The world’s population is increasingly urban. More than half of all people currently inhabit urban areas and by 2050, it is expected that 70% of the world’s population will be in urban areas. Urban Mobility is a huge challenge. Today, 65% of all travel is urban and that is projected to increase sharply by 2050 (Arthur D. Little statistics). Getting around the urban core quickly, conveniently and without creating massive pollution will be critical to life. This will require massively ramping up green electric vehicles and their charging infrastructure in urban areas making it easy and convenient. WiTricity can address this challenge in three main, strategic ways:

  1. Wirelessly Powered Urban Transit
    Enable wirelessly charged buses, trams and people movers (distributing energy from renewables) with in-route opportunity charging
  2. Wirelessly Powered Shared & Autonomous Vehicles
    Autonomous vehicles have no drivers and no one to plug them in, effective deployment requires autonomous opportunity charging in the service area
  3. Enabling an Intelligent Bidirectional Grid
    Use vehicles intelligently as energy sources/sinks to buffer the grid on demand

Wireless Powered Urban Transit

Increasingly, public transit is becoming electrified. In China alone, there are more than 421,000 electric buses with more being built every day. People movers are becoming electric as are trams and other parts of the public transit infrastructure. With electrification, however, comes a challenge. All of these vehicles will need to be charged and charging infrastructure must become far more convenient than it currently is. Large electrified vehicles require massive battery packs and heavy, unwieldy cabling. Managing all this turns out to be a significant and expensive challenge. Wires and charging stations are open to the elements and prone to vandalism and weather damage.  Urban transit vehicles are often taken offline in order to charge them and large, heavy cabling needs to be maneuvered in order to charge. All this adds complexity and inefficiency to public transit.

WiTricity technology allows urban transit vehicles to be charged while in service and without the need for vandalism-prone wiring and/or charging stations. Think of it as “power snacking”. By charging a bus or a tram on its route wirelessly, it never needs to be taken out of service, reducing TCO. With wireless charging stations embedded under concrete, there is no issue with weather or vandalism. The WiTricity solution is an obvious answer for urban transit, especially as the deployment of electric transit vehicles accelerates.

Wirelessly Power Shared & Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomy is a perfect solution for dense, urban cities. Urban mobility will be built around robotic taxis or people-movers picking people up and dropping them off without the need for expansive land-devouring parking areas, especially in space-starved, dense urban areas. Autonomous vehicles do not have drivers but they need to be charged frequently.  There are only 3 logical solutions to this problem:

  1. Drive the AVs to “depots” and have humans plug them in
  2. Have robots plug them in at charge points across cities
  3. Wirelessly charge them in-service

EV Parked Taxi
The first option requires battling traffic, expending precious range, and takes away many of the benefits of autonomous vehicles in the first place. The whole point of having autonomous vehicles is to take humans out of the equation and build a vastly more economical and scalable transportation network. Adding in human intervention reduces the benefits of autonomy and makes AVs less viable.

The second option of robotic charging is prone to damage and vandalism and is expensive, clunky and unreliable. Robotic systems in a public environment are prone to failure (at some level they all require a “plug” to be inserted into a “socket” by some kind of a mechanical system). They also present attractive targets for vandals and sustain weather damage even if the mechanical systems could work reliably. Robotic systems might work well in animation or demos but they are impractical for mass deployment.

The third option is the only viable one: charge vehicles wirelessly in-service with charging points securely embedded in parking/waiting areas.  Wirelessly charged vehicles can operate 24/7, the life of the expensive batteries are extended by avoiding charging to 100% and draining to empty, and vehicles can remain in the service area where they are needed. Wireless charging is a simple and scalable solution for charging electrical autonomous vehicles, one that supports AV fleet economics, and can accelerate the uptake of autonomy itself.

 

Enabling an Intelligent Bidirectional Grid

Bi-Directional Power Transfer
Required grid storage represents a significant new capital investment for utility companies.  Grid storage buffers electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind where output fluctuates depending on weather and time of day. Globally, the largest by far consumption of battery manufacturing capacity is EVs. Utilities see huge value potential in tapping that EV battery capacity rather than investing in their own storage.

In today’s smart grid, EV charging infrastructure can communicate with the grid and throttle charging rates to accommodate peak demand. However, V2G enables EVs to store and discharge that power on demand.  In principle, EVs, AVs, and even urban transit vehicles can become part of a highly intelligent and responsive urban grid.  In practice, most EVs are not plugged in when their batteries are full and at the time a utility company needs that capacity–the energy is there but utility companies cannot get to it.

Bidirectional wireless power solves the access issue.  Whenever the vehicle is parked at a charger, without any driver intervention, the vehicle is available to the grid for V2G power on demand.  For a fleet of AVs, the operator could decide in a real-time decision that selling power back to the utility is more lucrative than providing rides. In avoiding costly grid storage, utilities will have an economic incentive to enable wireless V2G infrastructure.  A network of electrically powered vehicles–a massive distributed source or sink of electrical power–allows urban areas to better manage energy and respond to periods of peak usage and peak generation, charging and tapping these vehicles in an intelligent manner.