Yesterday at the Silicon Valley Driving Charged & Connected EV symposium at SAP in Palo Alto I had the opportunity to witness plugless charging, in which an electric vehicle drives up over a charging pad and automatically starts charging — without plugging in.
Not being an electrical engineer by training, I fumbled over what to call this thing – “wireless charging”? “touchless charging”? “plugless charging”? – finally settling on “thing with wireless piece” in my intro to this demo in which Geoff Ryder, Sustainability Principal at SAP, clarified what’s actually happening in conversation with Adam Langton, Energy Regulatory Analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission:
Despite my fumbling over what to call this (the manufacturer, Evatran, favors Plugless Power, and in the streets people know this as “inductive charging”), I could imagine how this could change the game entirely for the electric vehicle and more should these things become ubiquitous.
Not so with this decidedly curmudgeonly take from Paul Scott from Plug In America:
I think it’s kind of silly, to tell the truth. Not that it doesn’t have applications, but if they think people will like EVs more because you can drive over a spot in your driveway and charge, saving you the arduous task of having to (gasp!) plug in your car, then they don’t understand the nature of the American people I grew up with. Most of my friends are perfectly willing to spend the three seconds it takes to physically plug in the car.
The American people Paul would have grown up with, however, did not have to gas up their cars multiple times a day. Without long-range EVs available to most of us, the typical EV driver currently needs to constantly worry about where to find the next charge. This is hardly a “sexy luxury” – this is a true need of today’s consumer EVs.
If you can imagine a future in which inductive charging is not just in every parking space but actually embedded in our roads, then you can imagine how this changes the game not just for EVs but for vehicular transport in general. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute:
Wireless charging is a big topic among car-share services because EV operators in a car-share often forget to plug in the car, leaving a drained battery for the next user. Embedding inductive charging within roads could actually supplement EV range and reduce range anxiety. For instance, the Nissan LEAF is rated at 73 miles on a charge. A trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas can’t happen in a LEAF, but if inductive charging was available every 50 miles while you drive in a boost zone, today’s EVs could make the trip.
In this future, one way or another, you can make the trip and never have to get out to charge — or put fossil fuels into your car — ever again.
And in that future, if you don’t even have to connect to anything to charge, maybe the sky’s not even the limit.