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Wirelessly charging an EV in 15 minutes sounds crazy, but it’s getting closer

Electric vehicles are clearly the future but to make the future a reality as quickly as possible, EV charging could do with a kick to the butt. To that end, there is a whole lot of innovation going on in this space — from special robot charging arms to roads that are able to charge your car as you drive over them.

For their part, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are working toward a very specific goal: Being able to wirelessly charge electric vehicles in 15 minutes or less. At present, a typical electric car like the Nissan Leaf 30 kilowatt-hour takes around four hours to charge from empty using a 7 kilowatt home charging point. To speed up this process, the DOE wants to build an extreme fast-charging system that can deliver around 350 to 400 kilowatts.

While it hasn’t yet reached that point, it did just pass a major milestone. Specifically, it has showcased a 120-kilowatt wireless charging system — six times better than the previous demonstrations carried out by ORNL. By our count, that takes it to around one-third of the way toward its eventual goal.

The 120-kilowatt charger reportedly operates with 97 percent efficiency. In a lab test, researchers showed how power can be transferred between two magnetic coils to charge a battery pack over a distance of six inches. The charging technology involves a newly designed coil co-optimized with the latest silicon carbide power electronic devices.

“This breakthrough significantly advances the technology needed to encourage greater adoption of electric vehicles by increasing their range and the ease of recharging, and in turn supports an energy-efficient mobility system for the nation’s economic success,” Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environmental Sciences at ORNL, said in a statement.

Once this technology has been perfected, the team will next move on to decide which approach to charging is optimal. One approach mentioned involves a dynamic roadway system that uses wireless charging pads which could be installed under roadways.

If in a few years from now you’re able to charge your vehicle while speeding along the highway, you could well have Oak Ridge National Laboratory to thank for it!

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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