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Wireless charging for EVs is coming soon — and you'll love it

May 23, 2023May 23, 2023

I recently tested what may be the next big thing in electric vehicle charging in a parking lot on the edge of Detroit's Corktown neighborhood.

I maneuvered a Ford Mustang Mach-E astride an 11-kW wireless pad that charged the EV faster than the 240-volt home chargers most EV owners use … and eliminated the potential for forgetting to plug in as you wrangle groceries, luggage or kids into the house.

You have questions, I know:

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A handful of vehicles with wireless charging are now in production in China and South Korea.

"We hope to have vehicles with factory-installed wireless charging in the U.S. and Europe in the next two or three years," WiTricity chief marketing officer Amy Barzdukas told me.

Wireless EV charging — like wireless charging of phones and other devices — is as efficient as plugging in, and safe for people and pets, Barzdukas said. It's compatible with pacemakers and other embedded medical devices and passes standard tests for electromagnetic interference.

The company is working on aftermarket kits for vehicles, including the Ford E-Transit commercial vehicle, VW ID4, Audi E-tron and Porsche Taycan.

The charger is typically installed at the front of the vehicle, between the wheels. That makes it easy to line up for charging. The "sweet spot" for charging is wider, about 8 inches by 6 inches, and a screen in the vehicle guides you over it.

After two tries, the process felt as natural as pulling into any parking space.

The charger is suitable for depots that serve many EVs, public parking facilities and home use.

WiTricity won't discuss costs, yet, but the wall-mounted portion of the unit is similar to current 240v chargers. It delivers power at 11 kW for notably faster charging than most, though it doesn't approach the speed of a DC fast charger. A full charge will still take hours, just fewer than current wired connections.

WiTricity helped develop the new SAE standard for wireless charging, so its equipment should work with all vehicles, once production begins.

The briefcase-sized receiver bolts into the vehicle's underbody, above the body line, so it's protected from obstacles. It was visible in the Mach-E test vehicle, below where the front trunk would be in a vehicle belonging to a customer rather than a bunch of fiddling engineers.

Like a primitive video game, a red dot on a screen guided me forward until the charger was over the sweet spot. Charging commenced immediately, rapidly reaching 10.2 kW, the promised 92%-93% of 11 kW at the charger.

"You’ll never forget to start charging again," WiTricity senior director of product management Pamposh Zutshi told me. "Just park and walk away."

There's a gap of about 18 inches between the charging pad and the receiver. The pad can either be on top of or integrated into the parking surface.

"Snow and ice aren't a factor," Zutshi said. "The magnetic resonance works through snow, and heat from the pad melts ice." The pad's temperature isn't high enough to be a safety concern for people, animals or buildings, he said.

"We have a charger in an exposed parking lot at our Zurich office, where it's cold and snowy. We’ve never had a problem."

Zutshi says magnetic resonance is harmless, but the charger senses when any living animal gets within 1.25 inches of the pad. It shuts off the current and sends an "LOD" — live object detection — alert to the vehicle, and an app on the driver's phone. The driver must press ‘reset’ to resume charging. WiTricity's new, fourth generation, chargers will scan every 30 seconds to see if the live object has departed and resume charging automatically.

Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter. Become a subscriber.

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