Unplugging the EV

30 June 2016
Unplugging the EV

Thanks to the latest generation of wireless electric vehicle charging technologies such as Qualcomm Halo™, the inconvenience and hassle of using power cables to connect to charging points could soon be a thing of the past for EV and PHEV drivers. Anthony Smith reports

Plugging in for a recharge has to be the least glamorous aspect of driving an electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Whereas most drivers of conventional diesel or gasoline fuelled vehicles might typically need to visit the service station to refill their tank once every week or two, plug-in vehicles should ideally be recharged rather more frequently, requiring them to be parked close to a charging point. However, recharging cables can be cumbersome and they collect dirt from repeatedly being run along the ground in different locations. Small wonder, therefore, that many PHEV owners do not bother with public charging points and instead rely on their combustion engine until they get home; drivers of pure EVs have no option but to find a charge point and plug in.

The most attractive alternative to plug-in charging is something we are familiar with from electric toothbrushes and the latest generation of smartphones: contactless or wireless charging. This technology enables such devices to charge automatically, without the need to plug in. The technology uses resonant magnetic induction to transfer energy wirelessly from a base pad to a pad integrated into the device.

Yet those domestic devices are small and comparatively low powered, with a tiny fraction of the energy storage requirements of a modern EV or PHEV. Wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC) is based on the same principle: energy is transferred wirelessly from a ground-based pad, on or beneath the road surface or parking bay, to a pad integrated into the vehicle. Moreover, for WEVC to work on a practical basis, it needs to be able to do so over a comparatively large air gap between the vehicle pad and the ground pad. It also needs to be implemented in conformity with international standards for safety that ensure robust systems for critical functions such as living object protection (LOP) and foreign object detection (FOD) as well as providing for effective interoperability with other systems and technologies.

Unlike some other inductive charging solutions that need pads to be closely aligned or almost touching, Qualcomm Halo™ delivers high energy transfer over a large air gap up to and including that which might be necessary for the high ground clearance of SUVs. The advanced multi-coil design of the system is also capable of impressively high power transfer rates – 3.7 kW and 7.4 kW in current commercial installations; luxury and performance vehicle applications have already been demonstrated at up to 22 kW capacities, and the transmission efficiencies are close to those of wired connections, particularly at higher power levels.

Formula E safety cars
One of the most widely visible demonstrations of the Qualcomm Halo(TM)technology can be seen in the official Qualcomm Safety Cars used in the current eleven-race season of the FIA’s Formula E Championship; this season’s championship started in Beijing in October 2015 and concludes in London in July 2016. This year’s safety car is based on a version of the BMW i8 equipped for recharging wirelessly with an advanced Qualcomm Halo™ 7.4 kW wireless charging system.

With the increasing focus on hybrid and electric vehicles from automakers seeking to reduce tailpipe emissions, Ricardo sees the simplified charging process offered by WEVC as an important enabling technology for the mass adoption of EVs and PHEVs. “The increasing electrification of transportation is important in enabling society to reduce its reliance upon CO2-emitting fossil fuels and also improve the quality of air in our towns and cities,” says Ricardo CEO Dave Shemmans. “Wireless charging is a potentially very promising enabler for more widespread adoption of pure electric and plugin hybrid vehicles, with consequent environmental benefits.”

Technology licence agreement
Ricardo regards Qualcomm Halo™ technology as an advanced WEVC solution that has the potential to meet automakers’ and drivers’ desires for simple and convenient EV charging. For this reason, Ricardo and Qualcomm Incorporated have entered into a WEVC technology licence agreement, allowing Ricardo to commercialize WEVC systems for vehicles based on Qualcomm Halo™ technology. Under the terms of the agreement, Qualcomm has granted to Ricardo a royalty-bearing technology licence to develop, make and supply WEVC systems for automobile manufacturers. Qualcomm subsidiaries will provide technical expertise and engineering support.

Working with Qualcomm will enable Ricardo to design and build WEVC systems that meet automakers’ requirements for wireless charging today and in the future, in the anticipation of increased demand for higher power, faster charging, different deployment methods such as buried charging pads, and for WEVC systems which charge SUVs, taxis and autonomous vehicles.

“Ricardo brings a wealth of automotive engineering expertise and a real focus on performance, advanced engineering solutions, and a deep understanding of the direction the automobile industry is headed,” says Steve Pazol, vice president & general manager, wireless charging, Qualcomm Incorporated. “We are pleased to be working with Ricardo. This collaboration further strengthens the Qualcomm Halo™ automotive supply chain, providing options for WEVC both to the traditional automakers and the burgeoning EV entrants.”

Ricardo will benefit from comprehensive engineering support provided by Qualcomm subsidiaries. This support aims to enhance Ricardo’s ability to develop commercially viable and technically advanced wireless charging systems and will inform the future design of evolving WEVC systems. Qualcomm Halo™ WEVC technology has been developed with a

focus on cost and package optimization, power, interoperability, and co-existence with vehicle systems. An advanced technology pipeline will deliver ongoing improvements, supporting standardized and interoperable WEVC technology suitable for stationary and, eventually, dynamic charging.

With the popularity of EVs and PHEVs increasing in many international markets, the ability to roll out robust and practical wireless charging solutions integrated into new plug-in vehicle models could act as a significant spur to the market. New vehicle purchasers will finally be freed from the hassle and drudge of plugging in via cables. Instead, users will be able to recharge their vehicles simply by parking in a space equipped with a charging pad; charging will be as easy and straightforward as parking the car.

This means that, thanks to the Qualcomm Halo™ technology and the collaboration with Ricardo, drivers of the next generation of EVs and other so-called plug-in vehicles may never need to plug in again.

For more information on Qualcomm Halo™ technology, visit www.qualcommhalo.com.

Header picture: Official Qualcomm Safety Cars are in action in the current eleven-race season of the FIA’s Formula E Championship; this year’s safety car is based on a version of the BMW i8 equipped for recharging wirelessly with an advanced Qualcomm
Halo™ 7.4 kW system

This article is an edited version of a feature published in RQ magazine, Q2, 2016 - click on the magazine cover below to go to the magazine version:

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