Maybe we won't even need plugs to recharge electric cars in the future. It will be like magic: Simply drive around and the whole thing gets powered wirelessly with help from magnetic fields. The New Zealand-based company HaloIPT recently unveiled its commercially available charging technology that makes that magic possible.
HaloIPT's debut definitely isn't the first time I've heard of wireless car charging. Not long ago, a team of German university students announced that they had created a small aerodynamic vehicle that draws power from conducting paths on a track. HaloIPT's technology seems more advanced, though, and the company says it can work in all kinds of weather conditions.
IPT stands for "inductive power transfer" and as CleanTechnica's Chris Milton writes, the system works a little like the way an electric toothbrush gets charged. Just on a much, much larger scale. Inside the car, electricity energizes an inductive coil attached to a bunch of capacitors that help keep the currents and voltages at the right levels. Outside the car, a pad containing separate coils or "pick-up" coils get coupled magnetically to the primary coil. The coils all get tuned to the right operating frequency and electricity is transferred to them using a switch-mode controller.
The car just needs to be in proximity to the pad containing the pick-up coils. Power flows to the transmitter, and magnetic resonance goes through the receiver to the controller and voila, the battery gets recharged. At least, that's my understanding of the technology. HaloIPT's system, according to the company, works with different kinds of car batteries. CBC News reported that the charging speed is comparable to that of a plug-in.
If charge time is similar, you're probably wondering what's so great about this. I did, too. The company's long-term goal is pretty awesome, though. The vision is having inductive power transfer tech embedded right into roads so EVs will be able to charge as they move along. Range anxiety? Range infinity. I also like that the tech is supposed to be durable, reducing e-waste. Not to mention how beautifully it would get us set up for widespread vehicle-to-grid systems.
The technology is supposed to work even when there are about 16 inches between the charger and the receiver. And drivers won't need to park directly over the pad with the coils for it to still work. The controller has sensors that detect what's going on with the battery, potentially maximizing battery life.
At the moment, the company has a demo version of its tech but plans to get a commercial-scale version ready in two years. By then, wireless recharging will be heralded as a convenient, painless way to keep going, even if it's sleeting outside.