Even though recent years have seen an increase in the numbers of electric vehicles as well as charging stations, these are still not the most popular choice as people harbor fears of getting stranded far away from home if they run out of electrical power.
This has paved way for car makers such as Nissan and BMW to start seriously considering the use of wireless charging in their vehicles, enabling them to be charged anywhere from the parking lot to the road itself.
As the name suggests, wireless charging allows current to pass to a battery without a physical connection; the technology is already appearing in smartphones and other mobile devices and there are great hopes that it will offer a boost to consumers’ adoption of electric cars.
Pike Research estimates that sales of wireless charging systems for electric vehicles could surpass 280,000 by 2020 as carmakers look for ways of addressing customers’ fears over electric vehicle range anxiety — that is, running out of power and being stranded miles away from their destination.
In the last 12 months, all of the major electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers have announced partnerships for developing the technology, motivated in part by the growing issue of ‘range anxiety’ that haunts existing EV owners and deters other motorists from relinquishing their petrol-powered vehicles for something more environmentally friendly. “The experiences of EV owners have strengthened the case that the convenience of charging could be a major factor in purchase decisions,” says editorial director Richard Martin. “They have also made other benefits of wireless charging, including the alleviation of range anxiety through frequent, brief top-offs via embedded, automatic wireless charging systems, much more evident.”
At the moment, EV owners have to physically plug their cars into a charging point and wait until the battery is sufficiently recharged to continue their journey. By embedding wireless charging technology into parking spaces or even along major roads, the range of electric vehicles could be significantly increased so that they almost match their fossil-fuel burning counterparts.
BMW is currently working with Siemens to test and develop the technology for its next generation of electric cars (it began tests in June 2011) and Nissan said in June that it expects to offer a wireless charging system as an accessory for the 2015 Infiniti LE four-door luxury electric car. The Japanese carmaker has also demonstrated an automatic parking feature, installed in one of its Nissan Leaf electric cars that ensures an electric vehicle is not only parked safely, but perfectly over a charging plate to ensure optimized charging.
And while Nissan’s and BMW’s efforts are quickly moving beyond the prototype and testing phases, in Italy, the technology has been in use for a full 10 years for powering buses. Wireless charging enables electric bus fleets in Turin to complete a 200 km route every day without having to stop for a full recharge. Wireless charging plates are located at each bus stop as well as the terminus and a brief connection while picking up or setting down passengers can top the batteries up by as much as 15 percent.