Wireless Charging for Electric Cars Is Cool but Totally Unnecessary

Why do we demand things of electric cars that we would never demand of normal ones?

Tesla coil


Do you ever wish that your car was magically filled with gas every morning when you woke up? Do you ever wish that you didn’t have to plug in your cell phone at night for it to be charged? Of course! Both those things sound awesome. But their utter lack of existence doesn’t stop you from using your car or your cell phone. That’s why the announcement that Siemens and BMW are getting into the business of wireless EV charging, via The Engineer, is cool, but frustrating. We constantly damn electric cars with the bigotry of low expectations, thinking users will demand of them all sorts of special features not available in the regular cars they drive every day. Why can’t we act like they’re the same as a normal car? They’re just normal cars with a different fuel source.

Last week, the Siemens-BMW partnership debuted a non-contact charging station at Hannover Messe, a manufacturing fair. There are plans for a trial in Berlin, supported by the government, in two months. To wirelessly charge your EV, you would simply park over a wireless charging station. The station is wired to the grid with a “primary coil” that resides underground. A secondary coil attached to the car receives an electric current induced by the magnetic field caused by the primary coil, and that current would recharge the battery.

The technology is intriguing (though just wait for the cancer studies about wireless power in 30 years–Ed.), and it’s good to see giants like Siemens and BMW to become increasingly interested in EVs. But we’re a tad skeptical that wireless charging is the way of the future here.

Why do people seem to demand of EVs what they don’t demand of traditional cars? Taxi drivers don’t clamor for self-refueling cabs today, for instance, yet Siemens boasts that its “inductive energy transmission concept would make it possible to automatically recharge vehicles such as taxis waiting at cab stands.” If we demanded half as many things of our traditional cars as EV manufacturers seem to think we demand of EVs, we simply wouldn’t drive at all. Could we truly be so lazy that we need a solution to having to plug in a car at the end of the night?

The electric vehicle market won’t become robust only once we have vehicles that refuel themselves, that drive themselves, that fly, or travel through time. The EV market will grow when manufacturers make solid, affordable cars with ranges sufficient to get people where they need to go, and charging times comparable to the amount of time it takes to refuel a gas tank. It’s almost like the industry simply needs to apply the know-how from years of making cars to…making other cars.

As Kevin Czinger of Coda Automotive once told me, “This is just like a regular car except it doesn’t use an ounce of gasoline. That, to me, is what’s cool. Do I care that it doesn’t look like a spaceship and isn’t beating its chest saying, ‘I’m electric, I’m electric’? No.”


[Image: Flickr user Caseyyee]

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Read More: Google Headquarters Tests Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.