Coming Soon: Standards for Wireless Electric Car Charging

By · November 25, 2013

Evatran’s Parking Pad, a 240V Level 2 wireless charger

Evatran’s Parking Pad, a 240V Level 2 wireless charger.

The day when we can all recharge our plug-in electric vehicle wirelessly is getting closer. The Society of Automotive Engineers recently announced that it would in 2014 issue a standard frequency for wireless power transfer for light duty, electric, and plug-in electric vehicles. The standard will provide a foundation for more companies to begin commercialization of their wireless charging products, Jack Pokyzrwa, director of ground vehicle standards at SAE told

“You have to have a certain foundation and a core agreed upon to build the commercial aspects and compete based on that,” he said.

The standard is also crucial to avoid needless waste of resources, added Pokyzrwa. He pointed to the connector market—with its several standards including SAE’s J1772 and CHAdeMO, as an example of what happens when companies developing products for an industry don’t have a standard to follow. “If the industry had started early and agreed upon a standard we might have avoided a lot of issues,” said Pokyzrwa.

The nominal frequency for wireless power transfer—also known as inductive charging—will be 85 kHz. A team composed of automakers, suppliers, industry experts and government representatives will complete the Technical Information Report, which involves field data confirmation, in early 2014. Then the standard, to be known as SAE J2954, will be published, said Pokyzrwa.

The standard will be international, or at least mostly international. The Chinese are not part of the group working on the standard, said Pokyzrwa. The head of the team is from a European automaker, he said. “When you look at companies right now they are approaching things from a global perspective,” said Pokyzrwa.

Small But Growing Market

Owners of the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt can already choose a wireless charging option using Evatran’s Parking Pad, a 240V Level 2 wireless charger. Evatran’s website says it is talking to other EV makers about using its wireless charging.

Bosch Automotive Service Solutions is the exclusive installer of the Parking Pad, which Evatran said will fully recharge a Volt in about thre hours and a LEAF in eight hours. If an owner already has a plug-in charging station but wants to install wireless charging as well, Bosch can install a switch that allows the user to choose which method to use.

At around $3,000, including the Parking Pad, control panel, hardware, and installation—the Parking Pad is more expensive than a plug-in Level 2 charger, some of which cost well below $1,000. The comparatively higher price makes the standard even more important, Lisa Jerram, a senior analyst at Navigant Research, told

“You definitely need to maximize the usage,” she said.

Despite the higher price, Navigant Research sees fairly rapid growth for the wireless charging market over the next seven years. The firm’s 2013 Electric Charging Equipment Report forecasts that sales of wireless charging equipment for light duty vehicle in North America will grow by a compounded annual growth rate of 92 percent from 2013 to 2020, to 40,000 units. Globally, sales in 2020 will be 208,000, said the report.

Standards that will ensure interoperability, such as the one being worked on now, are key to widespread use of wireless charging, said Jerram. “We still think the market is a year or two away from seeing larger commercialization, in part because some of these standards issues are being worked through,” she said. “I do think that one of the key things is interoperability. At a minimum to give the chargers a wider potential market but also you don’t want a public wireless charger that cannot be used by all drivers.”


· · 20 weeks ago

So once again the SAE announces that it will come up with a standard well after products already hit the market. Hopefully this time it'll manage to get all the main players on board, and decide quickly on specs not too incompatible with existing solutions so their manufacturers can adapt easily.

I must say I'm somewhat concerned having a European automaker leading this, as it may have incentives to stall in an attempt to undermine the current US and Japanese lead in plug-ins vehicles... (Déjà vu, anyone?)

· · 20 weeks ago

Mr. O, I don't see your criticism as valid at all. SAE comes out with continuing standards in all areas of automotive engineering based on need, and has been doing so for almost 100 years.

· · 20 weeks ago

I'm sure, Michael, Mr. O is referring to the ongoing debacle of the CCS plug . . .
which is an extra quick charge standard we didn't really need, but now have anyway.

As for wireless charging in general, it's pretty much a solution to a problem that
didn't really exist in the first place. Just another rich boy toy and not a meaningful advancement in EV technology.

· · 20 weeks ago

Yep, no problem with wired charging.
Everyone lives in Middle America and has a garage.
Problem solved.
No need for on-route charging of buses, or taxis in taxi ranks either.

· · 20 weeks ago

Giving that plugging in a vehicle is one reason people gave in the AutoTrader survey for not buying a PEV, perhaps wireless charging can also expand the market. And it is
also very handy for buses and taxis, as @Davemart notes.

· · 20 weeks ago

For the typical consumer, plugging in would be a hindrance only because they haven't experienced it. People are irrationally afraid of things they don't have direct experience with. Any plug-in driver will tell you that pumping gas is far less appealing that plugging in.

Wireless charging will certainly have its place, but it won't be in my garage. Or possibly many garages at all.

· · 20 weeks ago

I think Brian reinforces my position on this. Does the average homeowner who just bought an EV really want to jackhammer a hole in their garage floor to put in one of these things? Or would they be more interested in saving a couple of thousand dollars and simply hardwiring a 50A/240V line from their utility box to a metal box with a J1772 cable/plug attached?

I also don't sense from reading this article that apartment or condo bound EV owners are a target audience . . . especially at $3k a pop. Most landlords who would want to offer EV charging to tenants are going to investigate the more conventional and cost effective alternatives. Nor do I see a unit like this being geared towards fleet vehicle owners, as quick charging or even battery swapping would be far more useful for those applications.

Whose left? People who can afford the luxury of rather involved new construction and who are willing to pay a premium to not have to perform the "difficult" task of plugging in . . . or pay the butler to do the plugging in for them.

· · 20 weeks ago

OK . . . it appears that I spoke too soon in regards to wireless charging in
Formula E race cars . . .

· · 20 weeks ago

'Whose left? '

Try most people who live in European and Asian cities, for a start.
There is simply no room to put in posts and wires for non-inductive electric charging in urban areas in most of the world.

· · 20 weeks ago

"There is simply no room to put in posts and wires for non-inductive electric charging in urban areas in most of the world."

But, from what you're telling me, Davemart, there IS plenty of room to set aside single-car-sized parking spaces that have these Roomba-sized discs placed in the center of them? Sorry, but I just don't see that happening.

I've seen plenty of parking lot L-2 installations that take very little physical space and - because of generous cord length - can easily service EVs parked within 6 to 8 adjacent parking spaces. Perhaps the thing cost a couple thousand dollars.

To obtain similar adaptability with inductive charging you would have to have 8 of these gadgets in their own dedicated parking spaces. Assuming the $3K price tag still applies, that's $24K!

Read the article again. This thing isn't about efficiency or saving space for up-and-coming EV owners in the developing world. It's all about convenience for the western bourgeois who are willing to spend a few extra thousand dollars to eliminate a 200 dollar cable. Oh yeah . . . and to recharge cost-no-object electric race cars.

As for street side residential charging, you can always find a longer cord . . .

Try THAT with an inductive Frisbee glued to the pavement!

· · 19 weeks ago

@Ben: I don't think the image of that dangling cord is as encouraging as you suggest :-)

Temperatures seems to be running a little high here, but I think the discussion so far has overlooked some important points.

Yes, for home installations, this is a "rich boy toy", allowing your Infiniti to park itself over the sacred energy platter and feed itself instead of making you fuss with cords and plugs like the hoi polloi. It's a waste of electricity, too - inductive charging at a (slight) distance results in way over single-digit percentage energy losses.

But for public charging, especially if a single standard is established, this could be very attractive. The incremental cost for including this capability in new EVs themselves should not be great, installation costs at construction time not all that high (and lower with volume), and the relative efficiency not that big a deal. Against that, you have a more durable charger that's less attractive for vandals who might attack both chargers and/or cars (I realize you can always vandalize cars, but that dangling cable does invite mischief), less prone to abuse by idiots, and just less bother to deal with when parking at the mall or cineplex. I think they'll have lower maintenance costs over time which could eventually outweigh the higher installation costs, and will probably result in more charging stations being in service more of the time (a lot of public EVSEs are already not in working order).

Overall, I'd admit that wireless charging isn't important to the EV market in these early days, with sparse public charging infrastructure and an emphasis on home charging. But if the next generation of EVs grow in importance and become more widely adopted, wireless charging may have many important benefits. I'm all for removing the impediment of a standards war.

· · 19 weeks ago

Perhaps not, Vike (that photo I linked to was posted on our local EV Tucson blog - by a professional EVSE installer, no less - as a humorous aside.) But it does prove a point regarding Third World adaptability (Davemart's argument) in that I can see ever-longer extension cords drafted into service to charge an EV in a pinch, where the slightly-more-vandal-resistant (but not sledge hammer proof) built-into-the-pavement induction disc isn't nearly as flexible in this regard.

And, yes, what about electrical efficiency? Before luxury accoutrements - like leather seats, glizy dashboard displays and drag racing acceleration specifications - became the alleged sine qua non for what every semi-bland EV was supposed to have, one of the main points for making electric cars in the first place was to cut down on pollution.

Even taking into account a few percentage points in charging efficiency (multiply that single digit percentage point by millions of vehicles and possibly billions of times those millions of vehicle will charge over their lifetimes) and you got - worse case scenario - a significant amount of extra coal, natural gas or fission nuclear energy to make up for it. Even in the highly unlikely case that we'll be able to do all our EV charging on carbon neutral renewables anytime soon, it's a frivolous waste of those resources as well.

There are two types of EV technology out there. One concerns itself with making the range go up without adding weight/cost/expense . . . things like better batteries, wheel hub motors and a serious application of aerodynamics to autobody design. The second one deals with luxurious fluff and mostly useless gadgetry that adds nothing real to the vehicle's utility and, in some cases, may actually reduce efficiency. I'm far more interested in hearing about the first being advanced than the second being touted.

· · 18 weeks ago

@Ben - yeah, I get all that. Wireless charging is not high on my list either, but I don't dismiss it as useless fluff, for reasons I noted above. I also don't think of wireless charging as a developing world amenity; it makes more sense in more prosperous markets.

As to your side point on vandalism, I'd just offer that a kid yanking a cable or taking a brick to a high-tech hitching post is a casual vandal; a man setting out with a sledge hammer to destroy half-buried inductive charging disks is a determined saboteur. Hopefully such deeply destructive and deliberate behavior won't be common, but if it will be, there's no feasible public charging system that would be sufficiently resistant. For that matter, there'd be very few safe places for EVs to park, clearly recognizable as they are.

I'm not indifferent to efficiency issues, but let's consider that in context. I remain convinced that one of the biggest problems we face in promoting EVs is in getting people to rethink the refueling/recharging model, and fixating on the nth degree of efficiency for public chargers suggests we sometimes forget to reorient our thinking as well. EVs don't really need "filling stations" in the same way that ICEVs do, since the overwhelming bulk of charging for EVs will be at home, overnight. Indeed, that's the key feature that makes EVs "grid load neutral", undermining one of EV skeptics' favorite stupid arguments. That being the case, public charging will be a relatively small part of the overall EV charging load, and the subset of venues for which inductive charging would be most attractive smaller still. I think their value in promoting EV adoption and use will far exceed the tiny marginal cost of their inductive charging losses.

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