Wireless Charging for Electric Vehicles Moving Closer to Reality – Orange County Register

Charging stations are seen at the new Electrify America indoor electric vehicle charging station in San Francisco, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. Electrify America, Tesla, Mercedes and other charging networks are starting to build nicer places for people to fuel up their electric vehicles, knowing they’ll be there a lot will stay longer than people spend at gas stations. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Tope Alake | Bloomberg

Soon, plug-in cars may no longer need a plug. Electric car drivers would simply pull into a specialized parking spot when it’s time to start up, wait for a light to come on on their dashboard, and then get out of the car and continue with their day.

This is the promise of wireless electric vehicle charging, an inductive transfer of electrons that would eliminate the need for all those pesky cords. Several startups have spent years working toward a world where wireless charging becomes mainstream, and as electric car adoption increases, momentum is growing to make that dream a reality.

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Companies are joining forces around standardized technology, car manufacturers are starting wireless experiments and municipalities are mapping usage scenarios. Even Tesla Inc. is interested.

But major hurdles remain, including slow charging speeds and the money and interest needed to build stations and bring more automakers on board. While cordless charging sounds great on paper, the technology faces the same paradox affecting the rollout of public plugs: Stronger consumer demand could push car companies to adopt wireless charging, but growth in demand for electric vehicles is hampered in part by concerns about public charging capacity. to upload.

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“If I were an automaker, I would probably be reluctant to put it on a vehicle today just because wireless chargers don’t exist,” said Michael Weismiller, electrification research and development program manager at the Vehicle U.S. Department of Energy Technologies Office. . “You really have to see that the infrastructure and the vehicles are deployed at the same time for it to ultimately make sense.”

Wireless or inductive EV charging works by using magnetic resonance and a charging pad to generate a force transmitting field. When a coil in a receiver under the car lines up with a coil in the charging station, the receiver captures that energy and feeds it to the car’s battery. The technology is similar to wireless phone charging, which also requires a receiver and aligned coils; but EV systems can operate at a distance of up to 250 millimeters.

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Speed ​​is a problem. Most wireless chargers are comparable to a Level 2 charger (the kind you would use at home), not the DC fast chargers available at many public stations. Electric cars should also be designed with wireless charging in mind. While retrofitting electric vehicles is possible, in practice it could void the car’s battery warranty, says Amaiya Khardenavis, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie.

For car manufacturers, enabling wireless charging is still difficult to justify: it is expensive and there are no charging stations yet that can make it an attractive benefit for car buyers. Alex Gruzen, CEO of Massachusetts-based WiTricity Corp., says his company’s wireless charging capabilities will cost automakers several hundred dollars per car and consumers at least $2,500 to start — both figures he sees falling over the next five years.

These obstacles mean that wireless charging of electric vehicles will mainly exist in the form of pilot projects for the time being. Some automakers in China and South Korea are testing the technology on new passenger cars, but many tests of wireless charging are focused on commercial vehicles, which tend to have consistent routes and the luxury of overnight charging in fixed parking lots.

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“You can deploy the chargers at specific locations on the routes throughout the day,” says Loren McDonald, founder and CEO of EVAdoption, an electric vehicle analyst firm.

This summer, WiTricity plans to roll out its Halo wireless system on EZ-GO and ICON EV golf carts and light vehicles, after demonstrating the technology on retrofit vehicles such as Ford’s Mustang Mach-E. The company’s investors include Mitsubishi Corp. and Siemens AG, and WiTricity has a partnership to demonstrate wireless charging on cars made by South Korea’s KG Mobility. WiTricity says its technology can charge passenger cars at up to 56 kilometers per hour.

“Charging remains one of the biggest concerns for EV buyers, and we’re making it something that just happens in the background,” says Gruzen.

In Los Angeles County, the Antelope Valley Transit Authority uses inductive systems from WAVE Charging to power its fleet of electric buses. The agency has 15 WAVE wireless charging stations – one at its office and 14 on its bus routes – according to AVTA Marketing Director James Royal. Indianapolis is also using wireless charging for its electric buses, which are made by Chinese EV giant BYD Co. In 2019, the city partnered with Pennsylvania-based charging startup InductEV (then called Momentum Dynamics Corp.)

Brooklyn-based wireless charging startup HEVO Inc. is working with the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Stellantis NV to try out a 50-kilowatt wireless system on the automaker’s Chrysler Pacifica hybrid, after completing a demo last year with a Level 1 wireless charger 2. HEVO is also developing a 300-kilowatt wireless fast charger in collaboration with Oak Ridge, says CEO Jeremy McCool.

In perhaps the most critical signal of the potential of wireless charging for passenger cars, Tesla design chief Franz von Holzhausen confirmed in December that the company was pursuing its own version of the technology. “We’re working on inductive charging, so you don’t even have to plug anything in at that point — just pull into your garage, drive over the pad and it’ll charge,” Von Holzhausen said during an appearance on the YouTube series “Jay Leno’s garage.”

Tesla’s confidence is also generating interest from other automakers. “That’s the most important wake-up call,” says McCool. “Until that happened, wireless charging was still considered a fringe technology. Now it is a trend technology.”

Standardization could also boost adoption. In 2022, SAE International – an association of engineers and technical transportation experts – completed the first standard for stationary wireless charging for light-duty vehicles, a category that includes passenger cars. The standard covers everything from safe charging speed (up to 11 kilowatts) to interoperability and performance.

“That means that chargers can be built for apartment buildings,” says Gruzen. “It means that parking lots, on-street parking lots, can all use wireless charging from companies that specialize in that kind of public infrastructure. And the automakers can concentrate on making cars that are compatible.”

The SAE has also published guidelines, but not final standards, for wireless charging of heavy-duty vehicles at speeds up to 500 kilowatts. The DOE has agreements to demonstrate that technology on a UPS route in Utah and at several Walmart locations. “Ultimately, it’s going to be the truck manufacturers and the automakers who have to figure out whether it makes sense for them,” Weismiller says.

For now, the vast majority of investment is still going to traditional EV chargers, although federal and state lawmakers in the US are pushing for subsidies to expand wireless charging. According to the DOE, the U.S. now has more than 9,000 public fast-charging stations and more than 53,000 Level 2 stations. Even more are expected to come online as states deploy $5 billion in federal money.

But experts say future developments in car technology – especially autonomous driving – could strengthen the case for wireless charging. The SAE is currently working on a standard method for aligning EVs with charging pads, which will be especially critical when cars start driving and parking themselves.

Charging an EV on a pad isn’t the final frontier for charging either. The SAE plans to update the light-duty vehicle standard to include bi-directional charging, which would allow a car to feed power back into the grid. Gruzen says WiTricity’s next generation of wireless charging components will be bidirectional; he expects to start selling them to automakers later this year.

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