2018 BMW 530e iPerformance wireless chargingEnlarge Photo
The announcements by BMW and Mercedes-Benz that they would offer wireless charging as an option next year raise a question for electric-car advocates.
How important is the ability to recharge a vehicle without plugging in a cord?
On the pro side, wireless charging may be easier for owners and drivers, who don't have to remember to plug in the charging cable when they park.
As envisioned by makers of inductive charging equipment (as it's formally known), semi-autonomous cars of the future would even know how to position themselves over the charging mat.
That means drivers would be relieved of the need to ensure the car is in exactly the right place to enable the two coils—one in the mat on the ground, the other on the undercarriage of the car—to align.
Such self-driving features are likely to be introduced first at the top end of the market, so it makes sense that the two German brands will offer the option on pricey plug-in hybrid sedan models.
Weigh in: wireless charging or plugs for electric cars?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) October 4, 2017
On the other hand, purchase and installation of wireless charging equipment isn't cheap, currently running several thousand dollars.
That includes buying and installing the charging mat, which may require trenching for the power cable (depending on local building codes) and then installing the coil underneath the car itself.
Most electric-car owners seem to feel that plugging in a car to charge isn't that big a hassle. Charging stations for personal use, meanwhile, now run from $400 to $1,000, and every plug-in car comes with a charging port built in.
We surveyed our Twitter followers to see how important they thought wireless charging would be for plug-in electric vehicles in the future.
Mercedes-Benz wireless inductive charging systemEnlarge Photo
The results came down pretty firmly on the "nice to have but not a game-changer" side: 45 percent called wireless charging "a nice option."
Another 35 percent thought it wasn't necessary, at least for them, choosing the "Plugs are all you need" response.
Just 14 percent of respondents felt that wireless charging was "the best!" and the remaining 6 percent felt it would be a low-volume option on cars of the future.
We take away from this pretty much what we'd expected: wireless charging may be an appealing option for some buyers, but it's probably not going to have a huge effect on electric cars in general.