London’s wireless EV charging pilot project

Smart charging tech in Europe

Groundbreaking new ‘flat and flush’ wireless charging units for electrical vehicles (EVs) using induction pads instead of cables are to be piloted in residential streets, taxi ranks and car parks throughout the UK during 2020. The move makes the prospect of driverless cars appearing on the streets of London by 2021 a real possibility.

The innovation puts an end to the use of cumbersome cables snaking across pavements and forming dangerous trip hazards. Those distinctly charmless charging points will also be consigned to history.

The use of wireless induction pads means that owners of EVs will no longer need to plug their vehicles into a charging point using a cable. Instead, they will simply be able to park their cars over an inductive pad discreetly hidden beneath the surface of the ground (hence the term ‘flat and flush’).

The technology incorporates an induction coil in the underground pad that produces an electromagnetic field in the charging base. Another induction coil built into the vehicle then converts the electromagnetic field back into the electricity needed to charge the car’s battery, with no need for a physical connection.

It will also be possible to retrofit most existing EVs with the requisite technology to allow them to use the induction pads. Upcoming models expected to be released in the coming months will have the technology already integrated in them during manufacture.

The British firm Connected Kerb has pioneered the innovative new tech. The firm says that this will position the UK at the leading edge of EV charging.

The company’s chief executive Chris Pateman-Jones said: “Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly including induction charging technology in their new models but at present there are only a handful of induction-enabled electric vehicle charge points. We aim to change that.”

The new wireless induction hubs, he explained, have been future-proofed and are likely to have an appreciably longer life cycle than the older plug-in points, which are subject to outdoor atmospheric stresses and the wear and tear occasioned by the continual plugging and unplugging of cables.

To begin with, the induction pads will be used alongside existing cable charging stations. This is a simple upgrade, but it will serve to place the company at the spearhead of innovation in the charging point sector.

Pateman-Jones confidently predicts that the new induction charging tech will become the norm in a matter of a few years, largely because as well as being equivalent to the efficiency of traditional charging, it’s more convenient and simpler to use.

It can also open the way for disabled people to start using EVs – disabled people currently can’t make use of the vehicles due to accessibility problems and the obstacles posed by trailing cables.

He added: “Longer term, induction charging will be the path to electrification of all parking bays without the street furniture and cable clutter that dominates EV charge point technology today.”

In a related development, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has approved a finance agreement amounting to €15m (£13.6m) for developing smart charging tech throughout Europe.

The money will allow the Munich-based tech company The Mobility House to forge ahead with an ambitious research and development plan for its innovative charging and energy management system, Charge Pilot.

Charge Pilot involves bi-directional ‘vehicle-to-grid’, or V2G, technology, which connects EVs directly to the power grid to help stabilise it. EVs equipped with the technology can be used as energy stores in the power grid, lowering the cost of electrical mobility in the process.

The EIB’s vice-president Ambroise Fayolle said: “The Mobility House has devised a technology with significant potential to make electric mobility more attractive and expand the use of renewable energies. As Europe’s climate bank, the EIB aims to support breakthrough ideas in the field and we are glad to support a company with a zero-emission vision and the right tools at hand to turn it into reality.”

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