Electric Vehicles

Wireless EV Charging Stations Cut the Cord

November 2013, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Sean Lyden - Also by this author

Companies such as Qualcomm and Evatran are working to develop dynamic charging in the U.S. to make charging effortless and to bring EVs to the mass market. Dynamic charging has been demonstrated in Korea, using two all-electric buses.
Companies such as Qualcomm and Evatran are working to develop dynamic charging in the U.S. to make charging effortless and to bring EVs to the mass market. Dynamic charging has been demonstrated in Korea, using two all-electric buses.

Does wireless charging hold the key to mass-market appeal for electric vehicles (EVs)?

It’s still too early to tell, but with the U.S. government, automakers, start-ups, and global wireless firms all making big bets on wireless EV charging research and development, the possibilities are intriguing and promising for solving one of the biggest issues facing electric vehicle technology — convenient and effective recharging. The convenience of wireless charging could make EVs more acceptable to drivers who are resistant to changing habits — drivers who don’t want to hassle with a cord and plug, especially in short-term parking situations or when parking outdoors in inclement weather. Wireless chargers also require less hardware and can be installed below ground, making them more conducive for public charging infrastructure by eliminating street clutter and reducing risk of vandalism and damage to electric connections often associated with plug-in systems.

The 2014 Infiniti LE is Infiniti’s luxury EV with wireless charging capability. The vehicle automatically positions itself over the wireless charging pad, guaranteeing the most efficient charge.
The 2014 Infiniti LE is Infiniti’s luxury EV with wireless charging capability. The vehicle automatically positions itself over the wireless charging pad, guaranteeing the most efficient charge.

Although wireless charging technology has been around for a few years for small consumer electronics, such as smartphones and electric toothbrushes, cutting the cord on the much larger and more complicated EV technology has been a far more ambitious goal. How can huge amounts of power, substantial enough to fully charge an EV battery within a reasonable time period, be transferred over an air gap of several inches, with minimal loss of energy efficiency?

Recent technological breakthroughs are making

wireless EV charging a reality today — and the technology is a potential game changer for the future of transportation.

Commercializing Wireless Charging Technology

The first commercially available wireless EV charger, released September 2013, is Evatran’s Plugless L2 (Level 2) EV Charging System, an aftermarket retrofit product for the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF. For roughly $3,000 (plus installation costs), the Plugless system includes a vehicle adapter (installed underneath the EV), wall-mounted control panel to provide vehicle positioning guidance for optimal charging, and a parking pad, consisting of a floor-mounted wireless charging transmitter.

To begin automatic charging, drivers position their vehicle over the parking pad, assisted by directional arrows on the wallmounted control panel if needed.

The Plugless L2 system uses inductive power technology, leveraging magnetic fields to transfer energy from a transmitting coil in the parking pad over an air gap to a receiver coil in the vehicle adapter, to offer charging times comparable to conventional Level 2 plug-in stations.

Nissan Motors is developing a similar system for its Infiniti LE concept EV, but instead of the wall-mounted control panel guiding the vehicle to the optimal position over the floor-mounted charger, the LE uses a vehicle transmitter called an “intelligent park assist” within the vehicle itself.

Qualcomm also entered the wireless EV charging market by performing an experimental wireless EV charging trial where the co

mpany is testing a number of EVs and the driver response to the Qualcomm Halo wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC) system. The trial included using an inductive power transfer technology, which enables high-efficiency power transfer across a large air gap between the parking pad and the vehicle transmitter.

Finally, Momentum Dynamics Corporation, a company based in Malvern, Pa., is designing wireless power transmission technologies to provide charging support for larger electric and hybrid-electric commercial and fleet vehicles. Current field trials are in progress, with systems that can transmit 30 kW of power across a 12-inch air gap.

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