Wireless Taxi Charging In Oslo, WiTricity Expansion In China — The EV Revolution Gets Real

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The city of Oslo is pushing forward aggressively with its zero-carbon agenda by mandating that all taxis in the city operate solely on electricity by 2023. To reach that goal, it has entered into a collaboration with Finnish charging company Fortum to install wireless charging infrastructure dedicated exclusively to taxi charging at several locations in the city, beginning with the area around the central train station.

wireless charging in Oslo via Inverse
Oslo, Norway. Credit: Inverse

Fortum & Momentum Dynamics Collaborate

Fortum is partnering with US firm Momentum Dynamics to develop the necessary charging equipment. In a press release announcing the pact with the city, Fortum says:

The project aims to install wireless charging using induction technology. Charging plates are installed in the ground where the taxi is parked and a receiver is installed in the taxi. This allows for charging up to 75 kilowatts. The project will be the first wireless fast-charging infrastructure for electric taxis anywhere in the world, and will also help the further development of wireless charging technology for all EV drivers.

Fortum Charge & Drive has long been working with the taxi industry to enable electrification of the taxi fleet. The greatest hurdle has proved to be the infrastructure: It is too time consuming for taxi drivers to find a charger, plug in and then wait for the car to charge. The wireless fast-charging project aims to solve these issues and thereby reduce climate emissions from the taxi sector – not only in Norway, but in the entire world.

The Future Is Electric

“The future is electric, and it is already here, right now. Wireless charging is a potential game changer,” said Sture Portvik, Oslo’s electro mobility manager, in a statement, according to The Verge. “From 2023 onward, all taxis in Oslo will be zero emission. Together with the taxi industry, we will make sure that the shift is as user friendly and efficient as possible. Oslo will always be at the front of innovation and we are delighted to join forces with two of the industry’s most progressive players in this game-changing move to launch the world’s most ambitious plan for wireless charging of a taxi fleet.”

Ole Hempel, head of Fortum’s public charging network in Norway, tells Inverse, “For this type of setup — taxis waiting in a taxi queue — they stop and start, just move forward in the queue without plugging in and plugging out … it lowers the user barrier to transition to electric vehicles. I think this is a perfect example of how we can utilize this technology.” Indeed. And drivers won’t have to leave their cars idling to keep the heat or air conditioning going while they wait for their next fare, which will also help reduce carbon emissions in the city.

Wireless Charging For All

“We can retrofit this on any car, any EV actually, even Tesla,” Hempel says. “The equipment itself doesn’t use that much space.” The car requires an alignment process to ensure the car is properly placed, which Hempel says has a tolerance level of around 20 percent. The charger themselves are said to be 96% energy efficient, three percentage points higher than a cable charger.

Pricing for public chargers in Oslo today is done by the minute, but for taxis, that will likely be charged to a per kilowatt-hour standard. The charging equipment will automatically recognize each car and bill the correct account automatically. “We in Fortum are endlessly focused on improving the user experience of charging their cars,” Hempel says. “So this is like a real holy grail for us that you don’t do anything.”

Officials in Oslo are waiting to see which manufacturers want to participate in the wireless charging plan and build cars that interface with the Fortum chargers. News reports indicate only one manufacturer will be selected, but that may change depending on how many car companies say they want in on the business.

WiTricity Expands In China

On the other side of the world, WiTricity, based in Watertown, Massachusetts, says it has signed a new agreement to share its intellectual property with a subsidiary of Zhejiang VIE Science & Technology, one of China’s largest Tier One suppliers to the automobile manufacturing industry. The terms of the license agreement will allow the company to develop and commercialize highly efficient wireless EV charging systems for sale to leading carmakers in the Chinese market based on WiTricity’s patented magnetic resonance technology and industry-leading designs.

“The addition of WiTricity’s technology to the VIE family’s product line is advantageous for the future of e-mobility,” said Mervyn Chen, Chairman at Zhejiang VIE Science and Technology. “Wireless charging will support increased EV adoption in China. VIE will strive to meet the needs of both China-based and global carmakers that are targeting the Chinese market. We also believe that WiTricity’s recent acquisition of Qualcomm Halo’s assets will simplify and accelerate the implementation of standards for wireless charging, which will result in broader adoption in the market.”

In a email to CleanTechnica, Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity said, “Wireless charging is an important component of the EV and autonomous vehicle ecosystem in China. We are proud to be working with an experienced Tier 1 company to bring wireless EV charging to market and accelerate EV momentum in China.” He says wireless charging will be a critical piece in the electric car revolution.

Wireless Charging & Autonomous Vehicles

Suddenly, it seems, wireless charging for EVs is a hot topic. It certainly makes perfect sense for charging at home or at work when most cars are stationary for hours at a time. But the place where it may have the most impact is in the ride-hailing and ride-sharing services of the future, in which vehicles could be in constant service for 12, 15, or more hours a day. In fact, wireless charging could be the key to profitability for operators of autonomous vehicle fleets that have no human onboard who can plug in a car to conventional charging equipment when needed.

Someday, your grandkids will look at you with wide eyes and exclaim, “You mean you actually had to plug your car in yourself, Grandpa?” Count on it.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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