Is Toyota pulling the plug on plug-ins?

One of the most practical, if slightly surreal , features of hybrid and all-electric vehicles is that, to charge them, you simply plug them in at the mains, as you would a smartphone, tablet or any other gadget. You leave it to charge overnight and you’re good to go the next morning. You plug your car into the wall. It really is that simple. But the recharging process could be about to become even simpler. Toyota is mulling a wireless battery charging system which would make charging the car as easy as parking it – you’ll simply roll up on the driveway and the car will be placed on charge.
This is news that will undoubtedly come as a welcome relief to anyone who’s had to drape a power cable from an upstairs window to charge their car – as I did when I took the Chevrolet Volt hybrid electric vehicle for a test drive. So how will the new wireless technology work?

Parking charge

The new Toyota charging system enables a vehicle to be charged by simply parking it in alignment with a coil set into the ground, thereby bringing to an end the need for cumbersome cables and connectors. And the science behind it is thus: The Toyota charging system transmits electricity using magnetic resonance created by changes in magnetic field intensity between a transmitting coil in the ground and a receiving coil in the car. It is designed so that it can reduce any loss in power transmission efficiency caused by misalignment or height differences between the coils. Which I take to mean it uses magnets and will still work even if you’re a bit rubbish at parking. As an extra safeguard against the really poor parkers out there – like some of this lot, for instance – Toyota has developed a function for its Intelligent Parking Assist system that will show the driver the exact position of the transmitting coil in a parking space. [embed width="560" height="315"][/embed] For anyone worrying that having a huge magnet on their driveway will interfere with household appliances or look like a scrap metal merchants as soon as it’s switched on, electromagnetic interference will be kept to a minimum. And it’s not the sort of magnet that attracts metal so you’ll be safe on that score too. The best news, though, is that charging times are expected to be cut to around 90 minutes, which represents a significant reduction on the current six to eight hours. Toyota’s tests will look at user satisfaction, ease of use, misalignment rates and charging behaviour, for instance, how often charging takes place. Should the outcome be a positive one, Toyota believes it will provide the next step in the evolution of electric vehicles.

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