Blog: Go slow to go fast

By WiTricity CMO Amy Barzdukas

When we talk about our wireless EV charging to current EV owners, one of the comments we always hear is “sounds like it won’t be as fast as the plug.” Truth is, it IS every bit as fast as the comparable plug. So there’s no need to worry that wireless charging will slow you down.

That said, there is a compelling argument to suggest that we stop only thinking about charging EVs in terms of speed. After all, the gas/petrol stations we are familiar with today weren’t developed for speed. They were developed for safety: early motorists found refueling dangerous and inconvenient, with gasoline transferred from large storage tanks to smaller glass dispensers and poured by hand. With the invention of the gas pump and the rise in automobiles, the gas station was born as a protected way to deal with the noxious and flammable fuel.

Our mental model for technology change always starts with what we know, so it’s no surprise that we want to translate the gas station model for EVs. But think, for a minute, about what’s different between EVs and ICE vehicles: it’s not just the fuel. Today’s EVs have features and capabilities that we couldn’t have conceived of just a few years ago. From various implementations of autonomy and ADAS, to facial recognition, to fingerprint access . . . today’s EV is a new and different technology. The shift from ICE to EV is equivalent to the transition from the horse-drawn carriage to the Model T.

You can almost hear the commentary of the time, fussing over the trouble of going to the gas station, how much simpler and easier it would be to just walk out to the barn and feed the horses.

Start with a Clean Slate

What if we were building the “fueling” infrastructure for EVs from a clean slate? What would we create if we were to best suit what makes them great, and to mesh with the ways we actually use our cars?

• Most cars in the US are driven less than 100 miles per day and spend the vast majority of their time parked. (It may be less: according to Hannon Rasool, deputy director of the California Energy Commission’s fuels and transportation division, “The reality is most of us don’t drive more than 25 miles in a day.”)

• EVs are also battery powered, and the physics of batteries are different than the physics of combustion engines: for maximum battery life, you don’t want to draw the battery below 20%, you don’t want to charge it above 80%, and you want to charge it more slowly. So, with the exception of long-distance travel, where DC Fast Chargers (DCFC) make sense, you really DON’T want to “fill ‘er up.”

• We love EVs because they’re green, but we want to keep the batteries as small as possible and as long-lived as possible, too.

• EVs are also technologically advanced. With highly sophisticated software capability, they are smart enough to be able to communicate effectively with their power provider, to sense and adjust based on the amount of charge, the amount of power, and even the temperature of the battery and its surroundings.

So, if we want to build a charging solution to best suit EVs – building for the future instead of repeating the past — we would build an infrastructure that is:

• Tuned to optimize battery life and performance by charging at as low a power as possible, and avoid blitzing DCFC whenever possible

• Built to take advantage of the “down time” our cars have in parking lots, garages, driveways, and curbside – by making charging as easy as parking, not plugging in and unplugging all day long

• Designed to work intelligently with the power grid to minimize costs and optimize stability

• Accessible and easy to use for all drivers

• Unobtrusive and hardened against vandalism, damage, and the elements

• Safe and reliable

It might look something like the wireless charging solutions from WiTricity.