Qualcomm and Mercedes Scaling Up Wireless Charging For 2018

Qualcomm is preparing to bring more wireless electric charging to the U.S. next year tied to the launch of the refreshed Mercedes-Benz S550e plug-in hybrid sedan.

Mercedes-Benz says S550e drivers can park over a charging pad and the process will begin automatically. Wireless charging means they can just “park it and charge it,” says the company.

The WEVC system will be manufactured by a major power electronics supplier, yet to be named, which has licensed the technology from the company’s wireless charging unit, Qualcomm Halo.

Qualcomm and Mercedes have been testing wireless technology for several years through involvement in the Formula E electric racing series.

The wireless telecommunications company has run the official FIA Formula E Qualcomm Safety Car, where data has been collected on wireless charging. A BMW i8 has been used as the safety car.

The company’s subsidiary Qualcomm Technologies has been working with the Mercedes factory Formula One team, Mercedes AMG Petronas. Race car data shared over Wi-Fi has been used by the team to make speed, efficiency, and safety improvements.

The two companies announced their partnership in bringing wireless charging to market in 2015. They’ve promoted the technology’s potential for being quicker and more powerful than plug-in charging.

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The way it works is that Qualcomm Halo designs WEVC units that use resonant magnetic induction to transfer energy. As the illustration above shows, a primary coil delivers power underground through an electric outlet to the charging platform mounted in the ground. The electric car driver needs to park right over that platform; it doesn’t have to be perfectly lined up, but close enough to transfer the power. A secondary coil sends the power to a high-voltage battery onboard.

The company has focused on making improvements to increase speed, efficiency, and safety. It ways that its efficiency is comparable to conductive, plug-in charging’s 90 percent efficiency rating.

Mercedes-Benz and Qualcomm have been working to ensure that SAE International include WEVC in its automotive standards. That will help bring the technology out to other automakers for widespread adoption, Qualcomm said.

Currently, Qualcomm offers a 3.6 kW WEVC system, which it says is adequate for plug-in hybrid vehicles. Pure electric vehicles that have a 30-40 kWh battery needs to have double or even triple that charging power to get good charging done in a reasonable amount of time.

Wireless charging has already seen minimal presence in the U.S. through other suppliers. Evatran offers its Plugless product customized for the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and BMW i3.

Qualcomm hopes to bring wireless charging to all the major automakers in global markets.