Future electric cars could refill batteries from roads infused with wireless charging

Your car battery could always be fully charged with 'dynamic wireless charging'

Qualcomm president Derek Aberle with F1 car racer Lewis Hamilton at Mobile World Congress.

Qualcomm president Derek Aberle with F1 racer Lewis Hamilton at Mobile World Congress on Feb. 25, 2016.

Credit: Qualcomm

Charging an electric car while driving may sound like a wild idea, but Qualcomm wants to bring that capability to automobiles.

Qualcomm is developing what it calls "dynamic wireless charging" technology, so drivers won't have to worry about plugging in their cars. Just cruise the streets, enjoy the scenery, and recharge your car, all at the same time.

In the future, there may be "charging elements in the highway, so as you drive over them, your car charges automatically," Derek Aberle, president of Qualcomm, said during a speech at the Mobile World Congress trade show this week.

The basic premise of the technology is similar to the way many people charge mobile devices today. Charging pads would be installed in roads and parking lots.

The technology is still years away, but it will help self-driving cars be truly autonomous, Aberle said.

"How can you have an autonomous car that you actually have to plug in?" he said. "That's pretty counterintuitive."

The technology promises several benefits. Electric cars could have a nearly unlimited range. In addition, many people now forget to plug in their cars overnight and wake up to empty batteries. That problem will be a thing of the past, Aberle said.

Cars could also have smaller batteries, allowing changes in vehicle design, Aberle said.

The dynamic wireless charging technology is an advanced version of a static wireless charging system for cars already being developed by Qualcomm. The static charging technology will reach cars in the next two to three years, Aberle said.

Qualcomm is working on charging pads that can be placed in your garage. When your car parks, it connects to the pad and starts charging.

The chip maker is working with DaimlerChryser to install a "next-generation" static wireless charging system in cars.

Qualcomm's plan to bring wireless charging to moving vehicles would require costly and time-consuming infrastructure change, however.

An Intel effort to bring wireless laptop charging to airports, restaurants and public places has slowed due to resistance to adding infrastructure at those locations.

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