Wirelessly charging electric cars could arrive by 2017
Electric cars which are charged wirelessly could be on British roads as soon as 2017, according to a leading wireless energy company.
Wireless vehicle charging pioneer Qualcomm Halo claims that the introduction of wireless electricity could be the final step needed to make electric vehicles a fully viable choice for drivers.
Qualcomm’s technology has already been tested on the streets of London with a fleet of 50 vehicles in October last year.
As well as that, the technology is also currently running the safety cars for Formula E, the world’s first fully-electric racing series. From next year, the race cars are also due to be charged wirelessly.
Based on the success of the London test and the feedback received from Formula E, Qualcomm believes that the technology is ready to roll out for full-scale production.
The chargers work via wireless pads that are bolted to the ground. The pads transfer electricity to a receiver on the base of the car, so all the driver has to do is park over the pad to start charging.
Joe Barrett, Qualcomm’s marketing director, said: “Simply put, it works in the same way as an electric tooth brush, only on a larger scale.
“Basically we use a copper coil in a pad on the ground under the car and a second pad on the vehicle. Using the magnetic field, we transfer energy from the ground based pad to the vehicle based pad.”
The wireless pads work to a maximum of 25cm, meaning that most cars will be able to make use of them, including high-riding SUVs and lorries.
That said, the wireless technology has its own set of limitations, with cost being the major concern for Qualcomm.
Anthony Thompson, VP of development and marketing for the company, said that any vehicles fitted with wireless receivers won’t come cheap: “The first wirelessly charging electric cars will be premium vehicles, and the technology will then filter down to other models in lower price brackets.”
Practicality and reliability are also concerns, with the first models probably needing a dual-charging system with a cable for backup due to infrastructure limitations.
Regardless, the Qualcomm technology has come on leaps and bounds since its introduction last year, with constantly improving efficiency that puts the wireless pads close to the power of Tesla’s Superchargers.
The pads are available in 3.3kW, 6.6kW and 20kW units, with the latter providing a usable amount of charge in just half an hour.
Apparently, a number of car manufacturers are current collaborating with Qualcomm to offer their cars with wireless capability.
Although the specifics are still under wraps, BMWs i3 and i8 support vehicles for the Formula E series have benefitted from the technology, so it’s not unthinkable that the German marque will have something in the works.