The idea of cordless charging for electric vehicles has been around for more than a decade now, and several car makers, including Nissan, GM and Volvo, have tried to develop a system that would be able to charge cars without having to plug them in. But, wireless charging is still far from becoming a reality, as the technology is too expensive at the moment, and needs to be further developed so that it can be as fast, as convenient and as efficient as plug-in charging. However, Volvo has made significant progress in this regard recently, and hopes to be able to implement the technology in production cars by 2016.
The Swedish car maker has been working on a project involving wireless charging systems, which started over two years ago, and announced that the results indicate that cordless charging is feasible and that is quite safe, as well. They have tested the system on a modified Volvo C30 Electric, and found that it works flawlessly, and that it can fully charge an electric car in about 2.5 hours, which is a pretty good charging time.
This inductive charging system relies on an electromagnetic field to transfer energy to a car’s batteries. With it, all you have to do is park your car over an inductive pad, and the charging will start automatically, eliminating the need of plugging it into an electrical outlet, which is a far more convenient and practical way for charging a car. The inductive pads look a bit like manhole covers, and can be installed in your garage, driveway and in streets.
For now, the idea is to have designated charging spots at parking lots and traffic lights, but further down the road, we could see whole streets covered in inductive pads, which would allow cars to charge as they are driving. Volvo has already tried to do that, using buses to test a moving charging system, and results showed that the system is 90 percent efficient when a vehicle is moving at no more than 43 mph.
Lennart Stegland, vice president of Electric Propulsion System at Volvo, said that “inductive charging has great potential”, and that it is very safe. But, he also stated that wireless charging can’t be implemented in production vehicles yet, because there is no common standard for this technology among car makers. Different car makers have developed different cordless charging systems, which are not compatible with vehicles made by other companies. However, he said that Volvo is not going to give up on this technology, and will continue to test its feasibility.
Apart from Volvo, there are two other car makers that have been seriously working on inductive charging. Nissan has announced that it is ready to equip the Leaf with wireless charging technology, and General Motors intend to the same for the Chevrolet Volt. They have come to an agreement with Evatran, a company that manufactures wireless charging systems, to provide the technology for their cars, which will be installed by Bosch.
Jordan Perch is an automotive fanatic and “safe driving” specialist. He is a writer for DMV.com, which is a collaborative community designed to help ease the stress and annoyance of “dealing with the DMV”.