Wireless charging enables an electric car to travel where you want, when you want. It takes the bulk energy storage away from the electric car – or electric bicycle, scooter, light/heavy goods vehicle or even bus – and out into the grid where it belongs. It is the next logical step.
Inductive Power Transfer (IPT) wireless charging can do this, and HaloIPT’s wireless charging technology can do this – here, today, now.
Employing the same technology used to charge electric toothbrushes, HaloIPT says its wireless charging system could drive the take-up of electric cars and overcome fears that drivers will forget to recharge them.
This week the company demonstrated adapted electric cars in London that could recharge themselves simply by parking over a transmitter pad in the road. The Citroën electric cars were fitted with receiver pads on the underside of the car, allowing the cars to be powered up automatically and wirelessly.
Drivers of existing electric cars, such as the G-Wiz, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf, have to connect a cable from a socket in the side of the car street-side parking meter-like stands to mains sockets in car parks and at home.
Anthony Thompson, HaloIPT’s chief executive, told the Guardian that convenience and consumer fears over “charge anxiety” – drivers worrying about forgetting to recharge their electric car – would make wireless charging a success. “There are a number of issues that wireless charging solves with electric vehicles – people are inherently lazy and they don’t like having to take action. With our system, you can recharge without having to make a conscious decision,” he said.
The technology works using inductive charging, and the pads in the road can be buried under asphalt, making them effectively invisible. While other companies are working on similar technology, HaloIPT claimed its system can charge with greater lateral movement – meaning parking accurately is not so important – and a greater gap between the pads than rivals.
The company has already trialled wireless charging with buses in New Zealand and in Milan, but there are currently no wireless charging bays in the UK and none of the car manufacturers has adopted the technology.
Despite the news this month that electric car sales in the UK had dropped by nearly 90% in two years to just 55 last year, HaloIPT sees the UK as a key market globally for electric cars. “The UK is the epicentre of technology behind electric cars, it offers good government support for them and it has lots of early adopters,” said Thompson. “Both Germany and France also have big electric car programmes too, and California is pushing along quite nicely.”
Starting in January, a government subsidy will offer up to £5,000 off new electric cars, which it expects will help drive sales of around 8,600 of the vehicles in 2011.
As well as wireless charging bays, Thompson sees wireless charging roads as “technologically possible” and says getting such charging lanes to most of the UK’s population would cost around £60bn. “By electrifying the roads, you shift the argument from energy being stored to energy being distributed,” he said. “Batteries could be smaller and drivers wouldn’t have to worry about range.” Most electric cars today can go no further than 100 miles without recharging.
Howevever, David Bott, director of innovation programmes at the Technology Strategy Board, has previously told the Guardian he was sceptical that such charging lanes would be practical: “It’s scientifically feasible, but it’s whether it’s scalable and feasible is another matter.”
While aided in the UK by its development partner Arup, two of the main obstacles to the take-up of the firm’s technology are standards and cost. HaloIPT estimates it would cost £3,000-£3,500 to retrofit an existing electric car with the wireless pad, and to make it affordable, car manufacturers would need to be persuaded to incorporate the technology in new cars. Last year Nissan demonstrated a similar wireless system but has yet to add it to any of its cars.
As well as wired competition, wireless charging also needs to overcome the alternative system of battery-swapping at designated electric car refuelling stations, as promoted by the Better Place project. Shai Agassi’s California-based company has already signed up Israel, Denmark, Australia, California, Hawaii, and Ontario to the idea, and major car makers including Renault-Nissan.