Early adopters of electric cars have long faced the annoyance of chargers being few and far between. If you’re driving long distances, you have to plan your entire route around finding one, and even then, there’s a process of plugging and unplugging, which can also be a little annoying. But what if charging your EV was as easy as pulling into a parking spot, getting out, and going about your business? That’s what four Korean designers have envisioned with Watt, a wireless EV charging concept that’s as convenient as can be.
Parking lots are already full of concrete or rubber parking blocks that keep cars from pulling up too far and bumping into each other. The Watt (Wireless Advanced Transportation Charging Tile) concept simply switches them out with a T-shaped wireless charging pad that extends under the front of the vehicle, adding a second function.
What’s even more brilliant about this idea is the fact that it addresses another common complaint of EV drivers: the way electric cars discharge their batteries while they’re parked in colder areas, just like the lithium-ion batteries in our smartphones tend to do. With Watt, the car receives a steady stream of power throughout the time it’s parked, keeping it fully topped off.
Designers Cheolhee Lee, Na Gyeong Lee, Junsik Oh, and Kyoung-Seo Park have also created an accompanying app that lets you turn off the charging if you want, check on its progress, pay, view your charging history, or find Watt stations in the first place. The app also initiates the charging cycle as soon as you park the car, so no worries about remembering to tap anything before you get out.
Currently, electric car drivers have to hunt down charging stations and manually plug in their cars. If the stations are all full, they might have to hover nearby and wait for someone to leave. Soon, that problem will be exacerbated as more people choose EVs over standard gas-powered cars. To make matters worse, existing charging stations are bulky, expensive, and easily vandalized. Clearly, new solutions will be needed to quickly expand the availability of chargers while also making them more affordable, and Watt is a great entry into that collection of innovations.
The fact that it saves space is a big plus, and it’s easy to implement, though obviously each one will have to be connected to a main hub that supplies the electricity. That part of the equation is left for future consideration.
New forms of EV chargers are definitely on the way, including wireless innovations. Those include wireless charging pads developed by Volvo, which are being tested in Sweden, wireless parking places designed by WiTricity, magnetic induction chargers by Qualcomm, and BMW’s own inductive charging systems consisting of a “Groundpad” and a “Carpad” that work together. If you’re looking for something that’s available today for use at home, check out the Plugless Model S, which uses two aligned magnetic coils to send power to your EV over an air gap between your vehicle and its wireless charging station.