Wireless EV Charger Reaches 100 kW Speeds With Near-Perfect Efficiency: Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Breakthrough

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A recent breakthrough in wireless charging for electric vehicles (EVs) has been achieved by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where they successfully charged a Hyundai Kona Electric using electromagnetic waves with 96% efficiency. This game-changing development could significantly impact EV adoption by eliminating the need for charging cables, payment systems, and charging apps, providing a seamless charging experience for users.

Inadequate charging infrastructure has hindered broader EV adoption, and companies have been competing to develop wireless charging technology for EVs. The main challenge has been efficiency, as traditional setups tend to lose energy as heat. ORNL researchers have potentially solved this issue by using polyphase electromagnetic coupling coils, which allow for higher-density energy transfer and faster charging speeds of around 100 kilowatts.

Groundbreaking Efficiency

Achieving 96% efficiency is a significant milestone for wireless charging technology. While EV powertrains are more efficient than internal combustion engines, charging them is not 100% efficient. Typically, excess energy is lost during transmission, often converted into heat. In a Car and Driver test, a Tesla Model Y Performance’s 81 kWh battery consumed 92.2 kWh when fully charged, leading to approximately 14% losses. The new ORNL wireless charging system, however, seems to have only around 6% losses, making it potentially more efficient than conventional wired charging.

Commercial Applications and Affordability

The new ORNL wireless charging technology is expected to enable higher-density energy flow and be lightweight. However, several questions remain unanswered, including the cost of implementing this solution and the potential for democratization. Additionally, accurately aligning the car over the coils may also be a concern. Nonetheless, efficient and commercially available wireless charging technology no longer seems like an unrealistic proposition, with several electric cars in China already featuring wireless charging capabilities from the factory and American start-ups working on retrofitting wireless charging technology.

With many pilot projects underway and the potential benefits for EV owners, wireless charging technology appears to be a promising innovation on the horizon. Although the recent slow-than-expected EV sales curve might impact investment in experimental technology, wireless charging seems poised to make a significant impact in the world of EVs.