Wireless EV chargers seem like a technology that we won’t be seeing anytime soon. However, considering how quickly we are improving battery capacities and wire charging speeds, we are likely to see it being commercially viable in the next few years.
Volvo is making significant strides along those lines among the many companies determined to prove its viability.
Last week, on 2nd March 2022, Volvo announced that it would test a fleet of its XC40 Recharge electric SUVs using wireless chargers in Sweden for the next three years (1, 2).
The company will drive the car upwards of 12 hours per day, and it estimates each car will accumulate some 60k miles each year. Moreover, Volvo will also use this program to test the wireless chargers to evaluate how its small EVs handle commercial use.
Wireless charging isn’t just for cars that are parked. In the United States, both Indiana and Michigan are investigating the feasibility of wireless charging roads, which would allow you to charge your electric vehicle while driving along the highway (3, 4).
Both states in the Midwest will begin with dedicated test pieces of pavement. Still, if everything goes well, they plan to install the technology on actual roadways to determine durability and longevity.
While most EV owners are unlikely to “cut the cord” in the next few years, wireless charging could be the trigger for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles over the next decade.
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Driving the Change with Wireless Chargers
Smartphone users are accustomed to wireless charging. On the other hand, EVs demand a greater voltage, and the user must carefully position the vehicle over the charger.
“Installing EV wireless chargers, especially in public places, comes with several problems. It’s more difficult to upgrade a wireless charger to a newer generation than a wired charger. Autonomous charging is frequently portrayed as a convenient or even automatic charging method. Indeed, autonomous vehicles would benefit from some form of automatic charging, and wireless charging appears to be a viable solution,” said Dr. Milan Rosina, Principal Analyst for Power Electronics and Batteries at Yole Developpment (5).
“On the other hand, several firms have developed automated solutions such as battery swaps, robotic arm charging, and automatic movable charging systems. When the demand for automated solutions grows, such solutions will compete with wireless charging,” Rosina added.
Volvo aims to address these challenges with its pilot test in a live environment within Gothenburg’s Green City Zone. As discussed, taxi drivers will operate the XC40 Recharge SUV for 12 hours per day to test both chargers and small electric cars for commercial use (6, 7).
Momentum Dynamics will supply the charging stations integrated into Gothenburg’s Green City Zone, treated as a testbed of sorts for burgeoning clean-vehicle tech. These charges can offer up to 40 kilowatts, close to the 50-kW DC fast charges that most EV owners use.
The fleet of XC40s would use their surround-view camera systems to line themselves up with the chargers embedded in parking spaces to ensure proper establishment of the charging.
“The Gothenburg Green City Zone allows us to test intriguing new technologies in a real-world setting and assess them overtime in preparation for a possible future broader introduction,” said Mats Moberg, Volvo Cars’ SVP R&D (8). “Testing novel charging technologies with a select group of partners is an effective method to assess alternative charging choices for our future vehicles.”
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Wireless Chargers Early Adopters
According to analysts, commercial buses, delivery vehicles, and taxis are expected to be early wireless charging users. They also emphasized that wireless chargers will be required in the future for robotaxis that do not have drivers to plug them in.
Hyundai’s new Genesis GV60 is the first EV with standard built-in wireless charging for individuals. In addition, Hyundai has started a test wireless charging service in Seoul, which will be available to all-electric Hyundais in the future (9).
According to Hyundai, charging begins when a car equipped with a receiver pad is parked over a ground pad at a wireless EV charging station. It will take about eight hours to get a virtually full charge with the power output of 11 kW, the global wireless charging standard, compared to plugging in for 10 hours or longer at public stations or residential wall chargers, it claimed.
According to industry observers, the approach will be especially advantageous for EVs parked for long periods in buildings such as shopping malls and private garages.
Hyundai’s Genesis GV60, which debuted last year, is at the cutting edge of technology, with features like Face Connect and its Fingerprint Authentication System. A 77.4 kWh battery is included in each model. The GV60’s battery charge can go from 10% to 80% in just 18 minutes when charging at 350 kW using the ultra-fast plug-in charging mode.
The development of Hyundai Motor came as EV makers and battery suppliers worldwide have started to enter the wireless charging and battery swapping markets competitively.
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Cutting the Cord
China, for instance, has chosen WiTricity’s unique wireless charging technology as its EV charging standard (10).
China’s automotive market is leading the way in electrification, and Chinese automakers are looking for solutions to make the EV ownership experience even more appealing to new purchasers. Wireless charging allows charging as simple as parking your car and walking away, guaranteeing that the driver can access the full battery capacity and range.
WiTricity’s magnetic resonance technology enables wireless EV charging with the same power, efficiency, and charge rate as traditional plug-in charging methods. Wireless electric car charging is not just convenient; it is also necessary to automatically charge future fleets of autonomous vehicles, like robotaxis or delivery vans.
“Having our unique wireless charging technology incorporated into the Chinese GB national standard is a huge milestone for WiTricity.” China is the world’s largest electric vehicle market, a global EV trendsetter, and an important market for WiTricity. We’re happy that the GB standard has been released, paving the way for automakers and their Tier 1 suppliers in China to use wireless charging,” said Alex Gruzen, WiTricity CEO (11). “We’re pleased with the work we’ve done in China with our hands-free wireless charging to make EV ownership more enticing to everyone.”
Earlier this year, Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL), China’s biggest EV battery maker, announced the launch of a battery swap service for owners of battery-powered electric vehicles, or BEVs (12).
Battery swapping has several advantages over charging points, including faster turnaround times and the ability to purchase an EV without a battery for a lower price and then lease the battery.
Notably, Nio Inc., a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, operates 700 battery swapping networks in China (13).
Some businesses are even developing an electric road infrastructure that will allow EVs to charge themselves while on the road.
Electreon Wireless, an Israeli company specializing in wireless and in-road wireless EV charging, said last month that it would build a public wireless EV charging road system in the United States (14).
Electreon already has trial projects running in Germany, Italy, and Sweden and is preparing to implement a recently announced commercial arrangement in Tel Aviv, Israel, to provide a plug-free charging network for 200 public buses.
According to industry officials, the Norwegian government is considering implementing an in-road wireless EV system. Electric cars account for over 90% of all automobiles sold in Norway.
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Paving Way Towards Sustainability
The wireless chargers could be switched to solar power in the future for even more efficiency. One company from the United States has designed a solar and wind tower to charge electric cars with both renewables simultaneously (15).
According to its developers, the WST can create 169,000 kilowatt-hours of non-polluting electricity every year, and the generated resource could be utilized to drive over 600,000 miles (965,606 km). That is the best-case scenario, in which the tower charges up to 8,400 electric vehicles every year, with up to six vehicles charging at the same time.
Millions of charging stations totaling 50 billion USD would be needed worldwide by 2030. While still in their infancy, wireless chargers could be critical in servicing the 120 million+ EVs expected to be on the road by the end of the decade.