What if you could charge your Nissan Leaf while stopped at a red light? Several automakers are developing wireless charging mats that would, in theory, allow drivers of electric vehicles to do just that.
The idea is that when the car is positioned over the charging mat, coils on the car's undercarriage would engage with the charger. Two types of chargers are in development: One uses magnetic resonance, and the other works by induction, like an electric toothbrush set into a charging cradle.
General Motors has invested in an induction-based company called Powermat and the technology is being used in GM vehicles to charge personal electronic devices by placing them over an embedded Powermat.
The magnetic resonance chargers, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are capable of recharging a vehicle in four hours. Audi, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Delphi Automotive are working with a company that uses this technology. The chargers are expected to cost more than $2,000. At that price, they may be best suited for public use, especially considering that the high cost of EVs has been an impediment for prospective buyers.
Wireless public chargers could help alleviate the top concern with EVs: range anxiety. Being able to get a charge while the car sits in a grocery-store parking lot, or even while waiting for a traffic light to turn green, could boost drivers' confidence in their car's ability to make it home before the battery goes kaput.
Testing of wireless charging is now under way in London where Qualcomm is outfitting as many as 50 electric vehicles with wireless chargers.