Wireless electric vehicle charging technology is expected to be commercially available on production vehicles in the next 18 months to two years, according to Qualcomm Inc., which has been developing the technology with carmakers over the past seven years. The cost of static wireless charging is comparable today with that of conductive charging, where a charging cable is used, said Graeme Davison, vice president of business development and marketing at Qualcomm Halo, the wireless charging division within the larger $92 billion market-valued company.
Davison told BNEF in an interview that being able to charge an electric vehicle wirelessly “makes the ease of vehicle use that much smoother [and] takes away the risk of remembering to plug in to charge your vehicle overnight.” Using an EV with wireless charging will therefore not be that different to using a gasoline car, without the need to visit a petrol refill station, he added.
Static wireless charging is the first step to developing dynamic wireless charging, where vehicles charge constantly while in motion, explained Davison.
Qualcomm has shown it is able to charge a vehicle travelling at highway speeds with more than 20 kilowatts of electricity from an electrically-inductive road surface, at the FabricEV charging program near to Paris.
It was the “perfect example for us to show the industry that dynamic wireless charging is possible,” he said. The company focus is currently on static charging, however, wireless EV charging technology lends itself to a possible future vision of charging on the move, said Qualcomm in a statement.
Qualcomm expects static EV charging to first become available in people’s homes and garages, where the car manufacturer or third party contractor would install proprietary charging pads, before being rolled out in public locations such as shopping centers, cinemas and grocery stores.
“It will be easier to design wireless charging into vehicles that are electrified from the outset” rather than incorporating the technology into an existing design, according to Davison. Nevertheless, both Mercedes Benz AG and BMW Group Inc. have announced that they intend to install wireless charging on existing plug-in hybrid electric models in 2018, he noted.
The route to dynamic charging could open up many opportunities in intelligent vehicle charging, whereby drivers make decisions about which roads to drive along based upon where they can charge and at what price, said Davison. This in turn could help city planners to reduce congestion, he said. In addition, the process of installing wireless charging technology in road surfaces, while expensive, would also allow 5G communications to be installed – useful for autonomous driving operations, he added.
Nearer-term, Qualcomm is “looking to supply static charging technology to as many vehicle manufacturers as possible”, said Davison. The company model is “not to manufacture the end product but to make prototypes and provide technology to the industry”, he explained.
Qualcomm has already signed 17 licenses for its static charging technology with companies including Chargemaster Plc, Ricardo Plc and Nichicon Corp. in Japan. The diversity of companies signing licenses for Qualcomm’s technology, from electronic makers to automotive engineers, highlights the potential revenue opportunities behind EV charging infrastructure.