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Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging Puts An End To Range ‘Arms Race’

Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging Puts An End To Range ‘Arms Race’


WiTricity Corp. CEO Alex Gruzen calls it a “silly arms race” where automakers are focusing their resources on promoting the speed of their plug-in electric vehicle chargers when the future seems to be headed towards wireless charging.

“To me, it’s like a really silly arms race trying to re-create the gasoline experience for an EV,” said Gruzen in a telephone interview. “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.”

Watertown, Mass.-based WiTricity licenses wireless charging technology to automakers and suppliers. Last year  BMW began offering that capability using WiTricity’s system and Hyundai introduced a version of its Kona outfitted for wireless charging at last year’s Geneva Auto Show and it’s being tested on a fleet in Chengdu, China said Gruzen.

The obvious difference between wireless and plug-in charging is you don’t have to hook the car up to a cable to recharge it. A wall box is plugged into a 220 or 240-volt power source and a cable runs to a flat charging pad that sits on the ground. The vehicle is outfitted with a receiver and a dashboard indicator tells the driver when the vehicle is properly positioned over the pad. Current is transferred from the pad to the vehicle wirelessly.

Wireless electric vehicle charging pad

Wireless electric vehicle charging pad WITRICITY CORP.

Gruzen says charging takes about the same time as it does through a plug-in system and at the same power cost. He says wider use of wireless charging could be just what’s needed to convince more people to feel comfortable with electric vehicles and eventually autonomous EVs.

“Our primary goal is to make a broader cross-section of the buying public welcome EVs into their home,” said Gruzen. “Like any consumer product once it goes wireless it stays that way. It’s simpler. That is the story for the next 2-3 years. If you’re going to have a self-parking system that parks a car in the garage, brings it back out to you, you need to have wireless charging. If you’re going to have a robo taxi that sort of needs to opportunity charge throughout the day to extend its range, you’re going to need wireless charging.”

Indeed, Gruzen sees wireless charging keeping so-called robotaxis on the road longer if they’re able to sit over a charging pad while awaiting fares in a taxi line or while they’re parked. That concept is being tested in Oslo, Norway as part of a project between clean energy company Fortum, the City of Oslo and U.S. company Momentum Dynamics.  

Line of electric taxi cabs wireless recharged in Oslo, Norway.

Line of electric taxi cabs wireless recharged in Oslo, Norway.


What’s holding up wider use of wireless charging is a global standard. Various governments, automakers, suppliers and technology companies, including WiTricity and the Society of Automotive Engineers, are all working towards a common ground that will provide wireless charging for electric vehicles regardless of their brand. It also takes the onus off automakers to go to the expense of developing and building chargers for their electric vehicles when a standard would allow them to simply purchase them from a supplier since any charger would, presumably, work with any vehicle.

To that end, WiTricity acquired competitor Qualcomm Halo in February in order to reduce at least one version of the technology from the mix.

“It was the chance to get industry standards consolidated and accelerating the time to market and actually able to reduce costs for all the participants in the market because now instead of licensing from WiTricity and Qualcomm, they just have to license from WiTricity,” said Gruzen. “It accomplished a significant boost for the industry, reducing costs. It was a really important move to make the market happen.”

Gruzen is optimistic the elusive wireless charging standard isn’t very far off, making that method of replenishing an EV’s juice that much easier for consumers and fleets. In fact, he says, progress toward reaching that standard is moving along quickly. “We’re off to the races.”

Source: forbes
Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network


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