When drivers get into their electric vehicles, the last thing they want to worry about is running out of power. This fear figures prominently in a decision to buy an EV. In fact, consumers see two main obstacles standing in the way of purchase: the underdeveloped recharging infrastructure and the speed of recharge, according to ReportLinker.
But these concerns could soon be erased. New financial incentives and tax credit programs are likely to kick off a race to develop faster, more convenient EV charging solutions.
In the U.S., the Obama administration recently announced $4.5 billion in loan guarantees to develop “new or significantly improved technologies” for EV charging. In addition, the Department of Energy and Department of Transportation have launched an initiative to develop a 2020 vision for creating a network of fast chargers across the U.S.
In addition, partnerships between automakers, universities, and charging companies are causing the market to heat up. Many players are already driving development, including ABB, Leviton, Plugin Now, Evatran (Plugless), and Siemens. As a result, the global market for electric vehicle chargers is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 29% between 2016 and 2020.
Innovation is focused on making existing chargers faster as well as the development of new systems. The most common system today is AC, which offers two levels of charging. Level 1 uses a 120V plug and can replenish 40 miles of range in eight hours, while Level 2’s 240V plug is 2-4 times faster.
An even faster system is DC, or direct current, which is the type Tesla uses for its Supercharger stations. It replenishes at a rate of 50-70 miles of range in just 20 minutes.
But the most promising alternative – and one most likely to ease consumer concerns – is wireless. This method involves “the transmission of energy from a transmitter to a receiver via an oscillating magnetic field.”
Wireless may turn out to be the most significant disruptor. Many EV owners find plugging-in to be so much of a hassle that 70% of plug-in hybrid owners never do it. But wireless charging solutions greatly simplify the experience. The only action EV owners must take is to park. For example, when Tesla owners install the Plugless Power Level 2 system at home, they merely position the car on top of the parking pad and it automatically begins recharging.
WiTricity is one of the vendors leading the way in wireless charging technologies. Its system introduces interoperability across car brands. The system can be installed not only in residential garages, but also in public and commercial parking lots. The implication is that EV owners can recharge anywhere – a friend’s, the office, or the grocery store – without the need to find a brand-specific charging station.
Qualcomm and Lear, using technology developed at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, plan to take charging to the road – literally. The Qualcomm Halo™ charging pads could be embedded in roadways, enabling EV owners to recharge their vehicles while driving.
These new charging solutions present intriguing alternatives. Automaker Nissan, for example, describes the fuel station of the future as “your home, your street, your city, your car,” an interconnected world in which your car could actually power your house and office.
That’s a big vision, one that may not be realized for some time. But what is certain is making charging faster and simpler will accelerate adoption of EVs. And if Qualcomm Halo vice president Graeme Davison is to be believed, that’s not far off. Davison says auto makers will begin offering wireless charging options by 2018.