In our daily lives, we are increasingly using wireless products. At the same time, researchers are also working on newer trends in charging electric vehicles wirelessly. With more countries now implementing regulations for fuel economy and pushing initiatives for replacing fossil-fuel based vehicles with those driven by electricity, automotive manufacturers have focused their targets on development of electric vehicles. On one hand there are technological advancements on lithium-ion batteries and ultra-capacitors, while on the other, researchers are working on infrastructure and the availability of suitably fast charging systems that will lead to a smoother overall transition to the adoption of electric vehicles.
Charging the batteries of a vehicle requires charging systems using high power conversion equipment. They convert the AC or DC power available from the power supply sources into suitable DC power for charging. As of now, the peak power demand from chargers is of the order of 10-20 KW, but this is likely to climb up depending on the time available for charging, and the advancements made in capabilities for battery charging. Therefore, both governments and OEMs are gearing up for developing high-power charging systems to cater to the power needs of future electric vehicles.
Wireless charging systems transfer power from the source to the load without the need for a physical connection between the two. Commonly available schemes use an air-cored transformer—with power transfer taking place without any contact between the source and the load. Wireless power transfer technology is available in various ranges, starting from mobile power charger systems rated for 10s of watts, to high power fast chargers for electric vehicles rated for 10s of kilowatts.
Earlier, the major issues with wireless charging systems were their low efficiency and safety. The technology has now progressed to the stage where achieving efficiencies of over 80% is commonplace. Although this is on par with wired power charger systems, increasing the spacing between the primary and secondary coils allows the efficiency to drop exponentially, which means the efficiency improves as the spacing between the coils decreases. Researchers are also looking at adopting various other methods of constructing the coils to address the issue.
Likewise, smart power controls are taking care of safety, by detecting power transfers taking place spuriously and suspending power transmission directly. Manufacturers are ensuring safety at all stages by implementing regulatory guidelines such as SAE J2954.
Although several methods exist for wireless power transfer, most popular are the resonance and inductive transfer methods. The inductive method of power transfer uses the principles of the transformer, with the AC voltage applied to the primary side inducing a secondary side voltage through magnetic coupling, and thereby transferring power.
The inductive method of power transfer is highly sensitive to the coupling between the primary and secondary windings. Therefore, as the distance increases, the power loss also increases, reducing the efficiency. That restricts this method to low power applications alone.
Based on impedance matching between the primary and the secondary side, the design of a resonant method allows forming a tunnel effect for transferring magnetic flux. While minimizing the loss of power, this method allows operations at higher efficiency even when placing the coils far apart, making it suitable for transferring higher levels of power.