Electric car owners can already look forward to shortened recharge times and robotic service stations capable of swapping out their batteries on the road. Now a new push for wireless charging technology could free drivers from even having to bother plugging in their vehicles at home or in parking lots.
The idea of beaming energy through the air without wires could apply to more devices than just electric cars; cellphones, game controllers, laptop computers and even robots could use such wireless recharging. That's the vision of a company called WiTricity, which has teamed up with Mitsubishi Motors and IHI Corporation to make the wireless recharging real for electric vehicles.
"Electric vehicles offer great potential for reducing CO2 emissions and reliance on fossil fuels," said Eric Giler, chief executive officer of WiTricity. "However, they must be user-friendly, and wireless charging is an important feature that greatly improves the user experience."
WiTricity's existing technology can already harness the power of magnetism to deliver up to 3.3 kilowatts of power over a distance of almost 8 inches (20 cm) with an efficiency rate of more than 90 percent. That means charging could automatically happen for cars parked above the energy source, as long as the cars have an energy capture device.
But the private effort faces several challenges in deploying the wireless charging technology. It must work out the technical and business kinks of putting such systems into cars and charging stations, as well as iron out any possible legal issues. That represents the first stop on the road from research and development to full-scale commercialization.
"Like we have done with promotion and education of electric vehicle infrastructure such as quick-chargers and being involved with 'smart grid' technology, we are happy to enter into a new phase of electric vehicle infrastructure development," said Osamu Masuko, president of Mitsubishi Motors.