Will electric passenger vehicles finally get untethered? It's looking more likely now. A wireless charging system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee just achieved three times the rate and 90 percent the efficiency of regular plug-in systems.
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A team at the lab achieved the highest wireless charging rate for passenger vehicles to date. They charged a Toyota RAV4 equipped with an extra 10-kilowatt-hour battery using a special wireless 20-kilowatt system.
What started several years ago as a proof-of-concept experiment is now much closer to real deployment, according to a press release from the lab. "The technology is highly efficient," Omer Onar, a fellow in the lab's Electrical and Electronics Systems Research Division, says in a video highlighting the achievement.
If the "wireless" part of this powerful step freaks you out, you're not alone. To address concerns about safety, ORNL used focused and shielded high-frequency magnetic fields for the power transfer. Magnetic fields around the static system quickly dip to levels well below international limits, the lab's team lead Madhu Chinthavali said in the announcement.
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Although plug-in charging for electric vehicles has improved in recent years, being able to recharge batteries wirelessly would be super convenient - especially for fleet vehicles. Electric buses could simply charge on the go through wireless systems set up along their routes.
Efficient wireless charging has been a goal for a while now. We've seen various approaches ranging from manhole covers to tech embedded in the roads themselves. And Qualcomm already proved that it can be done for race cars with their Halo technology.
Next, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory team wants to achieve 50-kilowatt wireless recharging, which would be on the same level as plug-in quick chargers currently on the market. They're also looking at the possibility of a more dynamic system. Check out their wireless setup here: