It has been possible for a while now to charge smartphones wirelessly. BMW has become the first automotive manufacturer to use similar technology for cars. The German carmaker has just launched the first vehicle which has a factory-fitted, fully-integrated inductive charging facility for its high-voltage battery, the BMW 530 e iPerformance plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Offered as an option, BMW says wireless charging is going to be even simpler than refueling a car having a conventional engine. BMW’s wireless charging technology involves the use of an inductive charging station called GroundPad and a secondary vehicle component called CarPad, which is fixed to the underbody of the vehicle.
The technology through a wireless transfer that occurs when the GroundPad creates a magnetic field, which in turn induces electric current in CarPad. This electric current charges the high-voltage battery. All this occurs within a distance of approximately 3.15 inches.
The 3.2-kilowatt charging system allows the high-voltage batteries on board the BMW 530e iPerformance to be fully charged in three and a half hours at an 85 percent efficiency.
The advent of this technology eliminates the need for drivers to hook up their plug-in hybrid car to a wall socket. The charging can instead begin as soon as the vehicle has been parked in the correct position above the inductive charging station, followed by a push of the Start-Stop button. The system automatically switches off once the battery is “topped up,” the system switches off automatically.
BMW Wireless Charging system uses a Wi-Fi connection between the charging station and vehicle to direct it to the right spot. The driver receives guidance while parking through a bird’s eye view of the car and its surroundings that appears on the infotainment screen with colored lines. A graphic icon appears on the screen once the vehicle has reached the exact parking spot. The positioning of the vehicle need not be precise as there is a dimensional tolerance of 2.76 inches longitudinally and up to 5.51 inches laterally.
BMW says that the GroundPad will have all-weather utility and can hence be installed outdoors. Its design is such that all electricity-conducting components are protected from elements of the weather like rain and snow. Even driving over the GroundPad will not damage it. There is no need for fear about radiation as the ambient electromagnetic radiation created during wireless charging will be restricted to the undercarriage of the vehicle. The GroundPad is constantly monitored and will be switched off if any “foreign matters” are detected.
BMW Wireless Charging will be available as a leasing-option for the BMW 530e iPerformance sedan and BMW has not disclosed whether the same technology would become available for the BMW i3 or i8. BMW Wireless Charging would first become available in Germany and this will be followed by its launch in key markets like the U.K., U.S., Japan, and China. BMW would also provide an on-request installation service for BMW Wireless Charging.
Hamid Moaref has always been fascinated by cars and the automotive industry. His family has a longstanding association with the industry and has been in the tire business for the past 35 years. Raised in Dubai, Hamid attended Capilano University in Vancouver where he graduated with a BBA in marketing before attending an intensive course in magazine publishing in 2005. He has been the publisher and chief editor of Tires & Parts magazine for the past ten years.
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