Nissan’s plug-free electric car
The Japanese carmaker’s wireless system employs the same electromagnetic field technology used to charge an electric toothbrush
Nissan has developed a revolutionary plug-free technology that it claims will make charging electric cars easier and faster. The wireless charging system is based on the concept of inductive charging, the same electromagnetic field technology used to charge an electric toothbrush. Nissan has scaled it up for use in their Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) electric car, which can charge in a compatible parking bay without the need for wires. Today’s electric car owners, by contrast, have to carry a mains plug aboard to recharge.
David Bott, director of innovation programmes at the Technology Strategy Board, said: “If you look at handheld gadgets, inductive charging is a proven technology – the fundamental science says that it will work. I suspect you’ll end up plugging electric cars in at night for efficiency, and by day using inductive for on-the-go recharging.”
Nissan has ambitions beyond mere wireless charging bays. It hopes to scale the technology up even further as a series of plates laid into the surface of designated electric vehicle lanes on our roads and motorways, theoretically enabling motorists to charge as they drive. However, Nissan admits that it still has no idea on how much it would cost, how long the designated lane would have to be, or how fast the battery could be recharged.
Bott said he was sceptical that such charging lanes would be practical: “It’s scientifically feasible, but it’s whether it’s scalable and feasible is another matter.”
Nissan is grappling with its recent consumer research, which revealed that 61% of potential electric car customers were most worried about the inconvenience of recharging. As well as inductive charging, its technological solutions include developing fast-charging facilities, which they hope to see in place in shopping car parks and motorway service stations. “So while you’re shopping, or having a cup of tea, the battery will refill to 80% of its capacity, in about 25 minutes,” explained Larry Haddad, general manager of product strategy and planning at Nissan Europe.
In addition to these charging innovations, Nissan believes the ZEV has what it takes to compete against established electric models such as the TH!NK City and G-Wiz. Nissan claims it will be the first “dedicated” electric car on the market, arguing that most rival cars have been rehashes of existing models.
The ZEV is a five-seater family-sized car with a top speed of 90mph, a battery range of around 100 miles and surprisingly impressive acceleration. Redmer van der Meer, Nissan’s European electric vehicle product manager, said that he is confident the range will be significantly extended in the next few years, and that cars will be built so new, improved batteries can be retro-fitted. Van der Meer said the car is deliberately conventional in style: “We don’t want to make a shock in the market, an egg-shaped car or something. We want to make a transition. You could do mad things but we really don’t want to.”
Nissan’s electric car is set to go on sale in the US and Japan next year, before arriving in the UK and rest of Europe by 2012. Pricing is yet to be announced.