As sales of electric and hybrid vehicles (EHVs) is predicted to continue to rise, it’s fascinating to read about the new technologies being developed and introduced to tackle the biggest factors that prevent drivers from purchasing an electric vehicle (EV): a vehicle’s range and how it’s charged.
Not a problem for traditional petrol and diesel car drivers – there are over 8,000 fuel stations in the UK so you’re never ever far from a pump to fill the tank. But, a completely different matter if you drive an EV. Each vehicle has a maximum distance, or range, it can travel on one single charge. Planning where to charge is vital and that’s easier said than done as charging points are often a little harder to find than a fuel station.
So, it’s no surprise that both improving range and charging times are at the top of manufacturers ‘to do’ lists. The phenomenon has even spawned a new phrase: ‘range anxiety’ i.e. worrying about how far your EHV will go, where you’ll be able to charge it and how long it will actually take to charge!
Charge changing innovations
As the race to deliver new, ground-breaking solutions to solve charging issues and speeding up the whole process picks up pace, there are a number of innovations that are causing a stir and have real potential to advance the field of EV charging.
- Wireless charging
A bit like wireless phone charging, wireless charging for EVs could become commonplace in car parks and even on the road network itself. Just think of the possibility: your EV charges itself as you’re actually driving it.
Wireless charging for EVs would use magnetic induction, just like phone charging. Simply park your car on a charging pad, sit back and wait for the external magnetic field to work its magic. Or even, one day, drive it along a motorway that happens to be one continuous charging pad!
Very clever, yet highly ambitious, wireless charging would dramatically change the way we go about charging EVs.
- Super-fast charging
Porsche and BMW currently lead the way in super-fast charging. A 450kW capacity charger they have developed can deliver enough charge within three minutes for a specially developed EV to travel 62 miles. And therein lies the problem to be overcome: ‘a specially developed EV’.
Not one EV for sale today can actually adopt that level of power so quickly. But that will change. This charger exists and it works on the test vehicle. So, manufacturers are busy developing EVs that will be able to cope with this powerful charger. How long that will take, and how much the finished EV will cost, is anyone’s guess – we’re excited to track progress though.
- Vehicle-to-Grid technology
The vision behind vehicle-to-grid technology is for EVs to charge directly from the energy grid whenever there is excess output but also to release any used power back to that grid at peak times. There are also projects underway that are looking to use car batteries and household battery packs to collect and store power from renewable installations such as solar panels.
Referred to as ‘managed’ or ‘smart charging’, the objective is to prevent any grid overload and stagger the charging of EVs over a longer period rather than during peak hours.
As well as grid-to-vehicle tech, there is one company – Wallbox – that has developed a ‘bidirectional charger’. This charger can supposedly feed energy from an EV back into the home or straight to the grid and charge the car too as required. With its multiple applications it has the potential to cut energy waste whilst reducing the burden on the grid and ticking environmentally conscious boxes in the process. What’s not to like?
Reliable, fast, flexible but safe
Each of these solutions has what it takes to transform the future for EVs and address ‘range anxiety’ once and for all. They offer us reliability, speed and flexibility but, overall, they must be safe for everyone to use.
There is still much work to be done in order to deliver charging parity for all EV owners, irrespective of the model or make of their vehicle. Time will tell who wins the charging race and, until that day, we remain glued to our seats for the results.