Wireless or inductive charging is set to bring a step change in daily life, both within and outside the home as the need for wires is eliminated. The technology is already being widely installed in smartphones and in other devices such as electric toothbrushes for example, and as it advances, in particular in terms of its range and efficiency, other applications will emerge.
A sector where arguably it could prove most disruptive is the electrification of road transport and particularly of public and heavy duty vehicles that follow standard routes. In addition to charge points in garages and depots, charging technology can be installed along highways so that vehicles can recharge on the move and such so-called ‘ehighways’ are emerging in countries including Sweden and Germany.
The city of Oslo is now looking to take the concept a step further, installing the technology for electric taxis in what is believed to be a world first. Norway is mandating that all new vehicles sold in the country will be all electric by 2025 but the intention is that all of Oslo’s taxis will be zero emission by 2023.
"The future is electric, and it is already here, right now,” says Sture Portvik, the City of Oslo's Electro Mobility Manager. “Wireless charging is a potential game changer. Together with the taxi industry we will make sure that the shift is as user friendly and efficient as possible.”
Fortum Charge & Drive
The wireless charging technology will be built by the local power provider Fortum and the US wireless charging technology provider Momentum Dynamics.
Fortum Charge & Drive has long been working with the taxi industry to enable electrification of the taxi fleet. However, the greatest hurdle has proved to be the infrastructure, with it being time consuming for drivers to find a charger, plug in and then wait for the car to charge. The new technology is aimed to solve these issues, which also should support a reduction in emissions from the sector and accelerate the uptake of electric taxis.
The project will install wireless charging plates at taxi ranks, allowing for charging up to 75kW, and receivers in the taxis. As taxis drive up to the charger, a charging session starts automatically enabling recharging whether the taxi is stationary or in a slow moving queue.
“This allows the taxis to charge in a place where they would anyway be waiting for new customers. The difference is that they won’t be emitting exhaust while waiting, instead they will be receiving renewable energy to charge the taxi's battery," points out Annika Hoffner, Head of Fortum Charge & Drive.
Fortum’s Charge & Drive has been deploying a network of charging stations and solutions across Norway, Sweden and Finland towards the more widespread and efficient use of electric vehicles (EVs) in these countries.
Wireless charging technology
While falling battery costs have been a key factor in lowering the costs and encouraging the adoption of EVs, another is the growing availability of charging infrastructure.
Wireless charging has been under development for about two decades and now is at the point where global standards are ready for final approval with the agreement of all the major players, according to Navigant Research in a recent report.
While increased convenience is the initial driver of consumer sales, the adoption of wireless charging by fleets also has the potential to influence future EV design, the report states. “Both static and dynamic charging have enormous potential beyond simply eliminating the chore of plugging and unplugging cables.”
In addition to Momentum Dynamics, into which Volvo has invested, another key provider is WiTricity, a spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. WiTricity has been working with manufacturers including BMW, GM, Mercedes Benz, Nissan and Honda and has been making inroads into markets in Asia including Japan and China. In February WiTricity deepened its position in the market with the acquisition of Qualcomm’s similar Halo wireless charging technology in a deal which included over 1,500 patents and patent applications pertaining to the technology
Some recommendations from Navigant include boosting awareness of wireless charging via experts with avenues to consumers and developing dynamic charging to speed the EV market development cycle. With vehicle-to-grid key for harnessing the flexibility of EVs, the grid integration potential of wireless charging needs to be tested and by preparing now, future costs can be avoided.