Qualcomm creates a wireless road that can charge electric cars on the move
- Qualcomm links together wireless charging pads on a 100m stretch of road
- An electric car driving on the highway picks up 20 kilowatts of power
- Multiple vehicles can be charged when travelling at speeds of up to 62mph
- Technology is part of a €9m project looking into wireless car charging
Wireless vehicle charging that could see electric cars get their batteries topped up by the roads they are driven is a step closer to reality.
Smartphone chip maker Qualcomm has created a 100-metre stretch of road that sends charge to electric vehicles travelling on it, even at high speeds.
The introduction of such wireless charging highways could revolutionise the electric-car market, eradicating range anxiety and the impracticality of having to stop for extended periods to recharge batteries – two of the biggest hurdles for electric vehicle adoption today.
The first live demonstration of the tech firm’s Scalextric-like road took place last week in France.
It works by linking a number of Qualcomm’s ‘Halo’ wireless charging pads – designed to charge an electric car when it’s parked – into a stretch of tarmac.
Experts at the company have already suggested implementing the pads into sections of road at traffic lights and even in taxi ranks to charge cars when they’re at a standstill.
However, the latest demonstration showed that the technology is adaptable for a dynamic scenario too.
Two Renault vans, converted to work in sync with inductive charging pads in the road surface, were driven on the short stretch of highway to show that it’s capable of topping-up batteries in multiple moving vehicles at the same time.
A consistent 20 kilowatts of power was sent to each car during the demo, which is almost on a par with the 22 kilowatts provided by most public electric-car charging points dotted around the UK.
New wireless charging road charges electric vehicles on the move
Qualcomm has already developed a wireless charging pad called Halo designed to be used to charge an electric vehicle when it is at a standstill. But it has found that the technology is also effective when supplying power to cars on the move
If integrated into the nation’s road network, it would almost certainly bring an end to range anxiety – when motorists become stressed about how much electric charge is remaining on long journey.
It could also mean that vehicles could return from a journey with more battery life than they left with – and significantly reduce travel times for electric vehicle drivers who would no longer have to go in search of plug-in points and then wait for the batteries to be replenished.
Importantly, the speed at which vehicles travel has no impact on the rate of charge either, according to Qualcomm.
The demonstration showed there was a consistent supply of wireless charge sent to the cars when they were driven at low speeds and up to 62mph, suggesting the surface could be adopted into motorways where electric car use is most limited.
The US company also said there was a downpour during the demonstration, which had no impact on how the 20 kilowatt output.
The firm, which supplies chips for Android and Apple phones, has been developing the technology in partnership with French research institution Vedcome, as part of a €9 million pan-European project looking into the feasibility of wireless electric vehicle charging, called FABRIC.
CEO of Vedcom, Luc Marbach, said: ‘Our engineers and management have fully supported this project since the very beginning as it aligns perfectly with our focus on EVs, charging systems and mobility services.
‘We are a public-private partnership focused on pre-competitive research. The installation of one of the world’s first DEVC test platforms has provided us with a unique test facility and we look forward to expanding our expertise with the future testing.’
Clearly, there are a few potholes in the concept, such as the high cost of installing and maintaining the high-tech roads, as well as how drivers will be billed for tapping into the power they supply.
However, such developments could have a wider impact on the industry as a whole, as electric vehicles would require fewer batteries and as a result become lighter as well as more affordable to build and buy.
The UK has been looking into the possibility of electric motorways since 2013, with trails kicking off two years ago as part of big investments to put the country at the forefront of electric and autonomous vehicle adoption.
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