a need for more generation.

          Obviously using less power is better. But I suspect it’s better to go for the big savings and worry less about the little losses.

    • Ross

      For public charging points I’d prefer a solution that didn’t involve leaving a cable hanging out of my car as someone might interfere with it. Better 10% loss in recharging an EV where the electricity will increasingly come from non-fossil fuel sources than 80% loss from an ICE.

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