Electric vehicles (EVs) face a number of issues, and one of the greatest of these is the hassle and limitations of charging. Despite the many benefits of EVs, range anxiety and the time it takes to charge a vehicle can be major headaches for drivers. However, advancements in wireless charging technology may solve many of these issues, and Tesla’s recent acquisition of German startup Wiferion for $76 million in shares is the latest development in this area. But what does this mean for the industry and for the future of electric vehicles? Can wireless EV charging go mainstream and become a viable alternative to traditional wired-plug systems?
Wireless charging technology has long been touted as a simpler, more futuristic way to fuel our cars. Rather than having to physically connect a charging cord to your vehicle, you simply park in the right spot and let the electrical energy beam into your battery via magnetic resonance. But like any new tech, it’s not always easy to commercialize it and bring it to the masses. In the case of wireless EV charging, it requires automakers to make significant changes to their current charging architecture, a process that could take years.
Maria Bries had a great take on LinkedIn:
Nicola Tesla was the first person to theorize about “wireless” electrical energy transfer in 1896. Now, Elon Musk of Tesla could be banking on it for next-gen EV charging with its recent estimated $76M acquisition of German wireless company, Wiferion – wireless charging & batteries. https://lnkd.in/grzjU_Kv
For more on the history of wireless inductive charging and the Nicola Tesla fact, see Power Electronics News quoting Jeremy McCool, founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based HEVO: “Wireless charging enables autonomy. In fact, it is widely understood that there is no driverless autonomy without wireless charging technology.” https://lnkd.in/g-CaGwyz
Watertown-Mass based WiTricity led by Alex Gruzen, who is licensing its technology to other manufacturers, will host a webinar on September 13 on the future of autonomous vehicles with Pamposh Zutshi of WiTricity and Mario Herger, PhD. Register: https://bit.ly/3QwnNbC.
Bidirectional wireless charging could eventually be used for V2G capabilities. Already, Tesla is aggregating its Powerwalls across its customers in a geographic area to provide ancillary services and energy to the ERCOTmarket. The first Tesla program of its kind in the world! Tesla’s algorithms monitor electricity prices in the customer’s area and directs their Powerwall to sell their extra power to the grid when prices are high. https://lnkd.in/g9CP2-Ck
Jonathon Blackburn shared this week, “The ERCOT VPP pilot continues to deliver stellar results, both for the grid and for consumers. Tesla reports that over the past 10 days, its Powerwall customers who are in the VPP program have earned an average of $100 during this historic heatwave. The energy delivered from its customers’ systems would otherwise have had to come from more expensive (and likely fossil) generation.” https://lnkd.in/g7zuFYSt
A recent study by Ryan Hledik and Kate Peters of The Brattle Groupmodeled how a typical mid-sized utility providing 400 MW of resource adequacy through VPPs would cost $2M compared to $29M for utility-scale BESS or $43M for a natural gas peaker. https://lnkd.in/gEMw7wSW
Next up, policy for V2G VPPs! The CA Senate (under review by the Assembly) passed SB 233 requiring bidirectional charging in all EVs by the end of the decade to enable V2G charging when the grid is up and V2H when the grid is down. Even just 10% of CA EVs can provide 6 GW of storage, the same amount NY has set as a goal for utility BESS. https://lnkd.in/gVz5t3-c
Julian Spector of Canary Media Inc. noted: “‘2025 is the target year for many automakers for wireless charging,’ McCool said, meaning mass-production cars could roll off the lines with built-in wireless charging receivers starting that year.”
And once the wireless charging EV market matures, the next step will be integrating V2G bidirectional wireless charging.
This is where Tesla’s acquisition of Wiferion comes in. While there are several startups out there pursuing wireless charging technology, many have struggled to move beyond proof-of-concept and into mass production. Tesla’s acquisition of Wiferion is a major vote of confidence for the technology and shows that the company is betting big on its potential to transform the future of EV charging.
So what exactly does Wiferion do? Unlike some other wireless charging startups, the company isn’t focused on the consumer passenger vehicle market. Instead, it specializes in providing wireless charging solutions for lower-powered electric and autonomous vehicles that are commonly used in automated warehouses, factories, and other industrial settings. However, Wiferion’s technology could be adapted for use in other applications, including passenger cars.
While Tesla has certainly been at the forefront of the EV revolution, its influence goes beyond simply creating electric cars. The company has also been instrumental in shaping the infrastructure required to support EVs, including charging stations and plug design. As such, Tesla’s move into wireless EV charging could spark broader industry interest in the technology and encourage other automakers to explore its potential.
However, mass adoption of wireless EV charging is still likely years away. The technology is still in the early stages of development and automakers would need to make significant changes to their charging infrastructure to support it. Additionally, wireless charging carries its own set of challenges and questions, such as how much power can be transferred over the air, and whether or not the technology can be applied safely and efficiently in a variety of settings.
Tesla’s acquisition of Wiferion is a clear indication that the company sees huge potential in wireless EV charging and is willing to bet big on it. However, major changes would need to be made for the technology to go mainstream, and it’s unclear how long that process could take. Nonetheless, the future of EV charging is undoubtedly exciting, and advancements like wireless charging could make owning an electric car more convenient and accessible than ever before. With Tesla leading the charge, we can expect to see more innovation and progress in this area in the coming years.