BMW shows off wireless charging at CES 2015

While Tesla is developing an automatic recharging arm, BMW showed off its wireless battery charging solution for its electric vehicles at the recent 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The system comprises of a primary and secondary coil: the primary one is in a base pad placed on or embedded in the floor of the parking space; the secondary coil is fitted on the underside of the vehicle; in the case of the demonstration during the CES, a BMW i8.

When the two coils are aligned, an alternating magnetic field is created, generating electricity. Inductive charging is not exactly new technology (we’ve written about it in Toyota Working On EV Cableless Charging, and it wasn’t new even then) but BMW has been working with Daimler AG since last July on wireless charging; automakers are under pressure to acquiesce to increasingly strict emissions regulations by expanding their electric car ranges, and of course the inconvenient recharging remains a great stumbling block to EV sales.

The BMW demonstration showed that the i8’s battery can be recharged in under two hours – which is about the same time required for wired recharging – at a charge rate of 3.3kW that occurs across a space of a few centimeters (no cables or direct contact were required). And for those of you who are worried about electromagnetic radiation, the amount emitted is less than by a kitchen inductive stove; besides, unlike cooking, you don’t have to hang around the parking garage when the current is flowing.

So, as long as you don’t mind digging up the garage floor to install the base coil and remember to park your car there, you won’t have to wake up the next day to discover a drained battery because you had forgotten to plug the car in, which is why Tesla is developing the robotic recharging arm in the first place. However, there is one tiny problem. The coils have to be correctly aligned to launch the charging process, and that can be difficult since the driver is inside the car and not on his hands and feet checking underneath the vehicle. This is where BMW employs its other in-car technology, the Parking Assistant, which uses in-built high-resolution lasers to automatically park the car in tight spots and can also be used to help make the alignment.

Here’s a bit of geeky trivia for you. Serbian genius inventor, Nikola Tesla, was the first to experiment with wireless transmission of electricity (you might have heard of something called the Tesla Coil), but the eponymous electric car company, Tesla Motors, is not taking the lead in wireless recharging because there could be power loss during the wireless transmission. Oh well, black charger, white charger, as long as it fries the mouse.

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