This Development In Wireless Power Transmission Technology Has Brought Remote Charging a Step Closer
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Remote power charging technologies are a bit of a Holy Grail but for the past 10 years, they have been on the fringes because of impractical bulky equipment and the need for large investments. But this could be set to change. Reasonance, a Russian startup, has made huge steps with wireless power transmission technology leading to costs tumbling dramatically, by up to 90 per cent in some cases. Partner projects are already underway with several car manufacturers and auto shops on board. Reasonance CEO, Anton Vishnevsky explains.
Among a plethora of new technologies at CES 2021 one of the stand out hits was a wireless television from Reasonance. This new system, based on a prototype which cost approximately $150, remotely powered the television from a distance of 50 cm and improved transmission energy efficiency by up to 90 per cent. The TV was powered by a receiver coil with a transmitting coil mounted on a table above the television. The current was induced by a magnetic field and the technology demonstrated misalignment of coils, efficiency, safety and cost-efficiency. It generated a lot of buzz at CES because of the potential it offers.
The advances that wireless transmission of electricity can bring are significant ranging from cheaper and safer power transmission to a great deal more efficiency in all areas of human endeavour. In the industry there is a steady flow of ongoing work to create effective wireless (truly wireless) power transmission that can be implemented on a large scale. Most of the industry players today use the well-known effects of electromagnetic resonance, which are practically indistinguishable from the current Qi standard, that is, you have to put a phone or other device directly on a charging pad. This is not really wireless, rather it is just plugless. In the future, solutions are needed in which the consumer does not think about charging at all, rather it just happens like Wi-Fi connectivity. This is a global expectation common across Asia, Europe and the US.
In the field of small electric vehicles (bicycles, scooters, mopeds, rickshaws, tuk-tuk), the demand for wireless charging is certainly growing especially for countries in the Asian region and India. The second market for small electric vehicles is in EU countries where low-demand mobility is in great demand and environmental standards are high. As far as electric vehicles are concerned, they require huge amounts of power to be transmitted quickly, which makes wireless charging systems complex. Most car manufacturers are not yet ready to accept this complexity and cost. The most suitable solution for electric vehicles is a smart (green) road with preinstalled charging cells, allowing vehicles to be charged on the go.
In a sense wires are the last obstacle on the journey to unmanned technologies, but until now, wireless power transmission solutions have required large structures and often unsafe frequencies. This is impractical, harmful to living organisms and expensive. For instance a charging station for a $25,000 electric vehicle can cost $10,000.
In contrast the Reasonance system design is simple which means the cost of power transmission is 10 times lower than that of competitors. The startup is able to make these striking savings thanks to affordability of the material used to make the coils. By using a technical know-how in coil configuration the cost is more than affordable even at the low frequencies compatible with World Health Organization guidelines that state frequencies up to 30 kHz are safe for living beings.
Remote charging of electric vehicles
The technology for wireless charging of electric vehicles in motion is being tested by several carmakers, as well as a number of startups and infrastructure companies. It is assumed that dynamic charging under the road requires a wireless network capable of transmitting energy to the vehicle's receiver. For trucks and electric buses, it is also possible to charge using transmitters stretched over the road, similar to those used when moving trams.
Renault SA and Electricite de France SA are testing dynamic car charging in Paris. Truck manufacturer Scania AB is preparing an electric truck for production that charges itself using transmitters over the road. In Tel Aviv, a 600-meter road, which is already capable of charging electric buses while driving, is being tested. Testing involves startup ElectReon and Dan Bus.
Understandably automakers are looking to increase power transfer in order to reduce charging times. But the Reasonance view is that it is more viable to increase the number of charging points at lower cost. As a result megapower charging stations are no longer needed and cars can be charged by parking at a shopping center or even for a short time, when stopping at traffic lights.
The SAE J2954 wireless power transmission standard for electric vehicles was adopted in October 2020. It took over 10 years to develop it. The document defines the parameters of wireless energy transmission - 3.7; 7.7; 11 kW of power at a distance of 10-25 cm and at a frequency of 85 kHz with an efficiency of 95-97 per cent. Using this standard Reasonance developers can certainly provide the best results (with an efficiency of 95-97 per cent for a distance equal to the diameter of the transmitting coil), but are forced to work according to the specified parameters.
Journey to commercial production
In 2018, technology developers Vladimir and Oleg Trubnikovs and Andrey Tarasov demonstrated their know-how to representatives of one of the world's largest energy and metallurgical companies, En + Group. Prior to this they had been developing and honing the technology at a Russian research institute for 15 years.
A member of the En + Group Board of Directors Anton Vishnevsky invested in the project. Later, he led the team and took up the position of CEO. In total, the shareholders have invested close to $2 million of their own funds in the project to get Reasonance up and running. Following the arrival of Vishnevsky, the company reoriented its focus from scientific research to market-oriented development. The company also joined the AirFuel Alliance, a conglomeration of innovative players dedicated to freeing the world from the shackles of wired power transmission.
Today the project team employs 12 people. Andrey Tarasov deals with wireless transmission and finding optimal solutions and collaborating with scientific consultants. Oleg Trubnikov specializes in power engineering and manages a team of four engineers. The company plans to hire a raft of new talented developers and start selling the technology commercially within the coming 12 months.
Its R&D laboratory is in Moscow; while a decision for the head office location is yet to be determined. The decision will be made soon given that the developers are registering more than 100 patents in Russia, China, India, USA, Europe, Canada and South Korea.
Logistics and electronics
The potential for this technology goes beyond wireless transmission charging of vehicles, as important and significant as this is.For instance, increasing attention is being given to wireless charging for various types of equipment in logistics. The boom in online trading has led to a massive growth in logistics as well as the automation of many warehouse operations. But automation does not mean full autonomy of robots and unmanned forklifts because they have to be taken ‘offline’ and connect to a wired network to charge. Wireless solutions (including built-in smart routes in warehouses) will greatly optimize equipment in warehouses and bring true meaning to the word autonomy. It will greatly enhance efficiency in an industry that is growing quickly and broadly.
The trend for wireless charging of wearable devices and equipment such as phones, smart watches, headphones is also an issue many manufacturers of these devices are trying to solve. For example, Xiaomi, the multinational electronics company, has just announced the development of Mi Air Charge technology. It is an absolutely great break-through from an engineering point of view, but it has little to do with true wireless charging. The frequencies its uses are not bearable for living objects and the 5W power output is not significant. The same can be said about a recent Motorola announcement in which wireless charging stops when a charging dock detects a human body because of safety issues.
It’s fair to say that effective, safe and low cost wireless power transmission is something of a Holy Grail. It’s introduction will certainly transform the way we live and how we go about doing things. It will have significant impacts in all areas of human endeavour and Reasonance is extremely close in helping bring it to fruition.