It does seem a bit anachronistic that a state-of-the-art electric vehicle (EV) relies on a power cord to juice up. Wires coiling around on the floor and snaking up the car to find the plug are inelegant, bulky and hazardous. So, why haven’t automakers used inductive (wireless) charging for car batteries?
- Inductive charging, while convenient, hasn’t been a viable option due to inefficiency and cost.
- After successfully testing its inductive charging station in Germany, BMW brings a pilot program to America with a 530e equipped with the technology.
- If the system works, BMW could help pave the way to a smoother transition for customers to get into an EV.
Inductive charging works through the creation of an electromagnetic field by sending a current through a coil. When placed close enough to a device such as a car that has an electric coil, the current jumps across the field. For an excellent explanation of inductive charging, jump on over here.
Overcoming inductive charging’s drawbacks
Sounds good, right? Except inductive charging loses a lot of energy through heat, which extends charging times way beyond plugging in. In addition, inductive charging systems cost significantly more.
BMW has found a way to cut the cord. Its inductive charging station (called “GroundPad”) works with a coil (called “CarPad”) that is installed to the underside of the vehicle. With a charging power of 3.7kW, the system operates at an efficiency of about 85%, enabling a full charge in about three-and-half hours. Efficiency rates for prior inductive charging systems have only reached 60-70%.
After testing a pilot program in Germany, BMW is bringing its inductive charging station to America, specifically to California. 200 qualified, residential customers with an enclosed garage will be able to test the system in an equipped 530e through a 35-month leasing program. BMW covers all costs for installation and maintenance for its inductive charging station.
If approved, customers will receive a confirmation to take to one of 33 participating dealers, including San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda and Sonoma counties in Northern CA and Orange, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Interested customers can take the pre-qualification online questionnaire.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Inductive charging makes powering up an electric vehicle more convenient, effective and less intimidating. If BMW’s pilot program in California is a success, it will help people cross the divide from gas-powered engines to electric motors.