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Utah is testing wireless charging

If you had to name one of the biggest game-change moments that the electric vehicle could bring to the world, try this one:
Every prior attempt to electrify the car has assumed the vehicle would be the energy carrier. By comparison, the grid is much more efficient at moving energy from point A to point B, so if you can make dynamic charging safe and affordable, you are truly introducing something new.

That’s the vision of Jeff Muhs, director of Strategy and Business Development for Utah State University’s Energy Dynamics Laboratory (EDL), whom we spoke with at the 26th Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS26) in Los Angeles recently. Dynamic charging is another way to say charging while a vehicle is moving by using in-road wireless charging units, something that USU has been working on for a while.

Most people believe that in-motion charging is inevitable.

For now, USU is focusing on stationary wireless charging and will launch an electric bus route later this summer in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah campus. The electric bus will travel along a mile-and-a-half route, stopping at either end for a few minutes to charge up. Using a bus at this stage makes sense as a way to test the technology because it’s big, it travels along a fixed route and there is recharge time built into the schedule. An electric bus also helps reduce noise and emissions on campus, which is something the university wanted. USU’s wireless charging team is also working on improving the space tolerance (making the charger work even if things are not perfectly aligned), the power levels (systems that are 20-50 kW instead of just 5-10 kW) and efficiencies.

Muhs said the general industry-wide timeline for wireless charging is to have prototypes out over the next 12-18 months. To move beyond that, one of the requirements for wider adoption of wireless charging is interoperability. The reason this is important is that, in two or three years, when more wireless-charging vehicles are driving about, it will be important to allow a manufacturer’s in-car pad to work when it’s parked on anyone’s in-ground pad. “This is a little different than plug-in technology in that, in the case of plug-ins, you can just buy an adapter from one person’s plug to another cord, so to speak,” Muhs said. “With wireless, you can’t really do that. You can’t slide something different underneath a car. So that means the whole standards setting process, particularly as it related to interoperability, is very important.” Very important, indeed.


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