By: Christian Okolski
Last Monday, Evatran put out a press release announcing that its PLUGLESS wireless charging system will soon be available to owners of the Cadillac ELR, GM’s luxury plug-in hybrid. The PLUGLESS L2 wireless charging system was first made available to owners of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF, and the Cadillac ELR will be the third vehicle that is compatible with the system. Evatran notes that ELR owners are now able to pre-order the PLUGLESS L2, which may be delivered as early as September 1st. Moreover, the company says that it will make its wireless charging system available to owners of three additional “premium” electric vehicle models by the end of the year.
Wireless charging for electric vehicles employs a process called magnetic induction to charge an electric vehicle without a cord or plugging in. In order for the technology to work, it requires two main hardware components, a transmitter on the ground that draws electricity from the grid and a receiver on the vehicle that is able to send electricity to the battery. When the transmitter on the ground uses grid electricity to create a magnetic field, that field “induces” an electric charge in the vehicle’s receiver. Once the receiver receives the induced charge of electricity through the transmitter’s magnetic field, it simply feeds that electricity into the battery to charge it. In order to charge properly, the vehicle and its receiver must be properly aligned over the transmitter in order to facilitate charging.
Evatran’s website has some good photos of what its wireless charging technology looks like and gives those unfamiliar with the technology a better idea of how it works. Moreover, Evatran says that its PLUGLESS L2 system charges electric vehicles just as fast as a traditional, plug-in device, and it allows customers to use charging timers and mobile apps to manage the system.
Wireless charging for electric vehicles is more widespread and has been around for longer than many may know. A company called Conductix Wampfler, for instance, is one of the earliest pioneers of the technology and has been charging electric buses in Italy since 2002! In addition, major automakers like BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Volvo, Toyota, Nissan, and more are all developing wireless charging technologies as well. Although some of these automakers have licensed the heart of their systems from WiTricity, an MIT “spinoff” company that has also pioneered the field, there is clear interest from major automotive industry players in the commercialization of wireless charging technology. However, it is important to note that Evatran, through its PLUGLESS system, is the first company to actually commercialize the technology and sell to owners of mass-market electric vehicles. According to a recent article by the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Virginia-based company was expecting to ship 50 wireless charging units in July, although it previously only had 25 units in the field.
Ultimately, being able to charge electric vehicles wirelessly could be an important component to a convenient charging infrastructure, and there is certainly value in the ability to simply park and charge, without having to plug anything into the vehicles. It will be very important, however, that the prices of wireless charging systems remain competitive with their plug-in counterparts in order for them to be successful. Moreover, it will be just as necessary for these systems to work with the majority of, if not all, electric vehicles and provide interoperability among different manufacturers of transmitters and receivers. Only through interoperability, will wireless charging one day be able to move into the public domain, where city streets and workplace parking lots can offer wireless charging to electric vehicle drivers with many different vehicle types.