The current electric vehicle charging infrastructures rely on conductive charging to get the job done. Electric Vehicle (EV) owners have to plug in the vehicle manually using conventional charging cables. What if new vehicles could be charged wirelessly? If it’s possible to charge smartphone batteries wirelessly inside a car, why can’t these same modern electric vehicles charge the same way?
General Motors has been studying wireless charging for electric vehicles since 2017 and partnered with wireless charging expert WiTricity to conduct pilot tests of the Drive 11 park-and-charge system. In 2019, WiTricity purchased Qualcomm’s wireless vehicle charging technology to power its own.
Japanese automaker Nissan signed a similar partnership with WiTricity that same year to give its Nissan Leaf hands-free wireless charging functionality. Hyundai’s luxury range, Genesis, is introducing wireless inductive charging on its 2022 GV60 EV, the first production electric vehicle to feature an optional wireless charger, also derived from WiTricity’s Drive wireless charging solutions.
The conventional way to recharge an electric vehicle is conductive charging. It requires the user to connect a conductive cable between the car and the charging station, and is no different than when you plug in your smartphone’s charging cable to recharge the battery. Some of the advantages include higher energy transfer efficiency, high-speed DC charging capability, lower maintenance, and zero electromagnetic emissions.
Wireless or inductive charging uses an electromagnetic (EM) field to transmit power between two objects, in this case, between the charger and the car. The charging process is initiated when parking or aligning the vehicle with the wireless charging pad on the ground.
In-vehicle wireless charging requires an induction coil that creates an alternating electromagnetic field from the charging pad. Meanwhile, a second induction coil in the vehicle receives the EM field from the charging pad, effectively recharging the vehicle’s batteries after the system converts the EM fields into electric currents.
Despite numerous tests and advances made by major automakers, wireless charging technology for electric vehicles is still in the early stages of development. Wireless chargers are most efficient when the distance between the transmitter and receiver is as close as possible, and this is difficult to achieve in a vehicle that requires minimal ground clearance.
Wireless EV chargers require significant investments in infrastructure (the charging platforms) and electric vehicles (the receiving platforms), so cost remains the biggest barrier to the immediate adoption of wireless EV charging technology.