Sweden Wireless charging of electric vehicles is regarded as simpler and more convenient than charging with a cable – but the technology needs refining.

This was the outcome of an evaluation of wireless charging that involved the testing of 20 electric cars over an 18-month period, the first large-scale test in Europe, which was initiated by Vattenfall.

During that time, those taking part in the test encountered a number of technical issues but the project found no insurmountable technical obstacles to inductive charging technology, which meets existing legislative requirements in terms of radiation.

"Wireless charging is easy. All you have to do is park your car over the charging pad, lock the vehicle and walk away. It feels so upmarket and it gives you a real sense of freedom," says Mia Nordström, who works on policy issues at Vattenfall.

Mia Nordström took part in the test with her own vehicle, a Nissan Leaf, which was fitted with a vehicle adapter underneath so it could receive power from a pad in the ground. The charging process was tested in an enclosed area at the combined heat and power plant in Uppsala, north of Stockholm.

Wireless charging
The technology is based on inductive charging, which is also used in electric toothbrushes and some mobile phones. The charging pad generates a magnetic field that transfers energy wirelessly to the vehicle.

Mia Nordström used to charge her electric car with a cable, so she can now compare the different solutions.

"Standard charging with a cable is fine but when it's raining or snowing it's not much fun. The cable gets cold, hard and dirty. Sometimes your clothes get dirty and the boot does too."

Now she charges her car wirelessly at work but, if power is to be transferred to the vehicle, it has to be parked in precisely the right place.

"It needs to be easier to park the vehicle over the charging pad. As things stand at the moment, you have to be pretty skilful to park it. I believe that the cars of the future will park themselves and find the right position," says Mia Nordström, who predicts that in a few years' time electric vehicles will be equipped for wireless charging when they leave the factory.

Have you found any disadvantages with wireless charging?
"As a user, I'm a bit worried about radiation. I remember how strong the radiation from the first mobile phones was in the 90s. The Radiation Safety Authority has tested and approved the equipment, so I know it's not dangerous. But, as with all new technology, it needs to be tested for a while before you really have confidence that it's totally safe."
"My ideal scenario would be if you could switch charging on and off from a distance using a remote control. At the moment charging starts straightaway, when you're still in the vehicle."

Technology already exists
In the future, charging pads may be concealed under parking spaces on the street or at taxi ranks, or there may be charging rails under the road, so cars are charged while they are en route. The charging pads will record which car is charging and the owner of the vehicle will be invoiced automatically. This technology already exists.

"I hope that Vattenfall or our partners will be able to offer wireless charging equipment in the very near future, so it will be even easier and more convenient to charge your electric vehicle. And that soon even more of us will be able to say 'Do you remember when we had to drive to the petrol station to fill up the car and contend with hoses and petrol caps before we could get back on our way'," says Mia Nordström.

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