Continental, one of the largest suppliers to the automotive industry, is deeply involved in the technology that will keep the electric cars of the future charged. At its Tech Show going on this month, it is previewing several new systems it has developed, including improvements to the wireless charging experience for drivers.
One of the critical issues for wireless charging is alignment. For maximum efficiency, the car must be parked precisely over the ground-mounted charging hub. Being off by even a few centimeters can reduce current flow significantly. Continental says its micro-alignment system solves that issue.
As a car equipped with the system approaches a wireless charging location, the system allows the the car and the charger to communicate. The technology then guides the car to the correct location hands-free and confirms when charging has begun.
According to Thomas Röhrl, who is in charge of the team developing the new technology at Continental, “At present, there can be any of a number of reasons why EV drivers are reluctant to use every available opportunity to recharge their vehicle. If it’s cold outside or wet they may not feel like getting out and grappling with the charging cable.”
Frequent charging that involves little direct input from the driver is a vital part of driving acceptance of electric vehicles forward, Röhrl says. “We have to make recharging more practical and user-friendly,” says Röhrl. “Inductive charging technology will be a big step towards achieving this.”
The company envisions the system being incorporated into public parking areas throughout cities. Equipped with Continental technology, cars will be able to identify and reserve available parking spaces, then guide cars to them and initiate the charging process while the driver attends to more important things.
With charging power of up to 11 kW, an EV will acquire about an extra kilometer of range for every minute of charging. “So in the space of a 20 minute shopping trip, the available driving range can be increased by up to 20 km,” says Röhrl.
Because the charging hub is permanently mounted to the ground, the risk of theft or vandalism is decreased. The system also immediately detects any intrusion into the space between the charger and the car and shuts down the charging process to protect Fluffy the cat from wandering in to that space and getting zapped by electricity.
Making charging seamless, so drivers don’t even have to think about it, will calm many of the fears people have about electric cars, especially for those who drive primarily in urban environments where large distances are not part of the daily routine. The Continental wireless charging system will be featured at the Frankfurt auto show in September.
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