Today electric vehicles (EV) are having a hard time being accepted by the customer and diffusing in the market. Even though many aspects of EVs seem making them very appealing (e.g. very low energy cost and zero tail pipe emissions) there are several concerns that people have on this technology:
Range anxiety: Because of the limited range of EVs caused by the current relatively low capacity of batteries, the freedom of the driver, one of the major reasons to own a vehicle, is limited EVs require a significantly higher initial investment cost than vehicles with common combustion engines due to the high cost of the energy storage (battery). The EV batteries need to recharge frequently and hence the driver has to find a suitable recharging stations and has to plan the routes accordingly. The charging process itself is very time consuming and hence user-unfriendly
The UNPLUGGED project aims to investigate how the use of inductive charging of Electric Vehicles (EV) in urban environments improves the convenience and sustainability of car-based mobility. In particular, it will be investigated how smart inductive charging infrastructure can facilitate full EV integration in the urban road systems while improving customer acceptance and perceived practicality.
UNPLUGGED will achieve these goals by examining in detail the technical feasibility, practical issues, interoperability, user perception and socio-economic impacts of inductive charging. As one special variant, inductive en-route charging will be investigated thoroughly. As part of the project, two smart inductive charging systems will be built, taking into consideration requirements from OEMs, energy utilities and end users. The systems will be innovative and will go beyond the current state of the art in terms of high power transfer, allowing for smart communication between the vehicle and the grid, as well as being in line with the latest inductive charging standards and considering interoperability. These innovative inductive charging systems designed and built as part of the project will then be tested and assessed in order to understand their potential impacts on urban mobility and the acceptance of e-mobility. Application in an en-route charging scenario in particular will be examined for different vehicle types, ranging from cars to buses. It is anticipated that UNPLUGGED will provide clear evidence on and demonstrate whether the use of smart inductive charging infrastructure can overcome some of the perceived barriers for e-mobility, such as range and size of on-board energy storage, and practical difficulties associated with installing traditional charging post infrastructure. UNPLUGGED will also include a feasibility study and economic model for dynamic en-route inductive charging. This technology is currently less mature than static en-route charging, however, it has the potential to provide larger improvements to the range and cost of EVs.
Wireless charging to promote electric mobility
Charging without using cables may be a major driving force accelerating market adoption of electric cars. An EU-funded project performed a feasibility study of inductive charging, while also offering insight into user perception and socioeconomic impact of this charging scheme.
Unlike conventional conductive charging, inductive charging is increasing electric vehicle range, thus relieving the drivers' range anxiety. Drivers will not have to plan their route ahead and will save money on the battery as there will not be a need for a large battery. Moreover, inductive charging simplifies the vehicle-to-grid interface by reducing mechanical interfaces, making the charging process much more user friendly.
In 2012, 17 partners from different European countries started collaborating on several aspects of wireless charging within http://www.unplugged-project.eu (UNPLUGGED) (Wireless charging for electric vehicles). Project partners successfully developed an inductive charging system for electric vehicles and investigated how its use in urban environments improves convenience and sustainability of electric mobility.
UNPLUGGED charging solution addressed two different power needs in charging: a passenger car (3.7 kW) and a commercial vehicle (50 kW). In addition, it offered flexible charging services based on customer needs: slow charging and fast charging (up to 50 kW). The solution was designed to facilitate full integration of electric vehicles in the urban road system.
Project partners now have all the answers regarding interoperability between the charging station and vehicles, efficiency of energy transfer, and compliance with the latest inductive-charging standards.
From stakeholders' and other participants' feedback in Belgium and the UK, surveys demonstrated that they are not so sceptical about embracing this technology. Vans, buses and taxis are more likely to reap the benefits of inductive charging than cars.
Inductive charging will open up many more possibilities in the future, with the most exciting being the charging of vehicles on the move on motorways and street.
Watch the http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbpQ7Mp1Uc0 (project video here) and the http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5ZVVMmsoeg (concept of inductive charging). Additional information is available on the http://www.unplugged-project.eu (project website).