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Industry cuts the cord on electric car charging

Lucas Mearian | Oct. 22, 2013
Major stumbling blocks to wireless charging -- power loss and slow recharging time -- need to be worked out

HEVO did not disclose the cost of its wireless charging manhole covers, but said the technology will be competitive with other systems already on the market at prices ranging between $3,500 and $5,000.

One major stumbling block to widespread EV adoption is the length of time it takes to recharge vehicle batteries.

While it takes a few minutes to refuel a gas-powered vehicle, the recharge time for EVs is about four hours for a 24 kilowatt-hour (kWh)-capacity battery using a 6.6 kW on-board charger, according to Alastair Hayfield, associate research director at IHS Automotive. Such a battery would work on a standard size economy car, such as the Nissan Leaf.

"If EV auto manufacturers could overcome this obstacle, it could lead to a high rate of adoption from environmentally minded consumers as well as those seeking to cut gasoline expenses. That's where fast charging comes in," Alastair said in a recent IHS report.

HEVO units are comparable to Level 2 charging plug-in stations used by EV fleets, which typically take eight to 12 hours per day to charge, according to Stahl. "We can charge up to three times faster than many wireless competitors at up to three times the distance," he said.

"Regardless of battery capacity, these figures remain the same," Stahl said in an email reply to Computerworld.

WiTricity's charging technology offers up to 25kW, with the company's systems for passenger cars outputting from 3.3kW to 6 kW while systems for fleets and small buses are in the 10kW to 25kW range.

WiTricity claims it takes the same amount of time to charge a vehicle wirelessly as it would plugging it in, which in a passenger car with a dead battery is nominally four hours.

However, one emerging technology is fast-charging systems, which offer a high-voltage DC charge instead of a slower AC charge. With a fast charging station, a vehicle can be fully charged in as little as 20 minutes, according to Hayfield. "This could be a major step toward EVs becoming generally equivalent to (gas-powered) vehicles when it comes to refueling," Hayfield said.

One fast-charging standard designed for electric vehicles is CHAdeMO. The major proponents of the technology are Japanese automakers, including Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Japanese industrial giants such as Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Tokyo Electric Power Co. to name a few.

Worldwide adoption
According to IHS Automotive, there are as many as 2,445 CHAdeMO fast chargers in operation and more than 57,000 CHAdeMO-compatible EVs around the world, which accounts for 80% of all EVs on the road. The highest concentration of EVs comes from Japan in the form of the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEv and Honda Fit EV among others.


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