Charging will be fast, automatic and wireless
Charging is, alongside the price of cars, one of the thorniest problems for the development of electric mobility. That's why we work on systems other than the classic cable, socket and plug. The "hottest" alternative is wireless, static or dynamic charging.
The first involves the installation of plates on which to park the cars in order to recharge. Bmw is the only manufacturer to offer it (not for Italy) on the BMW 530e and has a power of 3.2 kW, therefore low and suitable for domestic use for plug-in hybrid cars, with relatively small batteries. In Monaco, however, they believe it most of all, so much so that they are also studying it for motorcycles, with the energy that reaches the battery through the stand resting on the plate. And they apply it in Formula E, not for the single-seaters, but for the i8 safety car and the other service cars (i3, 530e and X5 40e) which must be ready to start instantly at any time. They are supplied with loaders developed by Halo, a former Qualcomm business unit sold to WiTriCity, a spinoff of MIT in Boston. In 2015 the charging power was 7.2 kW, now there is talk of over 20 kW. Momentum Dynamics will supply 75 kW systems for taxis in Oslo which, by Norwegian law, must all be electric by 2023, two years earlier than all new cars sold. The American company is already working at powers of 200 kW and, in perspective, speaks of 450 kW. Wireless charging has three limitations: vehicles need to be adapted, there is still no technology - induction with contact or magnetic field? - or single standards and, above all, it has a 20% lower yield. The "dynamic" charging even provides for an adaptation of the road infrastructure, with the creation of dedicated lanes equipped with continuous plates embedded in the asphalt so as to allow refueling on the move. Experiments are underway in various countries, including Italy, but tangible results have not yet occurred.
McLaren thinks that Formula 1 will be electric in 2050 and that the pit lane will become a charging lane where, the slower you pass, the greater the amount of energy supplied. Toyota instead imagined, before it was introduced for smartphones, powersharing: the FCV Plus concept, presented at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2015, is a plug-in fuel cell equipped with side induction plates that allow you to exchange energy with the vehicle parked next. It could be the solution for free-flowing car sharing of the future.
Wireless charging has the advantage of being hands-free, therefore ideal for public transport and self-driving cars which, in this way, could recharge themselves, such as vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers.
Volkswagen has different solutions in mind, such as robots with a built-in 25 kWh battery that move towards cars to recharge them, or mobile charging columns: huge 360 kWh power banks that could be located where the network is still incomplete, for temporary uses, such as events, or seasonal, such as in holiday resorts, perhaps using disused batteries because they have part of their capacity. But there is also another way to refuel the electric car and it is by changing the electrochemical liquid inside the battery, just like you do with a traditional fuel, without the need for a dedicated facility, perhaps right at the current distributors, and in a very short time.
The project calls Nessox acronym for New Semi-Solid flow lithium Oxygen battery and the Bettery, a start-up born in 2018 at the University of Bologna, is working on it. If they were right, the plug of the electric car would still be a pump.
Il Sole 24 Ore - Nicola Desiderio