Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging Moves Forward, In Long Beach Buses

By · May 13, 2013

Wireless charging is already in operation at Utah State University

Wireless charging is already in operation at Utah State University in Logan.

The battle cry to “plug in” your car might need to be adjusted, because wireless charging of electric vehicles is getting real. WAVE Inc., a company spun off from Utah State University, recently won contracts to provide its inductive chargers for electric buses in Long Beach, Calif., and for the Monterey-Salinas Transit Authority.

The buses will be produced at a new U.S.-based plant of BYD, the Chinese car company. “BYD wanted to use its own (plug-in) chargers,” Larry Jackson, president and CEO of Long Beach Transit, told PluginCars. “I said why don’t we try to see if we can get something that pushes the envelope technologically instead of just plugging in?”

WAVE’s wireless charger can recharge vehicles with an air gap of eight to ten inches, WAVE board member John M. Inglish told PluginCars.com at the opening of a BYD bus plant in Lancaster, Calif. a few weeks ago.

The vehicle can also be misaligned up to 6 inches on either side. WAVE said it demonstrated a 90-percent electrical transfer efficiency of 5 kilowatts over an air gap of 10 inches.

Those claims are based on results from a prototype 40-foot transit bus using WAVE’s wireless charging already in operation at Utah State University in Logan. It began running test routes in November, said Kate Peterson, marketing and business development manager at Utah State University Commercial Enterprises. Utah State holds the patents to the technology, she said.

Breaking Barriers to Wireless EV Charging

WAVE is about three years old. According to the company, the start-up uses a cost-effective process to produce ferrite, the material used to pass and shape the magnetic field without losing energy in the form of heat. WAVE’s method reduces the cost of ferrite from $1.50 a pound to less than $1.00 a pound, WAVE claims. The second key material, according to WAVE, is litz wire made from typical copper strands but with many specially-woven strands.

The $14 million BYD contract is for two wireless charging stations at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., according to WAVE C.E.O. Michael Masquelier. WAVE’s system is designed to be used with any kind of vehicle, said Masquelier. The company also has a contract to build a wireless charging station in Monterrey for a trolley that currently runs on a diesel engine, he said.

Representatives from Long Beach Transit went to Utah to check out the demo bus and make sure the chargers worked before committing to using them, said Jackson, an EV enthusiast who owned one of the original EV1 electric vehicles from General Motors.

The only potential barrier to using them, according to Jackson, is a potential lack of communication between BYD and WAVE.

“The big issue is making sure the recharging system talks to and properly recharges the batteries that are on the (Long Beach) bus, a fairly complicated issue,” said Jackson. “They have to make sure the engineers on both sides are communicating with each other to make sure this works.”

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