By Guest Blogger Rachel MacDonald
Electric vehicle technology has moved forward in leaps and bounds in recent years, due to a high consumer interest in cutting fuel costs. Although electric cars were associated with clunky design and a functional rather than pleasurable driving experience in the past, this has all changed. Sleek models like the Tesla Model S provide both speed and luxury, while economic choices like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf are becoming more affordable to everyday consumers.
However, numerous barriers must still be removed before electric cars will ever become truly mainstreamed. Consumers are still unfamiliar with the technology used to power electric cars; which scares many potential buyers off. A lack of charging stations in rural areas prevents a large swathe of the market from even considering an electric vehicle. Electric cars have limited range, with models like the Nissan Leaf only able to travel for 80 miles before needing a recharge.
One solution to both of these problems is to create home charging stations. With a home charging station, consumers can feel safe in the knowledge that they can charge their car at home, overnight, in order to have a fresh start for the day. Many major cities are also installing faster chargers in metropolitan areas to help boost consumer confidence in electric vehicle technology. Tesla is currently working on rapid charging stations in cities like San Francisco and Boston for this purpose.
Wireless charging technology could take these advances to the next level. Also known as inductive charging, this technology allows any device to charge without a physical connection to the power source. It’s currently being developed for devices ranging from smartphones to electric cars.
Surprisingly, Tesla isn’t leading the way with testing for wireless charging. Instead, Infiniti, Nissan, and Rolls-Royce will be some of the first automakers to offer this feature. With inductive charging, there’s no need to fiddle with the power cord or plug the car into a physical charging spot.
One prototype of this type of service is being devised by Qualcomm, called Halo. This technology would be used both in interstate highways and parking lots, allowing drivers to power up their batteries while on the go. As you park your car in the lot or drives along the highway, it’s recharged using a wireless connection. However, because there are conflicting standards in the electric car industry, it would be difficult to devise a service that would be compatible with all brands of electric cars.
Inductive charging uses radio waves to transmit energy from a conducting wire to the receiver coil in the vehicle. A potential concern of using this technology is that it could release stray radio waves into the vicinity, or release heat absorbed by nearby metal objects. However, not only do many developers insist that their technology is safe, but researchers at the University of British Columbia have also developed an alternative form of wireless charging that could be even safer and more efficient.
This new concept uses a magnetic field interaction to activate a small generator within the car. This could not only be more efficient and safer, but also cheaper to implement. With advances such as these, widespread wireless charging could come to the electric car industry in the next couple of years. As a result, it could make electric cars a far more viable option for the average motorist.
Rachel MacDonald is a freelance writer with an interest in sustainable design. She is eager to see what happens next with the use of wireless charging in Infiniti cars and hopes this technology enters the mainstream.