Pennsylvania-based clean energy firm Momentum Dynamics said today it will launch its wireless electrified vehicle fast-charging system to fleets this year, to consumers within two years, then as an original equipment feature by mid-decade.
The company’s magnetic induction-based system significantly outperforms level-2 chargers, costs far less than level 3 chargers, works automatically, in any weather and was on display this week at the Commercial Vehicle Megatrends USA 2012 conference in Dearborn, Mich.
In an interview today with Momentum Dynamics’ founder and CEO, Andy Daga, we learned the U.S. Department of Energy as well as other state agencies concerned with green energy technology have generally endorsed the system and grant funding has amounted to $1.1 million total combined to date.
As you might imagine, the system is designed for any plug-in vehicle, and Daga said the company is actively engaged with beginning several fleet pilot programs around the country with delivery companies like FedEx and UPS, shuttle services, and others.
If all goes as planned, the inductive charger could be introduced for consumer aftermarket purchase possibly as soon as 2013.
The system simply works and is convenient, Daga said, and renders plugs obsolete to the point that he’s in talks with four automotive OEMs so far, and we could see Momentum Dynamics systems installed as original equipment in certain vehicles by model year 2015 – though he made clear Chevrolet was not one of the companies he is yet partnered with.
The way the system operates is not unlike the magnetic inductive charging used with wireless devices that are laid on an inductive pad, or even an electric toothbrush sitting on a stand on your bathroom sink, he said. The difference is the energy needed to recharge a vehicle can be on an order of magnitude higher – around 10,000 watts – albeit still without fear of electric shock to a person or pet.
As installed on the Volt, the system can recharge through an air gap between the pad on the floor and a receptor installed between the front wheels under the Volt’s chassis – and despite all that current, Daga said the vehicle’s metal underside does not increase in temperature.
The company is still working out some details however – such as how to properly remove an effective bottleneck in respective onboard chargers that slows down recharge times. The Volt’s 3.3-kw charger limits charge times to the speed of a standard level 2 charger for now.
Daga said the company is actively working with OE engineers to update hardware and software, and has been told the Volt’s battery can easily handle input power of 10 kw, though for now it’s limited to 3.3 kw, and the next benchmark will be upgrading to 7.2 kw prior to arriving at 10 kw.
Once Momentum Dynamics successfully modifies the Volt’s T18 Battery Control Module, speed for a full recharge to the Volt’s 16-kwh battery will be a blazing one hour. This is one-third the approximately three hours it would take via a 240-volt level 2 charger, or one-tenth the 10 hours via 120-volt house current.
The Momentum Dynamics system utilizes two matched coils working as a set – one being a transmitter connected to the electrical grid and located on or in the pavement, and the other being a receiver installed in the vehicle.
The transmitting coil is tuned to create an alternating magnetic field of a specified frequency. The receiving coil is also tuned to this frequency, and as the transmitter is energized, the receiving coil has a current induced within it, even though the two coils are not in contact with each other and separated by up to two feet.
Daga said a driver needs only park close to on-target, and is guided by audible chirps in the vehicle that help position it within an acceptable distance, and it does not need to be ultra-precise, so it does not take special talent to park the car in order to charge.
The blue mat in the photo is just one application, and as alluded to above, the system can be embedded in pavement, and in the works also are a series of embedded pads set in a row that could charge slowly moving, semi-parked taxis waiting at a curb for passengers, for example.
The company is eager to prove the system works in municipal and commercial settings for stationary or near-stationary vehicles, but time could come when moving vehicles could also take advantage of it.
The system is enabled to recognize a specific vehicle signaling it via a transponder, and an account would be assigned like a turnpike EZ Pass for billing purposes, Daga said.
While it’s too soon to commit to actual pricing, Daga estimated first-generation aftermarket consumer pads could cost perhaps $5,000-$6,000, with in-ground designs intended to be flush with a driveway surface or garage floor costing perhaps a couple thousand more before installation costs.
Commercial applications – such as those intended for electric Enterprise shuttle buses at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Calif. – would be about $10,000 before installation costs.
Consumers would also have to pay perhaps $500 for the receiver that would be attached under their vehicle, and as a factory installed option later this decade, it would be less, he said. Naturally, any vehicle that normally plugs in, such as a Nissan Leaf, Tesla, Ford Focus Electric, and of course, Volt or others could make use of the system.
If used proactively, the company says its system also stands to potentially extend a vehicle’s battery life by making it simple to charge and go without a thought. It also potentially counters the threat of theft or vandalism that could be a concern to EVs using ordinary plugs for recharging.
Momentum Dynamics designed and manufactures the components in the U.S. – and Daga said it intends to remain a U.S. manufacturer, and not outsource.
For more information, consult the company’s Web site.