How Wireless Charging Could Speed Up The Electric Car Market

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.

— Max Frankel

28 Responses to How Wireless Charging Could Speed Up The Electric Car Market

  1. prokaryotes says:


    The LE sedan may also pioneer wireless inductive charging, using a 50-kilowatt DC charging pad on the garage floor encasing a coil connected to the power source. The magnetic field it creates excites current in a second coil within the car. “All you have to do is park your vehicle over the charging pad,” said Infiniti Americas vice president Ben Poore, “with no need to connect cables.” And, he noted, it’s completely safe for children or pets and can easily be installed in private garages.

    It would be the first home-based inductive charging system offered by a major carmaker. While Infiniti is showing this system on the LE concept car, it hasn’t committed to offering it in production. The LE also has a standard J-1772 charging port, and an optional DC Fast Charging port using the same 50-kW CHAdeMO plug as the Leaf does.

    With video.

  2. RobS says:

    “The Halo, however, holds the promise of a small, potentially portable, low-maintenance, and infrastructure-free method of EV charging.”

    Wow for a highly respected blog this sounds a hell of a lot like sme sort of zero point energy scam. You can’t simply carry an induction coil with you and charge from it without any infrastructure, the power has to come from somewhere. The only thing that induction charging avoids is the physical need to plug in a connector, and for that small benefit the trade off is about half the charging efficiency meaning significantly more electricity is consumed (and a large portion wasted) for an equal amount of charging. I won’t even begin on how ludicrous the idea of embedding billions of these throughout the US interstate system is. Even if every vehicle was electric the wasteful ones of such a system is nearly incomprehensible.
    This article is light years below the usual standard of this blog.

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Magnetic-powered Trams in South Korea a World First

  4. prokaryotes says:

    This is from 25th of July 2012 and a must read…

  5. Michelle M says:

    No one seems to be concerned about huge increases in EM radiation?

  6. Mike 22 says:

    “Qualcomm claims that energy losses are small and as a result the charging method’s efficiency of 90 percent is comparable to conventional charging with a cable.”

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Drawbacks of Wireless Charging

    Inductive charging is not without disadvantages. The California Energy Commission (CEC), Level V, mandates that AC adapters meet a minimum efficiency of 85 percent; Energy Star, Level V, requires 87 percent (European CE uses CEC as a base). Adding the losses of the charger circuit to the AC adapter brings the overall efficiency for a hardwired charger to about 70 percent. Wireless charging has a transfer efficiency of 70–80 percent; coupled with their own AC power conversion the overall charge efficiency hovers between 60 and 70 percent. In addition to efficiency losses, the wireless charger includes the “readiness” mode to identify the placement of an object, a feature that adds to power consumption.

    Charger manufacturers, including Cadex Electronics, make great efforts to meet regulatory requirements. Losses incurred through less efficient charge methods go against the government-backed Energy Star program, and exceptions may need to be made to allow more energy use to support convenience. With roughly one billion chargers on standby or in charge mode, the extra power consumed is significant. The number of mobile phones is estimated at over five billion in the world; in 2008, 3.2 billion power supplies were manufactured globally; most are plugged into the main drawing power.

    Lost energy turns into heat and a wireless charger can get quite warm during charge. Any temperature increase to the battery causes undue stress, and batteries charged on wireless devices may not last as long on a mat as on the regular plug-in charger. It should be noted that the heat buildup only occurs during charging; the Qi wireless charger will cool down when the battery is fully charged.

    The WPC was very careful when releasing Qi; the first version has a power limit of 5 watts. A medium-power version of up to 120 watts is in the works but this norm must meet stringent radiation standards before release. There are health concerns because the devices operate in close proximity to human activity at a radio frequency ranging from 80–300kHz. Some stations transmit at 915MHz, the frequency used to heat food in microwave ovens.

    Electromagnetic energy from radio towers, mobile phones, Wi-Fi, routers, and now wireless charging, are categorized as non-ionizing radiation and are believed to be harmless. Ionizing rays from x-rays, on the other hand, have been shown to cause cancer. As the number of non-ionizing devices increases, people begin to question safety. Regulatory authorities are waiting for evidence and will only impose restrictions if a health risk can be scientifically proven. Meanwhile, parents object to schools installing Wi-Fi, and homeowners protest about electric meters that communicate data without wires. Radiation from wireless chargers may be seen as harmless because they do not transmit intelligence. In most cases, the household radiation is low enough not to worry, but it is the field strength and close proximity to the source that could add to potential harm.

    Charging EVs without plug and cable offers the ultimate in convenience as the driver simply parks the vehicle over a transmit coil. Engineers talk about embedding charging coils into highways for continuous charging while driving or when waiting at a traffic light. While this is technically feasible, cost, efficiency and radiation issues at these higher powers are insurmountable challenges.

    At a transfer efficiency of 80–90 percent, 10–20 percent of the power is lost. This reflects in a substantial energy cost to the user and should be calculated as a decrease in drivable distance per watts. Applied to a large vehiclepopulation, this goes against the efforts to conserve energy. Daimler’s Head of Future Mobility, Professor Herbert Kohler, says that inductive charging for EVs is at least 15 years away and cautioned about safety. The potential radiation of EV charging is higher than Wi-Fi or talking on a mobile phone; it could also endanger people wearing a pacemaker.

    Besides low efficiency and radiation concerns, wireless charging offers decisive advantages in industry. It allows safe charging in a hazardous environment where an electrical spark through charge contacts could cause an explosion, or where heavy grease, dust and corrosion would make electrical contacts impractical. Wireless charging also helps when multiple insertions would wear out the battery contacts too quickly. There is, however, a cost premium and this is especially apparent in custom devices that cannot take advantage of cost reductions through mass production.

    Currently, a wireless charging station will cost roughly 25 percent more than a regular charger. A 25 percent premium also applies to the receiver. If the portable device cannot be charged with the battery installed, as is possible with a mobile phone, then each battery would need its own receiver and the battery pack would bear the added cost. Unless wireless charging is necessary for convenience or environmental reasons, charging through battery contact continues to be a practical alternative.

  8. Mike 22 says:

    Inductive charging of mass transit vehicles would be neat. You could put chargers at each bus stop. The bus could run 24/7–cost savings would be attractive.

    Bidirectional coupling for all vehicles would enable grid support from the vehicles.

  9. Gingerbaker says:

    You know, if we had an aggressive Federal solar power program, we could take the meters off our houses and businesses. There is a titanic amount of free solar energy waiting to be harvested – all it takes is enough infrastructure.

    If, instead of hoping (likely in vain) that free market solutions will somehow kick in in time to save the human race, we should be demanding a new National Electrification Program. And electric roads could be part of that.

  10. Gingerbaker says:

    “cost, efficiency and radiation issues at these higher powers are insurmountable challenges.

    At a transfer efficiency of 80–90 percent, 10–20 percent of the power is lost. This reflects in a substantial energy cost to the user and should be calculated as a decrease in drivable distance per watts. Applied to a large vehiclepopulation, this goes against the efforts to conserve energy.”

    Insurmountable challenges? Perhaps for a myopic market solution-based scenario, “going against efforts to conserve energy” (industry speak for “let’s not do this because it shatters the paradigm of carbon fuel conservation”) makes sense, but not in a world where we have all the free electricity we need.

    Because if we had a 100-fold surplus of electricity produced by a designated Federal solar/wind energy project, we would never have to constrain our thinking to patterns evoked by the carbon fuel meme – concerns about cost, efficiency, market incentive, pollution would no longer be relevant.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    I agree, and one of the other articles they mention “Sensors”, which could be used to trigger (on/off) the plates. Also the cars bottom can be modified to catch more or shield radiation. Then there are working tram tracks examples since at least 2010(Korea Zoo).

    Parking lots with plate sensoring elements could be deployed even today. Which debunks the notion from Herbert Kohler that the technology is decades away.

  12. fj says:

    And, the new roads would be guard-like rails streaming highly modular single person hybrid human-electric net zero vehicles.

  13. A.J. says:

    Except every energy project costs money, whether it comes from the private sector or taxpayers. But it would be great if we could wave a magic wand and overcome political resistance and corporate influence in politics, then rapidly build out the massive renewables grid that would be necessary in order to forget about efficiency and pollution.

  14. Mark Shapiro says:

    A big “yes” to the concept of inductive chargers for buses at bus stops.

    Buses have fixed routes, so it matches the infrastructure quite well with the load.

  15. john c. wilson says:

    Yep. Why not consider the simpler solution. Drive less. Drive a lot less. Drive a much smaller vehicle. If you have a lot of cargo to carry hook up a trailer. If it’s not worth the trouble of a trailer you didn’t that much need it anyway. Drive much slower.

    We are barely keeping the roads paved and the bridges up. Buck Rogers roadways are the least of our concerns. Driving personal chariots of the gods is a problem. Making excessive consumption easier is no solution. This sounds like solving overeating by constructing Roman vomitoria.

  16. Artful Dodger says:

    Singapore already has this in City Buses with super-capacitor storage cells charged at bus stops every 2 km or so.

  17. This seems very promising indeed. It could be combined with electronic support for self-driving cars, as these could safely travel much closer together and with far fewer traffic jams.

    I have two questions: are the electric fields involved potentially bad for people, especially the very young? (Cars could possibly be shielded if so.) And, how much less efficient is this than a plug-in charge?

  18. Sorry, also, is this to be combined with solar power embedded in the roadway?

  19. Artful Dodger says:

    Give Max a break, RobS. How clever were you when you were a Summer intern? Tell us something positive.

    Like, road-embedded chargers would only be needed at stoplights, acceleration lanes, and hills, with tremendous savings and almost all of the advantages. Any technology can be made to work. Don’t judge it by this writeup.

  20. Ozonator says:

    This will put space-based energy collectors that much closer to reality. The North Koreans are already having a fit with pigeons on their leaders’ statues.

  21. RobS says:

    Sorry didn’t realise it was a summer intern and I get frustrated at the number of “just mount a windmill so the wind as it drives recharges the battery” type posts elsewhere on the net and I expect and get a much higher standard here, I could have been a bit more gentle on this occasion because I don’t think this represents that level of misunderstanding. My apologies if the guest blogger was offended by my reply.
    In terms of electrified roadways I see a place for it in a few niches where vehicles stop in a very precise spot for a relatively prolonged period of time, like busses at a bus stop or trucks in a loading dock. Charging efficiency relies on precisely aligning the charging and receiving coils so I can’t see cars making use of such a system even at traffic lights.

  22. Joan Savage says:

    “We are barely keeping the roads paved and the bridges up.”

    Thanks for mentioning that.

    It would be a “let them eat cake” attitude to expect nearly bankrupt cities to install wireless recharge for new buses or cars, while their asphalt is cracking and buckling and their taxpayers are financially stretched. I live in a city where the maintenance folk are heroes, they keep running the old garbage trucks, snow plows, fire trucks and buses that we can’t afford to replace.

  23. James W. Crissman says:

    So what happens to all the energy waves that don’t meet a receptor? Obviously I don’t understand these systems, but they would seem to involve huge waste. Why is that wrong? Is there something that points all the waves in the right direction? I can’t imagine this system would lack significant unintended effects.

  24. Gingerbaker says:

    so you recommend driving a gas engine vehicle less. Brilliant – that is your vision for a solution?

    The only answer we have that will work for the future is tech that is carbon free. And solar, my friend, is FREE power, once the infrastructure is up. And the infrastructure could be up in a few years – IF we started expecting our government to function for our future, instead of maintaining a backwards model that uses petroleum and “free-market” (as if there is such a thing) solutions.

    Do you not see how your negative attitude about using “too much energy” is completely irrelevant to solar? You can’t see past the present paradigm – or do you not want to?

  25. Gingerbaker says:

    Agreed. Which is why I think we need a movement to switch the conversation – to start seriously talking about nationalization of our national energy system for our national security. Market solutions are not working. Fine – then the government needs to step in and get it done.

    I have not seen figures on this, but we have squandered multiple trillions on war the past decade. Does anyone really think we could not build enough massive solar installations to rip the meters off the wall, if we had invested that money in our children’s future?

    We need to change the conversation, the perspective, in this country.

  26. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The so-called ‘Free Market’ is only concerned with profit maximisation and enriching the ruling elite. Externalities like the fate of humanity are of no concern.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Can you imagine anything that the plutocrats would hate and fear more than ‘free power’?