Could Wireless Charging Mats Cut the Cord for Electric Cars?

In an effort to open the market for electric vehicles (EVs), scientists, car manufacturers and entrepreneurs are all looking for ways to remove the barriers, which mostly revolve around the range a car gets before having to be charged and how long it takes to charge. 

Scientists at Stanford University have found a way to tweak lithium batteries, which could extend the range of an EV to 300 miles on a charge, the same as a conventional car.

Solar Roadways is another example, an electrified road that allows electric vehicles to recharge anywhere such as rest stops or parking lots, giving them the same range as a conventonal vehicle.

Automakers are working to "cut the cord" by developing a mat that a car sits on to wirelessly replenish the battery. The matt would be plugged in but the car isn’t – coils on the underside of the car would engage the charger when the car parks on the mat. Automakers and suppliers expect to have the chargers ready for sale around 2015, reports Bloomberg.

"The feedback we see from initial Volt and Leaf buyers is that, ‘Gee, these cords get really dirty; gee, these cords get all tangled; what a pain in the neck,’" Phil Gott, an IHS Automotive analyst specializing in power-train research told Bloomberg. "A wireless charger truly gives you total freedom." 

Nissan, Volkswagen, Audi, Toyota and Mitsubishi are among about a dozen companies developing wireless chargers.

GM invested $5 million in Powermat, but so far it plans to use the technology to charge smartphones and other devices in the car.

In London, Qualcom is testing embedded wireless charging mats in city streets and parking garages, with the goal of  licensing the technology to automakers and charger manufacturers.

Last month, eight automakers agreed to standardize charging systems for electric cars, saying harmonized technology will speed up charging times.

The number of public charging stations globally is projected to more than triple this year to 98,503 from 28,479 in 2011, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Most of the new stations will be in China and Europe.

In related news, charging technology company ECOtality announced a joint venture to bring its products to China.

The joint venture with Changchun Eco-Power Technology Co is called Tianjin Eco-Power Technology Co.

They will manufacture and distribute ECOtality charging products for a range of EVs, including two and three-wheel vehicles, buses, material handling equipment, and airport ground support – all custom designed for the regional marketplace. They are setting up an assembly plant there also. 

China’s recently adopted 12th Five-Year Plan calls for a network of 2,000 charging stations with 400,000 EV chargers in more than 20 pilot cities by 2015.

In the US, ECOtality is deploying charging stations across the country with funding from the Recovery Act. Its focus is placing them in 18 cities and homes and places of business, such as Walgreens and Ikea.

Although we keep hearing about very low EV sales around the world, Pike Research estimates global sales will surpass 257,000 units this year, about half in Asia. 

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