Wireless charging of electrical devices is the next technology that is starting to contribute to revolutionizing how we go about our lives, both in the home and outside.
Companies such as Google and Samsung are increasingly offering wireless charging with their latest smartphones and other companies and devices are fast following. Companies such as Ikea are producing furniture with built-in chargers. With the greater ease to keep devices powered up and running, wireless charging will contribute to the move to an increasingly interconnected Internet of Things world.
Wireless charging technologies
But there are some hurdles to overcome, not the least being competing technologies. A step forward has been made in this direction with an agreement earlier this year between the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA) to merge into a new, yet to be named organization to bring a “core charging standard” bridging the two wireless charging technologies. This pits the new organization against the Wireless Power Consortium with its Qi standard, which is widely used in smartphones. But whether there needs to be further consolidation is questionable: Samsung has overcome the issue with its latest Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge devices by including built-in support for both Qi and PMA in a model which other companies could readily mimic.
A second hurdle is advancing the technology and in most cases to date this is based on the principle of induction, in which a suitably equipped device is placed on a mat or piece of furniture with built-in induction coils. However, non-inductive techniques are also under development, such as the WattUp technology from Energous in which energy is sent to an enabled device via a radio frequency (RF) signal.
Wireless charging of EVs
One of the focuses for wireless charging is electric vehicles, with the potential for easier charging to stimulate the market for these vehicles. Several automotive companies are working on wireless charging technologies. [Engerati-Research Boosts the Inductive Charging Market]
Stationary charging is one thing, but charging on the move is another – and that is what is now going to be investigated in a world first project by the UK government’s Highways England. As a result of a feasibility study into ‘dynamic wireless power transfer’ technologies, off road trials of the technology are due to take place starting later this year. The aim is to test how the technology would work safely and effectively on the country’s motorways and major roads, allowing drivers of ultra-low emission vehicles to travel long distances without needing to stop and charge the car’s battery.
“The potential to recharge low emission vehicles on the move offers exciting possibilities,” commented Transport Minister Andrew Jones. “As this study shows, we continue to explore options on how to improve journeys and make low-emission vehicles accessible to families and businesses.”
In the trials, which are expected to last over 18 months, vehicles will be fitted with wireless technology and equipment will be installed underneath the road to replicate motorway conditions.
In the feasibility study, 17 wireless power transfer technologies were investigated, of which eight have a dynamic capability. Most of these were found to have a Technology Readiness Level between 4 and 8 but a lower Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) between 3 and 7.
The government has committed £500 million over the next five years to keep Britain at the forefront of this technology. In addition Highways England is committed in the longer-term to installing plug-in charging points every 30km (20 miles) on the motorway network as part of the government’s Road Investment Strategy.
EV wireless charging prospects
A recent report from Strategy Analytics finds that wireless charging systems will enter the EV market in 2017 and by 2028 could be displacing conductive charging systems. Early adopters of the technology are likely to be road haulage companies and buses which regularly use particular stretches of road. But it is also too soon to start writing off wired charging: In Ningbo, China an electric bus has been developed using supercapacitor technology with a claimed 10 second charging time - effectively enabling it to cover its route with recharges at passenger stops. Such speed and ease of charging will go a long way to advancing the EV market.