Qualcomm’s Dynamic Wireless Charging Could Be A Sleeper Hit

Qualcomm Renault Wireless Charging Road


Qualcomm Renault Wireless Charging Road

As technological breakthroughs go, this one is remarkable only for its very lack of drama. Silent, near invisible, impossible to touch, taste, or smell, Dynamic Electric Vehicle Charging (DEVC) nonetheless represents another dramatic technological leap for EV technology, one which may lead to ‘electrified highways’ becoming the norm within decades.
Renault Kangoo EV Wireless Charging

Pioneered by Qualcomm, the San Diego-headquartered tech innovation giant, DEVC is the fruition of beautifully simple idea: wouldn’t it be wonderful if electric cars could be charged by the roads on which they drive, without any need for contact between charging source and an EV’s battery? No more plug-ins, no more charging stations, just a constantly available power source, as enjoyed by any electric tram, but – crucially – freed of track and overhead cabling paraphernalia. Well, now they can. DEVC, as demonstrated by Qualcomm last week on a private test track near Paris, France, allowed two suitably equipped electric Renault Kangoo Maxi vans to pass over a 100-metre stretch of ‘electric highway’ and gain charge as they did so.

It looked effortless, simple and straightforward. Indeed, if you didn’t know that the charging process was taking place before your eyes, you’d think the two Kangoos were nothing other than regular EVs.

Beneath their chassis, however, sunk into road surface whose blacktop is a deeper shade than regular Tarmac, is some exceptionally trick technology. It goes like this: the 100-metre track is comprised of four, 25-meter ‘stubs’, each of which runs from its own power supply. Each stub powers 14 so-called Base Array Network (BAN) blocks that are coupled magnetically into the backbone power cable. It looks like this:

Power is transmitted from road level across the air gap to two 10-kW vehicle pads (VPs) located under the EV. The vehicles’ own internal systems then convert the 85-kHz AC and deliver DC power as requested to the EV’s battery management components. The result is contactless charging on the move at speeds (as demonstrated) of up to 100km/h and with in-built tolerance of vehicle positioning over the charging strips. In other words, a driver doesn’t have to drive in precise alignment with the stubs for a successful charge.

That’s a whole lotta tech for a layman to interpret so Qualcomm have come up with their own rather more user-friendly term for the system: ‘Qualcomm Halo’. Their hope – indeed, the business model upon which their heavy R&D investment is predicated – is that motor industry OEMs such as Bosch and Continental grasp the potential of DEVC, then drive its adoption by major manufacturers.

As might be imagined, a step-change such as this results from multiple technical iterations, multi-million-dollar investment and years of research.

Qualcomm’s well-established static charging expertise provided the ideal starting point for DEVC development, as well as real-world motorsport credentials: the BMW i3 and i8 safety and medical cars that support the Formula E race series use static charging to ensure they’re always primed to react to any rapid response situation, without any need to ‘unplug’ from a fixed charging station. This technology itself has its origins in low-power contactless charging platforms pioneered by Qualcomm for use in domestic electrical appliances and mobile devices.

“In more than 100 years of the motor car, the one thing we have not done is tie the car to a wall, yet plug-in EV technology requires that to happen,” says Graeme Davison, vice-president of business development and marketing for Qualcomm. “The car is about freedom and getting in and getting going,” he adds, “and our thinking was always ‘What if you could charge your EV wirelessly rather than plugging in?’ Halo takes away the requirement for a human to do the plugging in and for a manufacturer that also takes away the possibility off a human ‘fail’. All these benefits help speed the delivery of the technology to a wider market.”

An electric highway for everyman is likely decades away, but consider the advances already happening, or that are about to happen. Mercedes will shortly introduce a PHEV S-Class that relies solely on static charging for its battery; ie no plug-in. While this is an avowedly upscale application – one that also requires of its owner the installation of a domestic charging plate – it’s from the top that technological drip-down begins.

Then there are the obvious real-world opportunities for dynamic charging that seem virtually to be begging for its arrival. For example, as city mayors increasingly mandate that public service vehicles and taxis be hybrid or full electric, the introduction of ‘charging lanes’ for their growing electrical demand, as they grind through the congested urban landscape, seems as inevitable as it is logical. Then consider the cab driver out of town, 20th in line at the airport taxi rank, advancing slowly in file, waiting for their next fare. Those 30 minutes ‘on hold’ present a perfect slow-speed dynamic charge opportunity.

BMW i8: Official FIA Formula E Qualcomm Safety Car, Season 2015/2016

In both cases, the requisite infrastructure upgrades could be made with limited disruption to existing transport architecture. An 200-metre Halo strip for an electric cab line at London Heathrow or JFK? The work of weeks, no more, with potentially transformative results for the EV ecosystem it would help support.

Meantime, racing applications could bring fascinating new dimensions to competition and add a veneer of sexiness to DEVC tech. Imagine a track with a ‘charging line’ away from the optimal ‘racing line’. Maybe a driver reckons he needs an on-the-go charging moment to supplement his draining battery? So he heads for the ‘charge’ line, but at the risk of a compromised lap time that hands the advantage to his rival. How keen would any ambitious energy supplier be to ensure that their logos and proprietary technology were capable of giving a driver just enough of a power shot to seal their victory?

These ideas may seem radical, possibly even far-fetched for consumers deep-rooted in a culture of fossil-fuel-burning personal transport. Yet they are within touching distance and ripe for mass adoption, given the requisite political will and financial heft of both motor manufacturers and energy-supply titans, reckons Simon Arbuthnott, Qualcomm’s senior director of business development.

“The technology is proven,” he says, “so the next phase will come down to economics and willpower.” Arbuthnott points to countries such as China and South Korea as those most likely to embrace dynamic charging early: “They have the government structure just to make things happen if they want to,” he says, “and in China, then India, also, there is an increasing mandate for EV use.” Those burgeoning markets are certain to exert gravitational pull on all supporting technologies, accelerating both speed of adoption and pace of development.

For now, a 100-metre strip of hi-tech test track, inhabited by a pair of Renault EV vans, fails to register on any scale of ‘shock and awe’. But as a glimpse of a fast-approaching future, it is utterly compelling. Watch this (highly charged) space.

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50 Comments on "Qualcomm’s Dynamic Wireless Charging Could Be A Sleeper Hit"

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Look at Qualcomm’s current business and then think if companies want to throw their lot in with Qualcomm. Qualcomm currently charges companies more for the same technology if it is put in a more expensive product. This despite FRAND agreements indicating they cannot.

Do you really think a company who makes expensive cars is going to jump on board with this company knowing this? I don’t.

at 60 mph and 3 miles/kwh that’s 20 kw steady power required.

If the road puts out 20 kw then a short strip won’t due. A continuous strip would be required.

Hmm sounds expensive. Sounds like more power is required to shorten up the strips.

Is it just me or for this to realistically work wouldn’t they have to have a high enough charge rate that it could cook your insides? 10kW isn’t gonna cut it, nor is 20 kW. Either it’s electrify every road out there and require a pretty small battery, electrify some roads and output a high charge rate while also having a pretty large battery, or electrify no roads and have a large battery. Personally the latter seems like the most realistic option to me.

“Personally the latter seems like the most realistic option to me.”

Tend to agree based on napkin math above.

If you bumped the power up to 120 kw, then you would need 20 miles of charging strip. I doubt id these strips are very cheap but a WAG it looks like a big battery is a better route.

“…wouldn’t they have to have a high enough charge rate that it could cook your insides?”

I don’t know; do oscillating magnetic fields really cook your insides like a microwave oven?

What I do know is that this concept is so galactically unaffordable that I’ve never even seen anyone advocating it attempt a “napkin math” analysis. And at best, all it would do is let PEVs (Plug-in EVs) have smaller battery packs. At the very least you’d still need a small battery pack for driving the last few miles to your house. More realistically, you’d need at least a medium-sized pack for cases where you need to drive in a remote area, away from any main highway or thoroughfare where the roadway was electrified.

Now, is reducing the average size of the average PEV’s battery pack really worth the trillions of dollars it would take to rebuild every major road in the entire country… not to mention the fact it would vastly increase the cost of maintaining roads and building new ones?

If there is any concept even more unaffordable and absurd than Elon Musk’s “Boring Company” concept… it’s this one!

My thinking exactly. Considering the added costs and diminished efficiency, I’m a little baffled by wireless charging in general. Like hydrogen, so much is lost in the name of “convenience”. We are reaching a point where humans can conceivably automate their existence to the point of becoming functionally irrelevant. And there sure are a lot of us!

On the other hand, I’m glad that research happens. Because science!

Cost. Cost. Cost.

We can’t even maintain existing roads or bridges.

We can’t even put decent fast chargers every 10 miles on national highway system in the US.

So much this.

I mean, the government can’t/won’t, but Tesla seems to be doing it on their own pretty well. They appear to be roughly every 50 miles right now on average… some closer, others further. I think by ~2025 they could easily have one every 10 miles. Maybe even by 2021.

At a minimum you would need one every 80 feet for at least 2 lanes for the nation’s 46,876 miles of interstates.

For the interstates alone you would need to install and maintain 6.2 million charge pads buried under the road.

Affordable and practical aren’t the first things that come to mind.

Napkin time!
260M vehicles.
Reduce average battery by 30kWh.
Say cost is $150/kWh.
Then 260M x $0.15k = $39B.
$39B/6.2M ~= $6,290 per charger.

260,000,000 cars * 30 kWh/car * $150/kWh =
$1.17 Trillion

Wireless is cool, but I still prefer Honda’s conductive system. Put wires in guardrails and charge at 400 kW so you only need a one mile charging lane for every 25 miles of highway. The economics are outrageously favorable.

Well, if you want to limit all highways to only a single lane of traffic…

And I seriously, seriously doubt your claim that it would actually be “affordable”. Wouldn’t just putting bigger battery packs in vehicles be cheaper? Like, much much cheaper? Not to mention not forcing the general public to pay a very high cost for the sole purpose of reducing the size of a PEV’s battery pack!

I’m not sure what problem this is trying to solve. Stationary wireless charging for taxi stands and airport shuttles, sure. EVs will still need batteries to drive on roads that aren’t electrified. Cars have always been about the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want (or that’s how they’ve been marketed). What would the message be here?

The message? Even a $25k Leaf or similar with 100 miles of city range can go LA-NY non-stop. Something no gascar can do. It takes the “can’t take it on trips” argument and turns it on its head.

It also solves the range problem for bigger cars like SUVs. It solves the towing problem (try hauling a boat or horse trailer with a Model X). It could wean trucking off diesel in a decade, at a fraction of the cost of whatever Tesla is cooking up.

Very few people ever drive to areas with zero cell coverage. A cheap, 30 kWh EV is all they’d ever need.

I do a lot of driving. I am yet to think that there is any possible way I would make it from LA-NY without stopping to take a leak.

Right. Every statement in support of this galactically overpriced concept has very obvious logical flaws.

What amazes me is that so many people rush to support it. Sometimes it appears to me that common sense isn’t really that common, and that wishful thinking is much more widely spread. 🙁

For me, as someone who drives 2800 miles in four days every month, I think a car with a battery pack that puts 250 miles (with normal 75mph ac/heat etc) back in the battery within fifteen to twenty minutes would be perfect.
That is the most I drive, I’m 42, before I start thinking about stopping to walk around and take a bathroom break.
Considering how close we are to hitting that landmark, I really don’t see any reason at all to worry about wireless charging on the roads. By the time we finished investing trillions into the infrastructure, a new battery will render it moot.

Your points are sound enough, but beyond the hardware, WE are still organic, with fairly specific requirements like eating, “voiding”, and sleeping. And as humans, a lot of us actually enjoy physical and psychological stimulation.

This is fascinating science, but it’s simply NOT the viable long distance travel option you propose.

Delivery vans that use a lot of energy and don’t want tons of batteries could use this.

There’s zero indication that wireless charging for private cars is needed at all (*).
The current gen-1.5 BEVs with 110-125mi AER can be recharged at home at night for all daily use (workplace/destination charging not needed). No way that any kind of in-road system will end up cheaper than the $400-$600 a home EVSE costs, even ignoring the wireless efficiency issue.
In 2-3 years, most BEVs will be 200-250mi, which will be enough to do the the rare long-distance trips conveniently. After all, the charging network all plan for stations every 50-80mi.

(*) Exceptions like you mention for taxis and urban bus routes, quite possibly, but that’s not necessarily while moving.

What happens when traffic backs up and you have 10 cars over a charging strip?

Also, if you’re going to spend this much money for a road, and do all the electrical work underneath already, might as well go all out and install the ‘solar-freaking-roadways’ idea too.

I hope that was just a joke (-:
Solar Roadways is an all-out scam.
It doesn’t work economically by definition.

Similar to muh solar roadz, this seems silly to do until after more obvious solutions are done, which likely negate the need for this.

For example, how about covered parking in many parking lots with solar and chargers. Much cheaper, and protects all cars, not just EVs, from the weather.

I wonder who will provide power for the system and who will get paid for it? Utilities are often privately owned or owned by local governments yet the roads are public federal property.

Oh-oh, there you go, asking rational and logical questions. Can’t have that! /snark

Who provides street lighting and pays for it?!

Typically, the local municipalities.

The problem is that roads could be Federal, State, or local.

If you have a couple hundred thousand EVs it’s cheaper to go with bigger batteries. If you have a couple hundred MILLION EVs it’s cheaper to go with dynamic charging.

As in, 100x cheaper.

I want lots of EVs, so I’m a big fan of dynamic charging. Specifically, a system like Honda’s that puts wires in guardrails and only needs 1 active mile out of 25. Cheap, easy and doable now instead of in a few decades..

Oops, was supposed to be a reply to Pushi about napkin math near the top of the thread.

Just what is it that attracts you to this idea?

The idea that our roads aren’t expensive enough; they need to be made far more expensive?

The idea that we would need to spend perhaps an order of magnitude on maintaining our already crumbling system of highways and bridges?

The idea that we would need to build out and provide fuel or energy sources for vast new numbers of power plants, for no purpose at all other than to power all those EV chargers built into highways?

Or perhaps you really like the idea of creating a worldwide copper shortage to install what would amount to probably thousands of EV chargers per car in highways and well-traveled roads, instead of charging EVs at home or at work, with a relatively few public chargers for en-route charging.

Sorry for the sarcasm, but it’s very hard for me to understand why anyone who actually thinks about this concept for long would continue to support it. Isn’t there any point at which you’re willing to admit that something is stupendously more expensive, orders of magnitude more expensive, than any price which could either be justified or could actually be funded by taxpayer money?

Let me be clear about a few things:

1. I’m excited about a dynamic charging system similar to Honda’s, not Qualcomm’s cool but expensive inductive experiment.

2. LA-NYC nonstop is just a publicity stunt to make the point that EVs are now superior to gascars in EVERY way.

3. Copper shortage? Please be serious. Our grid has 200k+ miles of high voltage lines. This is ~10k miles.

4. Highway DCFCs need just as many power plants as dynamic charging. It’s still the same cars using the same amount of energy.

A Honda-like system with one mile of wired-up guardrails for every 25 miles of highway would cost $10-20 billion. It would save $50 billion/year in oil imports. It would save $1 trillion in battery costs. I can’t think of any other project with even a fraction of this ROI.

Long-haul trucking alone would “pay the freight”. It’s also the only practical path to EV pickups and large SUVs. Rapid EV car adoption is just the cherry on top.

If you think this is such a terrible idea, please tell me one other opportunity we have to invest $10-20 billion and save $2 trillion over the next two decades.

Never gone work!

You have the same energy consumption, but you have much more power need to feed everything moving as they go.

Charging off peak permit to smooth the demand in so many ways that is much cheaper than overbuilding the grid for this stupid idea.
Interesting idea, but totally foolish an impractical.

What’s wrong with an old fashion conductive system? Have to strips below the car like a train would have? As long as the car has its own battery, it won’t have to maintain contact the whole time. It would be much cheaper.

It worked in Back to the Future.

That would certainly reduce the price of buying the equipment, and likely would reduce the price for tearing up and rebuilding the roads and highways, as well as far less maintenance for simple electrified rails rather than much more sophisticated, more expensive, and much more delicate EV wireless charging systems. But it would do nothing to reduce the price of building and powering all those additional power plants needed to power a nationwide system of electrified rails in all major roadways. Perhaps more importantly, it would not make any real impact on the market for EVs until all highways and major roads were electrified everywhere, all at once. In the real world, that’s not gonna happen. In the real world, what would happen is something like what we see with “fool cell” cars; cars which can only be used in very limited regions, and can’t drive far outside those regions. And just as with fool cell cars, very few people would be foolish enough to buy cars with such limited usefulness. Just as with fool cell cars, any attempt to actually build out such a system on a widespread basis would fail, because the cost per car actually using the… Read more »

Hydrogen fuel cells instead!! Jk.

But seriously, nothing like this will be even remotely considered over the next 3.5 years. However, the options for on the go charging will start to pop up right around when I’m assuming some new solid battery tech ‘should’ become available. This won’t remove the need for it but probably push it even further out until large consumer application. Im curious about how durable and long lasting such an application would be, especially with flooding (like the Svalbard seed vault 😉


Gotta admit, the idea of electrifying all major roads in the entire country makes the concept of fool cell cars powered by compressed hydrogen look positively sensible and affordable by comparison. 😉

Battery costs are declining rapidly and the tech keeps getting better. This is just a silly distraction until we all have 400mi bevs.

How efficient would a Limo Length EV1 be? What would its Cd be, or the CdA? How big in kWh, could the pack be in such a car? 120 kWh? 150 kWh? How far could that go, and how many people could it carry?

I’m wondering how these systems work with people who have pacemakers, artificial joints, and cochlear implants. If you walk across one, do your knees fry? Heart stops? CI melts down?

Not a chance.
1. Capex compared to (the reducing) cost of batteries the car owner controls;
2. Regulatory issues hard to overcome given the alternatives available;
3. Would be limited to biggest roads so the touted “freedom” is questionable;
4. Wireless charging in your garage will succeed (and soon).

I don’t have an issue with the general idea of ‘charging’ on the road but a catenary system *for lane one only* (ie the ‘slow’ lane – and pretty much for long distance trucks and busses only) would be a much more practical solution, though not pretty (and still far from cheap). I’m not entirely sure how it would be powered, though. It’s one thing to have a single train operating over any one ~5 mile section of track and therefore catenary system – it is another entirely to have potentially thousands of vehicles over the same length of road all suck 50kW+.

On the other hand, the taxi rank idea is definitely practical and certainly useful (still not sure about the cost, tho) – there may be other situations where it work work, too.

Napkin math:
Every car has 1 component that needs to refuel about every 4 hrs and takes about 30 minutes to do it – the driver.
Therefore, 4 hrs x 70mph = 280m range needed at 70 mph. Assume 3 miles/kWh means a 95kWh battery, which Tesla already has. So all we really need are chargers of 200KW co-located with places to eat. Tesla is already working on this.

here my napkin calculation… if you stop at a restaurant for your 200kW quick charge just as other 20 drivers, this means that the place needs a few MEGAWATTS power for the clients… not really practical. Or maybe you cannot access the 3 – 5 charging spots (still one megawatt?) and depend on your huge battery.
Dynamic charging just distributes the power need all along the road. When the grid companies figure out how to make business out of that, they will go quick into it. First come, first serve.
Oh, and Honda could sharpen the charging arms, just like in Ben-Hur. No more hitch-hikers, stalled cars or bicycles. Free road!

Perhaps this idea is being pushed by fool cell supporters to make their preferred technology appear reasonable by comparison.

Genius. This will be the real revolution. Much more sensible than carrying around all the energy you need for very long journeys.

I agree. Once all vehicles are automated in the near future, you can jump in the car, program your destination and kick back without worrying about driving or recharging/refueling or whatever. Also in the transportation sectors as well. Load trucks at warehouses that will deliver to their locations by themselves. This is absolutely the way of the future, and I’m sure it will be improved upon too. No need to make the whole road with this either. Just put it in stretches of highway that are 50 miles or more outside of cities and towns and remote locations with vast stretches with nothing around them. The future is exciting in the world of EVs.

Perhaps good for Disneyworld and closed circuit roads with confined vehicles that don’t stop regularly for recharge opportunities (removes, current trams as possible). Point-to-point delivery though would benefit but the initial outlay is just VERY high and ROI wouldn’t be there from today’s aspects.

It seems to me that the naysayers are assuming that every mile of every paved road in the US would have this stuff. Not necessary. I do not get the impression that the system is supposed to completely charge the battery, or to keep the battery from losing charge. It’s just a boost – a substitute for a range extender!

In the US, it’s probably best for buses, taxis, remote stretches of interstates, and remote areas like state and national parks. The roads could be powered by local renewables (solar, wind + storage).

Probably useless for islands smaller than Ireland, since the vehicle could charge at home exclusively (assuming 200mi minimum EPA-type range).