Is wireless tech about to supercharge your world?

Germany has installed its first public EV charging road, and developers say wireless charging is about to change the way we live and work, forever.
Alice Cooke
Screenshot 2023-01-03 163051.jpg
  • A new public road in Germany will charge electric buses as they drive on it

  • Across the globe, wireless technology is advancing at pace, including autonomous garages in China

  • Weight and range are the main challenges for self-charging vehicles, but watch this space

Germany's first-ever public wireless road project will use tech from a top supplier of wireless and in-road wireless electric vehicle (EV) charging for commercial and passenger EVs.

The initiative will start by charging an electric bus that travels through the city, but it’s hoped it will progress far beyond that. 

The technology, which is from Electreon, charges EVs dynamically (while they're moving) and statically (while they’re still) to reduce battery capacity needs, eliminate range anxiety, lower total ownership costs, and charge EVs quickly and safely. 

The technology will be introduced in the city of Balingen in two stages. The first phase will set up a 1,312-foot (400-meter) path with two static charging stations. In the second phase, 1,969 feet (600 meters) will be added to the length of the electric road.

In collaboration with EnBW, which is the top German provider of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, Electreon will put a 0.62-mile (1-kilometer) Electric Road System (ERS) along a stretch of road.

The wireless option is, without doubt, a more convenient way for drivers to get enough juice into their car quickly without plugging in… if it works. 

Which is why this isn’t enterprise isn’t a one-off and Electreon isn’t the only one with skin in the game. Far from it, in fact. 

The development of wireless charging systems for EVs has slowly gathered momentum over the past decade. Once wireless charging systems are properly integrated into vehicles and situated strategically around a city, as well as at owners' homes, there is the promise of never needing to plug in an EV again. 

There are a number of companies jostling to be the dominant player in the wireless EV charging space including WiTricity, Hevo, Wave, IPT Technology, Momentum Dynamics… and many more.

The gloves (and wires) are off

WiTricity, a global developer of wireless charging technology, is reportedly attracting millions in investments from automotive suppliers and tech companies alike, and is said to be entering into a new agreement with a major manufacturer of wireless charging systems for industrial vehicles.

In fact, this month, the Massachusetts-based company announced a global licensing agreement with German tech company Wiferion to use WiTricity's patented intellectual properties to further develop its wireless charging capabilities for electric industrial devices… including robots as well as transport carts.

WiTricity says it estimates wireless charging increases factory uptime 32 percent, “through efficiencies gained by allowing continual autonomous operations,” and it also eliminates safety concerns related to the elimination of exposed electrical connectors.

The bigger picture

Elsewhere, WiTricity's core automotive business also had a huge boost earlier this year, when it won a $25 million investment from Siemens AG (which also took a minority stake.)

This deal with Siemens AG, the German auto supplier, means Siemens will start selling wireless charging infrastructure. 

Siemens estimates that the market for wireless recharging in Europe and North America alone will reach $2 billion by 2028. So, this is no flash in the pan. 

Riding the WAVE

Meanwhile, WAVE (Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification) is concentrating on developing wireless charging solutions for the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sectors.

They maintain that it’s not that inconvenient to plug your EV in at home, but where commercial vehicles such as buses operate several hours a day, there’s not a lot of time to charge. And this is especially true for the vehicles in the trucking industry, which can be on the road for 20 hours a day if driven by more than one driver.

The science behind it

Wireless charging for vehicles is really the same basic concept as a wireless iPhone charger. When you run current through a coil, you can induce a current through a magnetic field. 

And you can induce a current in another coil that’s completely separate from the one that has the current in it – essentially you’ve transferred power via the magnetic field.

Producing the cars to match

It’s all very well producing the charging technology, but what about the vehicles that are capable of repowering wirelessly?

Don’t worry, they’ve thought of that too.

The first vehicles are already rolling out, built around the new global charging standards (which changed most recently in 2020). 

One example of this is the Genesis GV60 SUV, which includes an integrated charging receiver designed to be used with a pad that’s positioned under the car.

Basically, you park over the pad and it starts charging.

Meanwhile, in China, FAW and Wanda Group are in the process of building 60 autonomous parking garages. There, vehicles park themselves, charge themselves and then return to the driver when summoned – now that’s the future. 

The challenges

Weight. Weight is the main challenge here. 

Installing a battery that will charge wirelessly is currently a very heavy affair – and when you’re a truck driver, weight matters. The less the vehicle weighs the more it can legally transport, so it has a big effect on profit margins. 

And there’s also range. Truck drivers need to cover a lot of ground, it’s the nature of the job. So the range on this wireless charging needs to be big, and charge quickly, like, in a coffee break quickly. 

So there are hurdles… but nothing that can’t be overcome with a bit of clever thinking. 

Looking to the future

If all our other technologies are anything to go by, we’ll be pulling the plug on traditional charging on everything eventually, it’s just a matter of time. 

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