Along with range anxiety, recharging the batteries has been one of the stumbling blocks for widespread acceptance of battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Public infrastructure is growing steadily in many countries with mandates to encourage the use of BEVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). Advocates of wireless charging are making the case that this is a temporary fix and that widespread wireless charging is necessary to create broader public appeal. Wireless charging has certainly been getting some news coverage this year, including:
- Qualcomm wireless power for BMW i8 safety car in the second season of FormulaE
- Momentum Dynamics won first prize in an energy security competition
- WiTricity and CTEK agree to a technology and patent license agreement
- Qualcomm licenses its technology to BRUSA
- Canada-based ELIX Wireless announced the E10K Wireless Charging System
- Evatran has a new partner in China
However, some of the cheerleaders are missing the bigger picture by focusing on simply eliminating the charging cable. If wireless chargepoints were common around cities in parking spaces and at traffic lights, there is the potential to reduce the size of the onboard battery without invoking range anxiety. This might offer an opportunity for the development of a low-cost fleet of small electric cars for restricted use within a city or town. Qualcomm is one company that is working on dynamic wireless charging so that vehicles could recharge as they are driving along.
In the United Kingdom, government agency Highways England has just completed a 2-year feasibility study to investigate dynamic battery charging systems for electric vehicles. It was successful enough that the agency is about to start another 18-month scheme to test a system on a road that replicates motorway conditions. If that goes well, the trial is slated to expand to a public highway. The government has announced that it is committing £500 million over the next 5 years to keep Britain at the forefront of wireless charging technology.
As is often the case with new technology, the devil is in the details of the transition. In the short term, vehicles will need to be equipped with both corded and cordless charge capability, which adds cost and weight to the vehicle. Once the wireless infrastructure is in place, savings can then be made by eliminating the redundant hardware on board. The infrastructure can be upgraded at minimal cost. Qualcomm has said it thinks much of the infrastructure upgrading can be scheduled in with routine repairs and road surface upgrades to keep investment cost low.
Navigant Research has been following the wireless charging market for a little while. Watch this space for an update to our short report on Wireless Charging Systems for Electric Vehicles. The next couple of years look to be very interesting for this technology.
Tags: Electric Vehicles, Fuel Efficiency and Emerging Technologies, Transportation Efficiencies
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