WI-FI FOR CARS? About time, some might say and, hurrah, it’s coming to Shoreditch. The first wi-fi charging station for motor vehicles in Britain is being installed in Tech City, the hi-tech and entrepreneur hub around Old Street roundabout that has become known for innovation.
In the UK’s first trial, by Qualcomm, a US technology multinational, electric cars will be fitted with wireless-charge receivers to connect their batteries to charging points. Some of controversial London firm Addison Lee’s taxis will test the system. Private owners of electric cars wanting to tap into the rechargers will need to buy extra kit to make their motor compatible. That could cost £3,000.
The trial uses inductive power-transfer technology to charge an electric vehicle’s batteries wirelessly via a ground-embedded transmitter pad that connects with a receiver pad in the vehicle.
Andrew Gilbert, of Qualcomm, said: “The system will magnetically optimise the connection, so it doesn’t matter if you are slightly askew while charging or terrible at parking your car like me.” That’s his way of saving the system will be easy to use. (Gilbert’s comment is note only self-deprecating, it also seems a little anticipatory — the trial is only just starting — but, hey, perhaps his optimism should be applauded.)
A similar wireless-charging trial is to start in Oxford next month. The London and Oxford tests both involve Chargemaster, a maker of electric-recharging points that has started installing a national network of 4,000 recharging stations, some of them with wi-fi fittings. Most electric cars are, however, still sold with a power cord — it will be several years before public wireless charge points outnumber plug-ins.
Whether electric cars, charged via cords or cordlessly, are more ecological than conventional petrol or diesel-engine vehicles is still a topic of vigorous discussion. The cost of producing the electricity varies from country to country: silent running is not necessarily green motoring.