CES 2011: eCoupled Induction Charging for EVs

While stumbling, bleary-eyed, dead on my feet, across a hall so large the curvature of the earth would have been visually apparent were it not for a vast sea of similarly stumbling event attendees, I spotted a Tesla Roadster at the Fulton Innovations stand. The Tesla was charging … without wires! “What unnatural divination be this?” I bellowed. “From whence did this foul electromancy come, what evil hallow, what forsaken coven?”
“Uh … Michigan?” the stand person ventured.

Everyone knows that the warlocks left Michigan when the real estate market crashed, so I put my vial of holy water back under my cloak and saddled up to the stand to learn more. It turns out the Tesla’s charging system was a proof-of-concept demonstration, to show that the technology could be scaled up to charge something that large. So it’s not a product on the market, and the folks at the stand weren’t able to answer too many of my technical questions, but I was able to glean a few things from them using my unending fount of charm and wit. The most interesting part was that it wasn’t a horribly inefficient way to charge a device, with the Fulton folks claiming only 16% less efficiency than a given wired charging system. Sure, that’s significant, but it may be fine for certain situations where there is a tradeoff involved.

The system was also rigged to charge at a level roughly equivalent to plugging into a 110V outlet, so if you were to take this concept unit as-is and try to charge your Tesla’s massive battery completely, it’d take about 50 hours. That being said, the Fulton representative said there’s no significant barrier to a 240V-type charging system, more in line with what an EV actually needs. If and when an eCoupled vehicle system comes to market, it’s likely to be the 240V-equivalent type.

The other interesting part of the device on display was that it was a “piggyback” type – that is, there were no modifications to the Tesla’s charging or management systems. A receiver bolted under the car fed power to an inverter in the trunk or some such place, which then fed power through a wire to a plug that went into the standard Tesla charging port. As far as the Tesla was concerned, it was plugged into the wall as per normal. This is probably the aftermarket application of the device – another option is to wire up a car at the factory to natively charge inductively. That would mean you would park the car over the inductive coil and walk away, with greater efficiency to boot (as shown in the graphic above). Both the piggyback demonstrator and the hypothetical OEM installation can be monitored remotely via a smartphone application or a web interface, much like the big manufacturers were rolling out with their EVs.
My take: a few quick points. The Tesla was clearly there just as eye candy – this makes a lot more sense for fleet vehicles and services like ZipCar, with a few wealthy Tesla owners retrofitting these in their garages as icing on the cake. It may also make more sense for urban situations where many residential areas lack garage parking, like in San Francisco. Since the urban sector is where EVs make the most sense, a solution like inductive charging might make a lot of sense despite the lesser efficiency and greater cost. That’s my two cents, at least … the Fulton guy merely said they’re studying a lot of options. And then there was a flash and a puff of smoke, and he vanished. Damn electromancy!
The trip to CES and the N8 phone that was used to take images and provide updates from the show were graciously provided by Nokia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    "..And then there was a flash and a puff of smoke, and he vanished…."
    They're gonna have to get that fixed before the product roll-out.

    1. www.berlin-info.de Avatar


  2. OA5599 Avatar

    It seems more fitting to use a Tesla coil to charge a Tesla car wirelessly.
    <img src="http://tesladownunder.com/Tesladownunder%20Car%20Theft%20Protection%201000.jpg&quot; width=500>

  3. dwegmull Avatar

    Could we combine that technology with traffic light detection loops? This way I could recharge while I wait at the light…

    1. johnnymac09 Avatar

      Why not take it one step further? Embed wireless charging into the road itself, thereby increasing the range of an EV to near infinite.

  4. Mr_Biggles Avatar

    I share your fear of this black art. My toothbrush charges the same way. I have always been concerned it is in league with Lucifer.

  5. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

    This should scare redshirts everywhere. Fast forward to 6:20
    [youtube UI5615upFKU http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI5615upFKU youtube]

  6. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Inductive charging is rad…just be careful what you put in the field…
    For once my day job qualifies me to comment on something and all I can say is that it's "rad"…sigh…

    1. Alff Avatar

      I may have a solution to my squirrel problem.

      1. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        Let's hope not, as the things I'm charging are implanted in people.

        1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

          So how big does the field need to be to effect pacemakers?

          1. mad_science Avatar

            Depends on the frequency each device is using.
            Typically inductive coil-based power transfer is done at lower frequency (like hundreds of kHz) to minimize switching complications. In that range, the signal's primarily magnetic (hence, inductive), so it's closely tied to coil orientation and distance. Magnetic fields drop off with the square of distance.
            Off hand, I'd say you'd have to lie with your chest on top of it to be affected.

          2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

            So if we start embedding inductive charging in our garages, does that open the door for wireless tools that never need battery changes? If so, I claim the patent right here and now.

    2. Brett MacPherson Avatar
      Brett MacPherson

      Could it potentially fry my bacon while it charges my Tesla?

    3. OA5599 Avatar

      A Faraday's work for a Faraday's wage, huh?

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        There's a shocking pun if ever I heard one.

  7. johnnymac09 Avatar

    Oh, how I miss the NAIAS. This is the time of year I miss living in Ontario the most. Being only 1 hour away from Detroit, I used to go every year to this amazing event. Now I have to live vicariously through press releases and friends photos. 🙁

  8. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I'd make a stand, but I'd get taken down for assault and battery.

    1. CptSevere Avatar


  9. Manic_King Avatar

    What the hell is this Wireless Control thing which manages to lose 8% of power somehow?
    Also, I'm a bit sleepy at the moment, so I might be wrong, but isn't it wrong -when comparing percentages- to say 80% is 16% less than 96%, usually there's talk about percentage points or somesuch.

  10. ckay Avatar

    I'll just use my Power Mat

  11. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Nice article. J'nick could have written this, but couldn't be bothered. Thanks for committing journalism.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      Dammit, Mr. Sarockin, when are you gonna get an IntenseDebate account so we can follow your witty commentary?

  12. Charles_Barrett Avatar

    So if my Tesla is inductively charging in the garage, I need to make sure that my cat doesn't have a pacemaker before he goes to sleep under it…

  13. Deartháir Avatar

    I didn't even know they MADE those!! A whole new application for Rule 34!

  14. qi wireless charger Avatar

    The charge mat is capable of charging up almost any kind of device that you own. For instance, you can use it for your iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, Nintendo DS, PSP, digital cameras and even other mp3 players. Just plug it in and leave it until it becomes fully charged.

  15. Maya Hayden Avatar

    From your post I am able to get an handful knowledge about the wireless power system and it is very useful and handful one look in my view. Which helps me a lot to enjoy more and more travel with my lovely car.

  16. Tim Avatar

    to know your concept and able to get some helpful knowledge. Feel free to visit my website to find more information AssignmentJedii