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Park it and charge it: Wireless electric car charging is coming

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Wireless car charging at Oak Ridge National Labs

The Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL) is making progress with wireless car charging. Electric-powered cars are high on our radar with the Tesla 3 pre-order frenzy, but when it’s finally built and shipped, it will still need to plugged in somewhere to recharge. Finding chargers and plugging in to charge for the drive home is still a question for anyone who considers going electric.

ORNL has demonstrated a 20-kilowatt wireless charging system with 90 percent efficiency at three times the rate of most plug-in systems used today. Toyota, Cisco Systems, Evatran, and Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research all contributed to the technology demonstration.

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The fact that it charges three times faster than home chargers is significant, but the next goal of the ORNL joint project is a 50-kilowatt wireless charging capability. The higher power will equal most quick-charging stations and also be powerful enough to charge trucks and other larger vehicles.

Convenience and simplicity are keys to developing a wireless system. Honestly, it needs to be as simple as driving to a charging location without having to leave your car. However, because the power transmits through the air, safety is also a high priority. The magnetic fields used in this charging process are focused and shielded to ensure safety, according to the researchers.

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The ideal will be when we can charge our car batteries while we drive, but that another huge step. Charging in motion requires electrified streets and roadways, is a much greater financial commitment than stationary charging stations. The Tesla 3 sales orders and continued popularity of Toyota Prius hybrids demonstrates demand, but the majority of us will still wait for convenience to improve and costs to go down.