According to FCC documents that were recently discovered, Google’s X division (previously called Google X) is investigating how to charge the fully electric self-driving cars without using wall chargers. Instead, the firm is looking at wireless charging that would beam energy to the bottom of the car using resonant magnetic induction.
The filings (via iEEE Spectrum) reveal that several different companies known for wireless charging have sent systems to be installed in Mountain View, California. The first of these is Hevo Power, a New York company that received permission in February last year. The second company in question is Momentum Dynamics from Philadelphia, which sent chargers for installation in July. The latter company was not mentioned in the filings, however Hevo Power is said to have sent a prototype charger called Alpha.
“These prototype units wirelessly deliver 1.5kW of power from the wireless power transmitter to a wireless vehicle receiver”, an FCC document reveals. 1.5kW is low compared to regular level 2 and DC fast charging, and energy loss can also be an issue. However, the system is currently a prototype that “will allow Hevo to develop its Beta prototype and ultimately commercialize the technology”, says the company.
Wireless charging is likely to be a logic advancement in the development of autonomous cars, especially if they become popular with companies such as Uber and Lyft as taxi vehicles. The cars would ideally park themselves over a wireless transmitter around the size of a manhole cover, and with such chargers in garages, parking lots and other locations, the battery capacity issue in most of today’s electric cars would be much less of an issue.
There are already several wireless charging products on the market for vehicles such as the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, but the technology has not proven especially useful as a result of the complex installation of equipment necessary inside and outside of the vehicle.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.