EV Charging

Wireless EV Charging Explained

Wireless EV Charging Explained
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Imagine parking your all-electric vehicle (EV) in a parking spot that offers wireless battery charging. You turn your car off, exit your vehicle, and walk away without doing anything else? Wait a sec…there’s nothing to connect? No unsanitary charging cable that any weirdo may have handled to contend with? Okay, so I’m a bit of an unreasonable germaphobe which is why the concept appeals to me, but I digress. If all of this sounds like science fiction, I can assure you it is not my friends. Wireless EV charging is right around the corner. Let’s take a look at what it is and how it works.

What is Wireless EV Charging?

The phrase “wireless EV charging” can mean a few different things to a few different people. Wireless charging pads for small electronic devices are already present in many newer cars. Aftermarket wireless charging pads can also be placed in cars without factory produced charging pads. My friend Electric Jen recommends the Jeda Wireless Pad, as she mentioned in her article about these 7 must have accessories for your Tesla Model 3.  These devices can charge your phone or tablet by simply placing them on the surface of the pad. Amazing!

For the purposes of our writing today, we are defining “wireless EV charging” as a charging system that will add power to the large lithium-ion battery of an EV without the need for any kind of cable connection. As I mentioned, wireless charging stations will allow drivers to pull into a parking space and charge their vehicles in this fashion. A smartphone app will allow the driver to start and end charging times and pay for services rendered. 

How does wireless EV charging work?

Science my dear readers, sci-ence! Okay that’s not helpful…

In all seriousness, the science behind wireless EV charging is based on inductive charging. This is the process that involves the transfer of electricity between an air gap via two magnetic coils. Inductive charging uses technology that is identical to small electronic charging pads, only on a much larger scale. When the car reaches the requisite proximity to the charging coil, which is located underground, the charging process can begin. Our friends over at Fleetcarma.com illustrate the process with this handy graphic:

EV Wireless Charging

Massachusetts based wireless EV charging startup WiTricity Corp. is betting big on the future of wireless charging. The company sees no advantage in continuing to pour time and money into improving “wired” charging speeds as Tesla Motors and others are currently doing. In an interview with Forbes earlier this year, WiTricity Corp. CEO Alex Gruzen was quoted as saying:

“To me, it’s like a really silly arms race trying to re-create the gasoline experience for an EV. I wish the industry would stop trying to recreate what they can’t recreate which is gas and start to embrace what’s really possible, which is charging where you park.”

You definitely has a good point there, Mr. Gruzen.

Advantages to Wireless EV Charging

Aside from the benefit of eliminating the need for a charging stations and all of those nasty cables (I kid…I kid), there are additional benefits to wireless charging that are not so blatantly obvious. First and foremost, if these wireless stations ever do become a ubiquitous sight, automakers will be able to shrink the size of the batteries in their EVs. Think about it…if every parking space in every location were to be outfitted for wireless charging, there would be no need (for the most part), for EVs with long ranges. The exception to this would be drivers with long commutes or people like me who love road trippin’ through the countryside. This would mean lighter vehicles and less waste from battery production.

The other advantage to wireless charging may only be realized when autonomous vehicle technology becomes a reality. Imagine taking a drive in a fully autonomous vehicle that really has no need to stop for any serious length of time. You could potentially fall asleep in Florida and wake up in North Carolina, or depending on how much you like to sleep…Virginia! This technology could change the way we think of and approach road travel in the future.

Does Tesla Have Wireless Charging?

Short answer: no, and they probably won’t anytime in the foreseeable future. Elon and Co. have spent big bucks on their Supercharger Network and are not likely to shift gears and focus on wireless charging anytime soon. Please note that this isn’t a criticism of Tesla. We applaud them for their efforts in improving EV infrastructure.

As of the date of this writing, the only two major automakers who seem to be interested in wireless charging technology are BMW and Hyundai. In 2018, Hyundai debuted a version of the Kona with wireless charging capability at the Geneva Auto Show. Similarly, BMW partnered with WiTricity Corp. to outfit several of their models with wireless charging capability for a pilot project. It may take a few of the big boys to get on board before the other automakers take notice.

Is Wireless Charging Dangerous?

As much as I hate to be unhelpful…we don’t know yet. Opinions vary, but most experts believe that more research is needed before we can emphatically state that wireless EV charging is not dangerous. Exposure to high-levels of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can lead to a variety of health risks such headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. The World Health Organization has concluded that being exposed to EMFs in small doses not pose any serious health risks. This is good news for those of you out there who use wireless charging for your small electronics. Because wireless EV charging systems utilize inductive charging on a much larger scale, it is possible that there may be adverse effects to humans that aren’t seen with smaller systems.

One thing is for certain: the technology wireless EV charging is based on is constantly evolving and advancing. What do our readers think about wireless EV charging? Will it ever become the new reality or will EV drivers like me remain ever-connected? Please leave us a comment below and let us know.

Source | Images: Fleetcarma.com / Wikimedia Commons

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Neil Brooks
Neil Brooks is an electric vehicle owner and lover currently based in the greater Washington D.C. area. Neil is a fan of all things electric and may be the only person in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States to own both an electric leaf blower and an electric chainsaw. When he's not busy blogging about the latest on electric technology he enjoys grilling, rock climbing, and taking naps in his hammock.