San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc. recently announced that it has partnered with the automaker Renault for a field trial of its new wireless electric vehicle charging system later this year in London.
According to Forbes:
“The California-based company signed a memorandum of understanding with Renault to work on the field trial and to figure out how to integrate the wireless charging technology into Renault’s cars. Qualcomm also announced on Tuesday that Delta Motorsport, an automotive engineering company in the United Kingdom, plans to put Qualcomm’s wireless technology into its electric cars, which will then be used for the same field trial in London later this year.”
The goal of the trial is to test both the commercial and technical viability of wireless electric vehicle charging. Qualcomm would also like to gain an understanding of the potential challenges of deploying and integrating wireless charging on a large scale.
The device, a pad that the company is calling Halo, is placed under a parked vehicle and communicates wirelessly with a corresponding receiver on the underside of a car. The Halo stays off until the receiver pad, which is unique to each vehicle, is in range. Once that happens the pads pass a current between them, charging the car’s batteries without the need for any sort of plug.
From EE Times:
“The technology is based on inductive charging across the air gap between a transmitting pad in the road surface and a receiving pad on the underside of a vehicle. It typically works at frequencies below 300-kHz but the final details are not yet decided and subject to standards negotiation. It is not yet clear whether the technology uses simple inductive magnetic coupling or resonant inductive coupling.”
Through the Halo, Qualcomm hopes to tackle one of the most significant challenges to the electric vehicle market: the lack of a suitable charging infrastructure. Currently EV charging stations are fairly major installations, requiring extensive wiring, and in many cases, EV drivers must take great pains to seek them out. (Though some cities are taking major steps to become more EV friendly.) The Halo, however, holds the promise of a small, potentially portable, low-maintenance, and infrastructure-free method of EV charging.
One of the most exciting things about this new technology is the potential for wireless, in-motion charging.
Currently, the biggest impediments to a major migration to electric vehicles are technological limitations from performance issues. EVs work best at certain, very specific temperatures, outside of which battery efficiency and life is severely limited. Thus, it makes little sense for someone in an extreme cold weather environment, for instance, to purchase an EV because the range of the car would be substantially reduced.
However, if we built electric roadways equipped with Halo-style charging pads, the range limitations of EVs could be addressed.
As EVs equipped with the proper receiving pads passed over electric roadways, they would constantly be charging, thereby eliminating the need to stop and refuel. This innovation would allow for the much more widespread and effective use of current EVs without any major advances in vehicle technology.
Lining America’s roadways with wireless electric vehicle chargers might not be as far fetched as it sounds. We already coat every single road in the nation with long strings of paint to denote lanes, why can’t small pads or cells be embedded in similar dashed roadway lines? Additionally, the pads wouldn’t need to be everywhere, they could be placed in short bursts, maybe a mile or two long, on stretches of road a few miles apart.
Thanks to new lithium-ion battery technology, overcharging the batteries on EVs and damaging them is no longer an issue.
Innovations like wireless EV charging are vital to moving toward a clean energy future. The Halo is great example of how creative thinking can help overcome major technical and structural obstacles to new technologies.
By. Max Frankel