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The Future of Wireless Power

…Or Charge Your Whole Car

Park your electric car over a charging point at the mall.Even with the charging system in place, the Tesla still looks very sleek on the underside.

That’s the system that Fulton showed us as a prototype as CES this year, charging a Tesla Roadster. The charging unit is about the size of a barrel and the antenna you’d park over is about the size of a manhole cover. The power travels up about 4- 6” from the ground to the underneath of the car where the receiver is mounted and you don’t need to get the car precisely on target. “If you can pull into a parking spot, you are all right”, Fulton research scientist Joshua Schwannecke told us (and despite the distance, it still uses the tightly coupled charging system). There’s a constant data connection while the charging is going on and if the power is interrupted by a child or a cat crawling under the car, the system shuts the power down.

The same eCoupled charging transmitter that charges the Tesla where you can see the details; as we move the ball with the power receiver over the manhole-sized end it lights up.

The same eCoupled charging transmitter that charges the Tesla where you can see the details; as we move the ball with the power receiver over the manhole-sized end it lights up.

Fulton didn’t just show a Tesla charging because it’s a sexy sports car that gets attention (or because of the tribute to a wireless power pioneer); it takes 1600W to charge the Roadster. Furthermore, the car's battery pack is a matrix of many smaller, individual batteries, so the power has to be extensively conditioned. In other words, it’s a demanding car to charge. “Tesla pretty much told us it couldn’t be done,” Schwannecke said rather proudly. Tesla’s plug-in charging system achieves 96% efficiency; so far Fulton is only managing 80% efficiency for charging the car wirelessly, but a lot of that is down to jury-rigging the connection to the mains power supply and Schwannecke says the system can theoretically deliver 89% efficiency.

The charger for an electric car is the size of a couple of barrels.

The charger for an electric car is the size of a couple of barrels.

Qualcomm tells us WiPower will also scale up to charge an electric car.