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Wireless EV charging? Here's how e-transport will look like in 10 years

The future of wireless EV charging is close, but there are challenges to overcome to get there.

Picture the scene: You're driving your electric car to the stores and notice that the battery is running low.

Nothing to worry. You park your car in an available space, and while you shop for groceries and have a cappuccino, your car is charging. No cables, no worries. The entire process is automated.

Thanks to recent advancements  in wireless power transfer research, it has become feasible  to charge electric vehicles without the need for a cable, just like the wireless chargers already in use for smartphones.

This is the future of electric cars. And it's not far away.

Far from former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's fears that electric cars could " end the weekend", Christmas holidays at the beach in the near future could benefit from wireless charging infrastructure built into the highways you take to get there.

This will allow you to charge your electric car while travelling on the road, which is known as dynamic wireless charging.

Most EVs today can travel more than 300 kilometers on a single charge, which is more than most people need for daily use, but not far enough when you're embarking on a longer journey.

But with dynamic wireless charging technology integrated into highway infrastructure, range anxiety will no longer be something you'll have to think about.

You also won't have to buy a more expensive electric car with a bigger battery capable of covering hundreds of kilometers (batteries are the most expensive part of an electric car) when the average daily travel distance is just a few tens of kilometres.

The extensive list of EV benefits is quite appealing, not least how they can help reduce the world's transport-related greenhouse gas emissions.

However, there is still a long way to go before we reach that utopia.

Despite their environmentally attractive facade, electric cars produce more carbon emissions during the manufacturing phase than their internal combustion engine counterparts.

This is mainly due to the environmentally unfriendly production process of the bulky batteries used in EVs.

Before a mid -sized EV even hits the road, the analysis estimates it would produce 8,100 kg of CO2. However, this will be offset over the life of the electric vehicle, thanks to carbon-free propellants.

Wireless EV charging

Whether charged via cable or wirelessly, the environmental impact of electric cars also depends on the carbon footprint of their energy source.

If the electricity used to recharge it is sourced only from coal-fired power plants, a mid-sized electric car like the Tesla 3 would have to be driven 125,000 kilometers to surpass the environmental performance of a petrol-fuelled Toyota Corolla.

However, if the grid recharging it is fully powered by renewable sources, this break-even point falls to below 14,000 km.

The electrical grid must be capable of accommodating such a tremendous influx of electric cars and renewable resources.

Electric cars are not like other items you have at home. Charging an electric car can consume up to 22 kilowatts of power , which is 10 times the energy consumed when ironing or using a hair dryer at maximum power.

Handling such an enormous amount of power at a national grid level, coupled  with the unpredictable nature of renewable resources, requires a grid that is not only more intelligent, but more sustainable and decentralized than current infrastructure.

The grid first needs to be digitalised to keep up with the complex demands of the growing number of electric cars using it and the growing prevalence of renewable energy resources feeding into it.

What this means is that the grid of the future is a data-driven, AI- integrated network which enables all energy entities, from consumers to distributed generators to renewable resources, to digitally interact with each other and with the overall core grid.

The rise of artificial intelligence and its related applications present promising opportunities to efficiently manage these highly sophisticated energy grids.

Another challenge to overcome is improving the batteries that power the electric cars themselves.

As well as current batteries being expensive, bulky, and hard to sustainably produce, they can also be easily damaged.

For example, fast chargers for electric cars allow rapid recharging but also pump a huge amount of energy into the battery in a very short time, causing further consumption and battery degradation.

There's also the problem of what to do when the battery reaches the end of its usefulness, and work underway to see if they can be repurposed for stationary use at solar or wind farms.

Researchers are developing a process for recycling EV batteries at the end of their life and breaking them down into their component parts, which only produces low emissions.

But electric vehicle batteries have their upsides too, such as their ability to return power into the grid through bidirectional chargers and vehicle-to-grid technology.

Such a future is already here for some electric vehicle drivers in South Australia.

Also Read: Servotech Power Systems bags order for 2,649 EV chargers from Bharat Petroleum

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