What’s the problem with today’s electric cars? They are very fast, do not consume that much power and can large distances on a single charge. However, the real problem is that they still take quite some time to get charged. Renault now is saying that in the future we will not have to charge our electric cars at all (amost). Wouldn’t that be nice?
As you probably guessed by now, this idea is related to wireless charging technology. It is not exactly new, although not many cars have that feature and infrastructure is scarce. It can be very quick though and very convenient. For example, you could just leave your car on a driveway with all electronic hidden underneath the pavement and just walk away – your car would be ready for you to go to work the next day. Or electric cars could come to a specialized charging place and drive through it slowly, while getting charged.
Renault, Qualcomm Technologies and Vedecom partnered together to develop a high-tech solution to electric car charging. What they created and tested is a dynamic wireless electric vehicle charging track, which charges the vehicles as they drive over it. What is unique about it is that it can charge vehicles driving at the speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour. So this technology could be used in some streets in the city, where most electric vehicles are going to live anyway. Partners already built a 100 metre stretch of road using this technology.
Renault Kangoos Z.E. was used for the tests. It is a small commercial van, using the basic powertrain from the Renault Zoe (and Nissan electric vehicles for that matter). It also had to be modified – it received a flat coil system, which allows charging its batteries wirelessly. In a production vehicle it would not compromise interior space or passenger comfort. It would also be completely safe.
Renault thinks that in the near future charging electric cars using a plug will be history. You would drive normally on your daily commute and your car would simply charge by driving over certain streets. And not even at low speeds. However, no one knows yet if this system is feasible and cost-effective. Who would pay for electricity used to run the system, maintenance and service? Would these strong magnetic fields damage consumer electronics in the car?
These are the questions that must be answered before the project is taken too far. EU is investing in research and development and many car manufacturers are interested too. Wireless charging will definitely provide the biggest share on energy needed by electric vehicles, but so far it is not clear what is the best way to introduce it to the city infrastructure.