Could wireless charging be the secret sauce for electric vehicles?

Electric vehicles have yet to make it to the main stream, but many believe that the industry is about the turn the corner soon. That, in part, is thanks to new advancements in the ...

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Could wireless charging be the secret sauce for electric vehicles?

Wireless charging an electric vehicle

Wireless charging might not be a top factor in the overall decision to make the switch to an electric vehicle, but a feature that adds convenience can only help tip the scales in an EV’s favor.

Key Points

  • Wireless charging could make electric vehicles a more convenient option.
  • Instead of plugging in, EV owners could recharge by parking over a power mat.
  • New technology is making wireless charging more efficient.

Electric vehicles have yet to make it to the main stream, but many believe that the industry is about the turn the corner soon. That, in part, is thanks to new advancements in the tech behind the cars that make them more user friendly.

One of those improvements is wireless charging. Sure, pumping gas is a pain, but making the switch charging your electric vehicle might not add a whole lot of convenience to your life. When you get home, you’ll need to add plugging your car into your routine. That might not seem like a big deal unless you have a crying baby who wants out of the car seat immediately and groceries melting in the trunk that need your attention. Not to mention the next morning when you speed out of your garage and forget that your car is plugged in. Not that any of us would ever do that.

Enter wireless charging technology. A wireless charger would take most of the hassle out of fueling up your vehicle. At home, you’d just need to park your car over a box about the size of a pizza box to begin charging. You could even build the box into your garage floor so it’s not even noticeable.

The same technology could be used at public charging stations, making it even easier for electric vehicle drivers to park and get on their way without having to take the time to plug in before starting the charging process. This could be an especially welcome feature in cold parts of the country where fumbling with a charging cord means more time for your face to hurt in the freezing temperatures.

The most efficient way to charge vehicles wirelessly is using a technology called magnetic resonance. Here's how Fast Company describes the process:

Inside the power mat, a circular coil converts alternating electrical current into magnetic waves. A power amplifier controls the current and the frequency of the waves. Up inside the car, a receiver device situated near the car’s power management system contains another coil that’s tuned to receive magnetic waves at the same frequency as the source coil. The receiver then turns the magnetic energy back into electric current to be stored in the car’s battery.

And here’s the best part: magnetic resonance is efficient, meaning it doesn’t lose a lot of energy when it passes through the air between the power mat and the car. Other approaches, like radio frequency-based systems, would lose about 10 percent of the energy during the charging process compared to magnetic resonance’s seven percent.

There are two main companies who own the rights to the technology, WiTricity and Qualcomm. Right now the Society of Automotive Engineers is working on creating common standards so if you buy an EV with one brand’s wireless device, you can still charge it at a public charging station that happens to use the other brand. Those standards are expected to be ratified this year or next.

Wireless charging might not be a top factor in the overall decision to make the switch to an electric vehicle, but a feature that adds convenience can only help tip the scales in an EV’s favor.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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