While automakers and public EV charging networks wrestle with the specifications of the connector plugs used to charge vehicles, Pennsylvania’s InductEV is aiming to make such concerns obsolete with advanced new wireless inductive charging technology that doesn’t use plugs or charging ports.
The company’s effort to move the industry away from bulky charging cables and plugs will be aided by a new 50,000-square-foot research and development center that will house about 100 engineers.
The company’s previous space was 15,000 sq. ft., and the new facility is not only bigger but is also serviced by more robust utility connections, which lets the engineers there test more charging systems at a time, according to InductEV's chief product officer Tony Calabro. “It has a lot higher infrastructure levels, so power coming into the building from the grid allows us to run more systems,” he said.
Some of the work there will look at ways to improve object detection, to ensure the safe operation of the wireless charging pads. Another goal is to improve the alignment of the charger with the vehicle, which is an issue familiar to anyone who has awakened to learn that their phone was askew on the wireless charging pad all night and now has a nearly dead battery instead of a fully charged one.
Research group Markets and Markets forecasts that the global EV charging station market will grow from $11.9 billion in 2022 to $76.9 billion in 2027. InductEV is currently targeting the commercial fleet portion of that market, with an eventual eye on passenger vehicles.
City buses and parcel delivery vehicles make ideal candidates for InductEV’s technology because their duty cycles provide the opportunity to top up their batteries during the course of the day. Keeping vehicles’ batteries charged as they go presents numerous benefits, outlined by InductEV president Chuck Russell in his presentation to the Rho Motion conference in June.
In the case of a fleet of 14 diesel buses, Russell said, an EV fleet using corded chargers would need to be about 20 buses, because of the need to take some buses out of service to charge to maintain service throughout the day, he said.
Buses using InductEV’s wireless inductive charging pads, on the other hand, get their batteries refreshed during the timed hold built into routes so that buses don’t arrive at their stops too early. This would let the hypothetical bus fleet operator only use the same number of electric buses as diesels.
This scenario also saves money on chargers. While corded chargers would be needed for every bus to recharge them all at the same time overnight, only a couple of wireless chargers are needed to maintain the charge in buses during the course of the day, as they each stop at one of the chargers at different times.
This has other implications. Buses that are kept at an even charge all day do not stress their batteries by depleting them and recharging to 100 percent daily. Keeping the batteries between 40 percent and 80 percent state of charge can prolong their lives by a factor of 4-8x, the company says. Such buses employ 450-kilowatt-hour battery packs that today cost about $80,000 each, according to Russell, so prolonging the life of those packs has obvious financial benefits to fleet operators.
Additionally, charging buses throughout the day using two chargers in different locations puts much less demand on the electric infrastructure than having 20 chargers running at the same time and the same location, as would be typical for buses using corded chargers at a central depot to recharge overnight.
InductEV’s wireless charging pads each transfer 75 kWh of power and they are typically arrayed in groups of two (for taxis) or four (for trucks and buses) pads, providing 150 kWh or 300 kWh charging. Six pads are possible for 450 kWh charging.
The company already has its systems in use at more than 20 locations, with a prediction of 10x growth this year. “As the transport sector electrifies, it’s clear that wireless charging will ultimately replace plug-ins after one considers the cost-savings, convenience, and efficiency,” observed Barry Libert, chairman and CEO of InductEV. “Granted, it’s early days, but we’re seeing considerable excitement among public transit fleets and port vehicle (drayage) operators who’ve adopted our technology solution.”