By Keith Heyde
So, I often give electric vehicles a hard time. Silly batteries that take up precious metals, not to mention the ridiculousness of having to plug them, and the range issues, make electric vehicles an easy target for me.
However, there are some technologies out there that are making the case for electric vehicles more enticing. In a recent New York Times article on public bus transportation (http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/in-italy-electric-buses-wirelessly-pick-up-their-power/) I came across an interesting technology. This technology seems to make the case for electronic vehicles not only mobile, but also practical.
The technology is developed by a company out Weil am Rhein, Germany by Conductix-Wampfler. Essentially, the technology relies upon a wireless charging system to “instantly” refuel electronic fuel cells within busses or other EVs. In the application they have been purchased for, these electronic wireless chargers are used as bus station and top off busses with about 10-15% of a busses total electric capacity. Amazingly, this charge transfer can be done in as little time as it takes for passengers to enter and exit the bus at a given stop.
The conductix-wampfler system is also economical based off of the diesel alternatives. Due to the rising costs of oil fuel, especially in Europe, the conductix system has a payback of only four years. This is astounding especially when we consider that the average life of a public transportation bus is around 12 years.
Usually, novel technologies such as this wireless transfer are adopted at an astoundingly slow pace. They inch along from continent to continent waiting for adoption by politicians who make gambles for political leverage alone. Often, few politicians or city planners are willing to step out on a limb and adopt an untested policy, especially when it has a price tag attached to it.
However, in the case of these wireless-charging stations, the pace of adoption seems to be a bit quicker. Across Europe, conductix-wampfler already has 4 contracts with major municipalities. In addition, their rivals (of similar technologies) have many more.
Yet, what is really promising is how Conductix has opened up communication with Daimler on making the wireless transfer technology available for passenger cars. This would mean that literally every red light would have the potential to be a charging station for electric vehicles. Talk about a range-increase.
Now, I am not saying that this technology has made me pro-EV. Far from it. I still recognize that our predominantly oil infrastructure is far from ready to be electronified. However, I will say that wireless transfer technology such as this are making the case for a more electronic future very bright.