BMW Introducing Wireless Charger at CES

This week at the International Consumer Electronics Show, BMW will demonstrate a new wireless charging system on a BMW i8.

Last summer, BMW and Daimler announced that the companies were collaborating to develop a system that can recharge batteries on electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids without cords. Mercedes-Benz also said in August it would begin testing this technology on its S500 plug-in hybrid.

Also called inductive charging, a wireless charger is based on two coils: one mounted under the vehicle, and one installed in a parking space or garage floor.

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“As soon as the vehicle is positioned over the base pad and the charging process begins, an alternating magnetic field is generated which transmits electricity between the coils,” explained BMW.

Correctly aligning the two coils is important for the inductive charging to work properly. Once the coils are properly aligned, charging begins automatically. All compnonts are sealed, allowing the system to operate even in wet or snowy weather.

“The electricity is transmitted without cables or contacts across a gap of several centimeters, at a charge rate of 3.3 kW,” said BMW. “The high-voltage battery of the BMW i8 can be fully recharged in less than two hours using this system – which is approximately the same amount of time required with a wired connection.”

For the larger batteries of all-electric vehicles like the i3, BMW said it will create a system in the future with charge rates of 7 kW. BMW also plans to develop a corresponding smartphone app, similar to its plug-in Wallbox app, to monitor wireless charging.

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BMW didn’t quote a price or release date for its prototype. In June 2014, a study by Frost & Sullivan estimated that aftermarket inductive charging systems like BMW’s will cost about 30-percent more than a plug-in system.

BMW has already had the opportunity to test inductive charging in a real-world setting. For the 2014-2015 season, BMW’s i8 safety car is using a Qualcomm Halo wireless charging system. Because the safety car must deploy quickly if there is an accident during a race, this system allows the car to drive away without requiring extra time to unplug it.