Electric Cars Sans Cords: Nissan Readying Higher-Power Inductive Charging

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Nissan Wireless Charging system under development - 2015

Nissan Wireless Charging system under development - 2015

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Electric car owners get to enjoy a certain level of pride in saying that they never have to deal with gas stations and dirty fuel-filler nozzles.

Most of those owners would likely agree that not having to deal with cords and charging ports would be another great step forward, however.

Soon, if Nissan and several other automakers have their way, that day will come, as wireless (inductive) charging systems and smart charging controls will take away that “hands on” obligation—provided you park in designated charging spots.

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And even further in the future, the idea of going somewhere specific to charge could be a throwback, as your vehicle would charge as you go about your day, in smaller increments, from the street below.

Nissan has been working to develop wireless charging for a number of years, and we’ve sampled some of these systems in the past. The charging-systems supplier Bosch had partnered with Plugless Power to provide a wireless-charging system that can be fitted to your garage floor and either the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt.

Higher power, for bigger batteries

This previous inductive charging hardware from the automaker was built on a standard of just under 3 kW. But as an official at Nissan Technical Center in Atsugi, Japan, put it, as we were given a few teases of what Nissan’s working on, in a recent visit after the Tokyo Motor Show, “3 kW is not enough, so we’re focusing on higher power.”

Specifically, the automaker is now working on a system of about 7 kW—a power level that could easily allow overnight charging for a larger battery pack, like the 200-mile, 60-kW pack that Nissan is working on, potentially either as a premium option on the Leaf or for another electric vehicle.

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The current development system already has a lot more flexibility, with officials reporting that the vehicle can be positioned up to 4 inches to the left, right, fore, or aft of the ‘bullseye’ for wireless charging.

At the same time, Nissan’s latest wireless charging development is now working with what it calls a medium gap between the charging pads—translating to around 4-6 inches (100-150 mm), while the previous 3-kW system was operating at just under 4 inches.

Less finicky on distance

Nissan Leaf Inductive Charging Demonstration

Nissan Leaf Inductive Charging Demonstration

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That’s a more natural height for normal passenger vehicles (compared to the previous version [shown], which required an elevated pad), allowing for a transmission unit in a pad flush with the ground and a receiver unit in a pad mounted in the vehicle’s lower body but not affecting normal ground clearance. Looking ahead, the automaker is working with a gap target of over 6 inches, which might be a better match for crossovers.

Although those showing us the system didn’t want to reveal many details about what makes it different than other such inductive chargers, they said that this hardware has been very carefully designed for EMF and will easily pass concerns about interference for pacemakers and other devices.

Furthermore, the efficiency of the charging system is now 85 percent or more—a great figure compared to some previous inductive-charging efforts.

Nissan is beginning a fleet test of this new system this year, and over the next several years it hopes to get other automakers on board with the same standard.

But it could be well into the next decade before we see wide deployment of such a system. Standardization is a must, the project leader and others insist, and so Nissan is eager to share their technology when the time is right. The industry can’t have another CHAdeMO and Combo (the two standards for Level 3 fast-charging), they argue—and they're right.

So you have plenty of years ahead to wind your charger cable, search for the right charging port, and dream of a neater, wireless future.


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