It’s about to become more convenient to own an electric car.
A scheme that makes it possible to charge electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids without ever directly plugging them into a wall outlet has been agreed to by automakers and manufacturers from around the world.
Luxury cars including the $57,900 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid and $2 million McLaren Speedtail are now ready for the system, but expect it to be delivered soon by more realistic EVs
Wireless charging for electric cars could initially seem like the answer to a question that nobody asked, a technology to ease the use of a product that hardly anyone has. But it’s the kind of comfort that people get used to easily, making it easier to buy and use more and more widely used cars.
More importantly, according to Ky Seal, who led one of the SAE committees that produced the standard, the SAE International Engineers Association had a “stunningly large community of automakers and suppliers to collaborate to establish the universal charging system, the first step in making it affordable and convenient for drivers to use. At Witricity, an MIT-bred company founded to develop wireless charging for vehicles and appliances, Seal’s day job is senior principal engineer.
The SAE — previously Society of Automotive Engineers — is responsible for creating most of the standards that help drivers figure out everything from which oil to buy to how big a trailer their truck can tow safely. The wireless power transfer (WPT) standard is SAE J2954, for those of you scoring at home.
Automakers won’t commit to when they’ll have the system on production cars, but engineers are quietly optimistic about offering it on mainstream EVs soon.
If you use wireless charging for your phone, you know how quickly having to plug in seems as old-fashioned and laborious as carrying a bucket of well water to your house. People will get used to wireless vehicle charging just as quickly.
“It makes EVs more convenient,” IHSA Markit senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. “Giving customers more choices will expand the market.”
The system delivers DC current up to 11 kilowatts at the maximum voltage the vehicle can accept over up to 10 inches of space between a pad mounted on the floor to a receiver on the vehicle. Charging efficiency is up to 94%, comparable to wired connections. The SAE is working on higher power levels for future passenger vehicles and heavy-duty applications like mining equipment.
‘Park and walk away’
The charging pads, either at the driver’s control or independently, can be fitted to direct the vehicle into position.
The pads may be used in commercial parking spaces or at home. The aim is for any car manufacturer to charge an EV at any charging station from a pad created by any supplier. This is similar to the new hardwired scheme, where a common plug is used to charge all automakers except Tesla.
Electric vehicle owners already rave about the convenience of not having to stop for gas in the rain, wind and snow. Imagine how much more they’ll like it when they don’t even have to connect a plug to their vehicles at home.
It should be as easy to charge your car as to park and walk away. Jesse Schneider, chair of the SAE task force that developed the standard, told SAE publication Automotive Engineering that the wireless charging standard SAE J2954 offers freedom and convenience to do precisely that. “The norm is a game-changer by providing a ‘cookbook’ specification to develop wireless power transfer for both the vehicle and charging infrastructure.”
There’s no indication yet of how much the systems will cost. Prices for wired home chargers have fallen rapidly, from above $2,000 in 2010 to less than $400 on Amazon today.