Wireless charging is safe, it has a promising future, and implementing it in future cars could make them more appealable to buyers. That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by Swedish automaker Volvo, which has just finished its first ever study into the technology.
Conducted in collaboration with a consortium of other companies in the Flemish region of Belgium and part funded by the government there, the study examined the technical challenges faced in replacing the plugs, sockets and cords used on all production cars with inductive charging pads capable of transmitting power using electromagnetism.
“Inductive charging has great potential. Cordless technology is a comfortable and effective way to conveniently transfer energy. The study also indicates that it is safe,” said Lennart Stegland, Vice president of Electric Propulsion Systems at Volvo Car Group. “With inductive charging, you simply position the car over a charging device and charging starts automatically. We believe that this is one of the factors that can increase the customer’s acceptance of electrified vehicles,” he continued.
Wireless charging works by passing an electrical current through a primary coil of wire, inducing an electromagnetic field in the surrounding area. If a similar, secondary coil is placed within that field,the electromagnetic field will induce a current to flow in the second coil.
Using this technique makes it possible to transfer energy from one device to another over short distances without using any connecting electrical connections.
Wireless charging technology isn’t new, however: electrical toothbrushes have used wireless technology for years to safely charge in the high humidity environment found in most bathrooms.
But unlike the wireless charging technology in toothbrushes, which transfer very small currents over very small distances, electric car charging technology requires a much larger energy transfer over a much larger distance.
While wireless EV charging isn’t implemented commercially on any production-made EVs yet, many companies are racing to develop and standardise future wireless technology for automakers.
In collaboration with Inverto, a technology partner in the project, Volvo discovered it was possible to charge a Volvo C30 Electric fitted with inductive charging technology at a variety of speeds.
“The tests demonstrated that our Volvo C30 Electric car be fully charged without a power cable in approximately 2.5 hours,” Stegland said. “In parallel with this, we have also conducted research into slow and regular charging.”
While some plug-in car advocates and owners would agree that wireless charging may be a fun future technology, many more would argue that selling and refining cars fitted with existing, cheaper plug-based technology should come first.
But Volvo, whose only production plug-in car is the V60 Plug-in Hybrid, believes wireless charging isn’t just a geeky feature for those too lazy to plug in. It could revolutionise the plug-in market.
“With inductive charging, you simply position the car over a charging device and charging starts automatically. We believe that this is one of the factors that can increase the customer’s acceptance of electrified vehicles,” Stegland explained.
In order for that to truly happen however, we’d add that for a majority of buyers to accept wireless charging, it would have to be as ubiquitous as the parking spaces they would be fitted in, partly to prevent the kind of blocking of charging bays by internal combustion-engined cars we currently see with old-fashioned conductive charging.
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