Advances in Wireless Charging

Tesla is cool. Not the cars, but the scientist, Nikola Tesla. He invented wireless charging in the 1800s. He built the Tesla tower in 1904 (figure 1). The structure was 187 feet tall, and before it radiated the entire field around it and destroyed itself like a firework, it successfully transferred electricity wirelessly 30 feet away. Cool.

Since then, wireless charging has been available, but not very popular. It has been very inefficient, expensive, unsafe and impractical. But now you’re starting to see it everywhere in toothbrushes, watches, phones, headsets and other consumer electronics. It’s basically the same technology that Tesla invented over a hundred years ago. One electrical coil creates a magnetic field which is picked up by a second electrical coil, and then power is transferred wirelessly. It’s called “inductive coupling” or “magnetic resonance coupling.” 

But now we have the technology to do it efficiently and safely, and with massive power transfer. Mercedes and BMW already offer wireless charging for their electric cars. And soon all manufacturers will offer it. And the best part is that there are already standards, like IEC and SAE, which provide a universal system that works on any vehicle and any battery.

Imagine going to a convenience store or to your office and getting a full charge from your parking spot (figure 2). You don’t have to plug in or do anything, it’s completely automatic. Or imagine driving down the “green” lane on the highway and getting charged while you drive (figure 3). You don’t even have to stop!

This technology is already in place for industrial vehicles. Lift trucks are a prime market, but also floor cleaning, automatic guided vehicles, burden carriers, etc. And what about GSE?  What’s the largest barrier to a successful electric vehicle operation… just getting operators to plug in. Current practices create under-charged and over-discharged batteries that kill tractor performance and up-time, and definitely kill battery life.

So imagine having designated spaces for electric GSE. One small charger could wirelessly fast-charge several vehicles at a gate, simultaneously and wirelessly (figure 4). Right now we can already produce 40kw output! Maybe it’s a parking spot. Maybe it’s a yellow box painted on the ground. Or maybe it’s a popular travel lane. The vehicle just has to get inside the lines and it stays charged. Make it an autonomous vehicle and even better! 

We no longer require absolute perfect placement or alignment of the coils. Infrared cameras, ultrasonic sensors, foreign object detection, living object detection, power factor correction, and other communications equipment ensure safe and efficient charging. And the price is essentially the same as what you pay today. This technology will take a while to get to GSE, but it will be nice to finally reduce cabling and connectors, dead batteries, towing and out-of-service tractors. And it will finally be nice to no longer rely on operators to plug in! 

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Allen Energy, Inc.

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Orlando, Florida 32835 USA

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