Yes, You Can Charge your EV Wirelessly & Here's How

Technology is making charging a lot more convenient for EVs

Don’t want to deal with plugs if you buy an EV? Go wireless instead. Wireless electric vehicle (EV) charging is a lot like wireless phone charging, just on a much bigger scale. 

How Does Wireless Charging Work With EVs?

EV charging uses the same basic smartphone technology, except there’s no physical contact between the EV and the charging station like there is when you set a phone down on a wireless charger.

Wireless EV charging works by parking the EV over a charging mat, often with six or more inches of air between the mat and the bottom of the EV. Power is transferred wirelessly from the charging station to the receiver on the EV, and the EV battery charges slowly over time.

An illustration showing how an EV can be charged wirelessly.

Joshua Seong

So Can I Charge My EV Wirelessly?

You can charge your EV wirelessly, but only if it supports wireless charging. In the same way that all phones didn’t support wireless charging right out of the box when the technology was first invented, not all EVs roll off the factory showroom floor ready for wireless charging. Some manufacturers have experimented with wireless charging on their vehicles, but those pilot programs have only been available on a very limited basis.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) approved a harmonized wireless charging standard in late 2020, so this is a feature that you very well may see in your next EV. However, if you don’t want to wait you can charge your EV wirelessly right now with a wireless charging adapter.

There are a number of wireless EV charging solutions available, they’re just available from third parties instead of directly from the manufacturer of your EV. In the same way you can buy a wireless charging adapter for just about any phone, you can have a wireless charging adapter installed on your EV. It’s a complicated process, though, that needs to be done by a qualified technician.

When you buy a wireless charging conversion kit for your EV, the company that made the kit will either install it for you, or help you arrange installation by a qualified technician in your area. You can then install a compatible charging pad in your garage, which isn’t any more difficult than installing any other kind of EV charger, and take advantage of wireless EV charging in your home immediately.

How Exactly Does Wireless Charging Work for Cars?

Wireless charging in EVs works by driving the vehicle over a wireless charging mat that’s either sitting on the ground or built into a driveway, garage floor, or parking stall. The driver has to line the mat on the ground up with a corresponding receiver that’s built into the bottom of the vehicle, just like you need to set your phone down on its wireless charging mat in a specific orientation for it to charge.

It’s not that hard to line things up. To help you align your EV with a wireless charging mat, you’ll typically have access to a phone app or an app that’s built into the vehicle’s infotainment system. The app tells you whether you need to move the car to the left or right, or forward or backward, to align the charging mat with the receiver on the vehicle.

When the charging mat on the ground lines up with the receiver that’s built into the bottom of the vehicle, power is transferred wirelessly through a magnetic field. The charging mat on the ground creates a magnetic field, which causes electrons to flow through the receiver on the vehicle, which in turn charges the battery in the vehicle.

This is the exact same process you may have already used when charging a phone wirelessly, just at a bigger scale. Since the charger is more powerful, the mat and the receiver can be further apart. That’s why you can just drive a vehicle over one of these mats, with six or more inches of air between them, and still have charging take place.

Wireless charging systems are typically designed with certain safeguards in place but, of course, can vary by manufacturer. For example, charging can only happen when the two mats are aligned, and it is designed to stop immediately if any foreign objects are detected between the two mats. If, for instance, a ball rolls on top of the mat or a pet gets too close, the system can automatically shut down to prevent any issues.

Does the Wireless Option Cost Extra?

Since wireless charging is widely available only through third-party hardware right now, having a wireless charger installed on your vehicle does represent an additional expense above and beyond the cost of purchasing the vehicle. When you purchase a wireless charging kit and have it installed, it usually comes as a package with a wireless charging mat that you can install at home.

The automotive industry is continuously working to improve wireless charging, however, and the adoption of a standard system has set the groundwork for this feature to eventually take over as the primary method of charging EVs. When that happens, wireless charging is likely to become a standard feature that’s included in the base price of most EVs, if not all EVs.

In cases where wireless charging is an optional feature, it will cost extra. Installing a wireless charging pad in your home also costs extra, although that hardware can be plugged into the same type of outlet as a regular home charger.

What’s the Point of Wireless Charging in EVs?

Anyone who has ever charged a phone wirelessly knows that wireless charging is slower than wired charging. It’s more convenient than using cords and plugs, though, and there’s no physical connector to break down and eventually require service.

The main point of wireless charging, and the biggest benefit, is that it’s hands-off. Eventually, you’ll be able to park at home, at the office, and even at stores and other locations, and have your vehicle automatically start sipping power wirelessly.

EV range won’t be as important once that happens, since you’ll never use more than a small portion of your available battery power before it’s topped off again, except in instances where you’re driving for an extended period of time without stopping.

The Future: Charging EVs via Roadways

An illustration of how roadways can potentially charge an EV as it cruises along the pavement.

Joshua Seong

Even in instances of driving long distances non-stop, the same basic technology could eventually be installed in road surfaces, allowing your vehicle to receive power wirelessly while driving. Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Transportation are currently developing the world’s first contactless wireless charging concrete pavement highway segment to test magnetizable concrete and allow wireless charging of EVs as they drive on the road.

That’s further in the future than basic wireless charging, but it is a possibility that’s worth considering in the long term. 

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