The biggest fear of electric vehicles, outside of range anxiety seems to be remembering to put them on charge. Well the team at BMW has been tinkering away at a solution to make all of that a whole easier. And the best part is it can charge your car in less than four hours! But is this the new technology all that it’s cracked up to be?
BMW Wireless Charging enables electric energy from the mains supply to be transmitted to a vehicle’s high-voltage battery without any cables – when the vehicle is positioned over a base pad. This can be installed in the garage, for example, and the charging process started as soon as the vehicle has been parked in position (without any further input from the driver).
Customers have the option to purchase BMW Wireless Charging with any compatible vehicle purchase, with each pack consisting of an Inductive Charging Station (GroundPad), which can be installed either in a garage or outdoors, and a secondary vehicle component (CarPad) fixed to the underside of the vehicle.
The contactless transfer of energy between the GroundPad and CarPad is conducted over a distance of around eight centimetres. The GroundPad generates a magnetic field. In the CarPad an electric current is induced, which then charges the high-voltage battery. The system has a charging power of 3.2 kW, enabling the high-voltage batteries on board to be fully charged in around three-and-a-half hours.
Is the new technology simpler than traditional refuelling?
The team at BMW is saying that their wireless charging technology uses the same inductive charging technology already widely used for supplying power to devices such as mobile phones and electric toothbrushes. The principal benefit here is the ease of use – drivers no longer need to hook up their plug-in hybrid car using a cable in order to replenish its energy reserves.
Instead, as soon as the vehicle has been parked in the correct position above the inductive Charging Station, followed by a simple push of the Start/Stop button, the charging process is initiated. Once the battery is fully charged, the system switches off automatically.
BMW Wireless Charging also helps the driver to manoeuvre into the correct parking position. Via a WiFi connection a communication between the charging station and vehicle is being established. An overhead view of the car and its surroundings then appears in the Control Display with coloured lines that help guide the driver while parking. A graphic icon shows when the correct parking position for inductive charging has been reached. On the whole, pretty simple and intuitive for the average driver.
The final verdict
The future of connected roads that can charge your electric vehicle while on the move is obviously the long-term solution to simpler charging, but this move from BMW is indicative of future developments within the EV market. Not having to plug in numerous amounts of vehicles for larger fleets could also result in significant times savings over a period of time.
Yet on the flip side, early reports suggest that the BMW wireless chargers will use up to 5% more power than traditional electric charging stations. Is 5% extra electricity per charge worth it for 5 seconds of saved time? In theory no, but surely any driver would take a “charging surcharge” any day over a flat battery. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out and whether other electric vehicle manufacturers follow BMW’s lead when it comes to convenience.